Do you believe in Angels? Guardian Angels? I do. I believe every once in a while an Angel needs a vacation. When Angels go on vacation, they become human to endure what humans do so they can be better angels when they get their wings back. I believe my life has been blessed with an Angel on Vacation.
On April 1, 1975, my cousin Tara was born. She had beautiful blond curls and a little meatball nose. At 18 months old, Tara began to turn blue often and her parents took her to the hospital to find out that she had a terrible heart and lung disease. She had a hole in her heart, two inflated lungs, her blood was thick and her oxygen was low. She was very sick.
She went into the hospital for surgery to have them try to repair her heart. In the middle of her procedure, the machines stopped working and they left her blind, deaf and paralyzed. When the machines were fixed, they were able to restore her hearing and her mobility but they left her blind in one eye and no peripheral vision in the other. My cousin was legally blind at 18 months old.
When they visited the lawyer to claim malpractice against the hospital, the lawyer offered Tara a lollipop. She got up, took the lollipop, threw away the wrapper and sat back down. The lawyer said there was nothing wrong with her and said there would be no lawsuit.
This is where the fight began. Her parents fought for her life and taught her how to fight to stay alive. The doctors would tell her parents she wasn’t going to live but they didn’t believe that. They would ask someone else. The doctor’s said Tara wouldn’t make it through puberty due to the hormone changes. Her parents refused that as her fate. They believed she would live and so she believed she would live. And she did.
She didn’t die during puberty. No, Tara went to high school and college (for a few years). My cousin’s lips were blue and her fingers and toes were clubbed but she had parties with ball gowns, dancing and a lot of food. New York food, the best you can get. She went on roller coasters (yes with a heart condition). She sang loud and often even though it winded her.
Over the years, Tara had a pacemaker and a defibrillator surgically sewed into her chest. Tara’s defibrillator had to be used 2 – 3 times in the last 5-10 years. The machine on her heart had to revive her because her heart would stop. Tara’s oxygen got lower as she aged. Eventually, she had to be in wheelchair. She couldn’t breathe, so she couldn’t walk. I used to call her Princess because when I would push her and she would get to a door, she would move the wheelchair with her foot to get closer. I would tell her “Get up, you can walk through the door.” I said that until it wasn’t true anymore.
Tara loved Monopoly. She would play with my brother even though he would gloat and annoy her. Once they made a bet and she lost. Like a trooper, she ate an entire block of Parmesan cheese and she HATED Parmesan cheese. She didn’t cry or complain. She braved through it. My brother video taped it.
She loved children (especially babies). She couldn’t have any of her own so she was a mother to all. She would say to the babies “Say Tara, Say Tara” in a strong Brooklyn Accent. She was the Godmother to my oldest son and visited with my youngest son after he was born in 2011. She bathed him and sang to him and I had never seen her so happy. I was so glad I could do something to make her that happy.
She and I didn’t always get along. She irritated and loved me as any little sister would. When she would go in for procedures at the hospital, I would call her and ask her how my favorite pin cushion was holding up. We would talk about how inconvenient her timing was and how she was competing with the other sick people in our family. We kept the conversation sarcastic and funny but always ended it with I love you.
Tara was the maid of honor at my wedding. We made sure that we waited for her to arrive from New York to be there for my bachelorette party. We were all drinking so much that we gave her, the legally blind woman in a wheelchair, the camera to take pictures. She did a good job, and she never complained.
My cousin was legally blind, but she could see things in people that we couldn’t see. She had low oxygen and two inflated lungs, but she sang all the time and talked even more. When my cousin went in for her procedures, she would sing down the halls and go to the children’s ward to sing to them. My cousin had a hole in her heart, but she was the most loving and caring person in my world and anyone one else’s world that she blessed.
I may complain about being a mom with my crazy boys and having to drive everywhere with them, but Tara was never capable of having the hardships of driving, let alone children.
You know, I never really understood her until September 21, 2012, when her vacation as a human was over and she was given back her wings and made into an angel again. It was then that I understood that she was the glue that held our family together. She was the heart and soul. She was the sight unseen. She was everyone’s breath.
When I talk to her now (out loud, in the car or by myself) I try not to ask for anything. I know that she wouldn’t have asked for anything more. Instead, she would enjoy what was given to her. Every day, I strive to enjoy just what was given to me, like she did. Every positive thought and positive action I have, I think What Would Tara Do? She is the wind beneath my wings and lifts me up every day of my life.
My cousin would have been 40 years old this year, 4/1/15. I miss her every day.
Tara is now the guardian angel to my boys and me. After she earned her wings back, I heard my 1 year old giggling in his bedroom and I knew she was there playing with him, tickling him and saying “Say Tara, Say Tara”! I could hear it in my head. He sees her picture and says “Tara”. I appreciate my life. I trust my guardian angel. I love you Tara.
Appreciate your Angels on Vacation before you lose them to the Heavens like I did.