Carla, the older sister of my wife Kathy, passed away in her sleep a year and a few days ago. Her family, I'm one of them, misses her very much. She was a strong cohesive force that tugged on everyone in the family, pulling them ever closer to the center. She bused her nieces and nephews anywhere and everywhere, kept a popular after-school family daycare, attended every ball game in all kinds of weather, and celebrated birthdays in ways that made each child feel important. Her cooking transformed Sunday dinners into special family gatherings and made the holidays during the year an excuse for bringing together the extended family. Carla could be counted on to do a quick favor for anyone in need or to keep an important shared secret forever. She was Kathy's best friend.
Carla hated family bickering, so we tried to avoid it around her. She hated getting her picture taken, so we have only a few of them. She loved watching bull riding events on television and collecting carousel-horse knickknacks. She also loved wind chimes. Carla always had three or four chimes dangling on her front porch. About this time last year, Kathy and I brought one home and hung it outside our bedroom. I hear it often at night, its clear musical notes testifying to the gustiness of the Oklahoma wind. Often, when I hear the wind-blown music, I think of Carla.
Kathy recently hung another of Carla's wind chimes in our sunroom. It's a shiny one, with the colors of the rainbow and topped by a tiny four-horse carousel. This morning, I put a fan in the sunroom to circulate the hot air that always collects on sunny wintry days like today. Now, as I sit in the living room, I faintly hear the music of Carla's carousel wind chime powered by artificial wind from the fan. As I write, I remember that sweet, gentle woman whose time on this earth was way, way too short.