There is a little less laughter in my world when one of the funniest people I have ever known left it on August 4, 2006. My sister-in-law, Sharon Mitchell Gioia died of breast cancer that day. There was no laughter, only tears and a profound sense of great loss as we stood at her bedside and said goodbye. Although it’s been six years, I can still hear that raucous laugh, hear that unique voice, and feel the love she had for the only thing that mattered to Sharon, her family.I remember our first meeting, when my brother introduced Sharon to me in the little town of East Aurora, New York. When my brother gets excited about something, his happiness cannot be contained. Anyone in the presence of this couple could tell that there was something magical brewing. Michael could not take his eyes off of her, and who could? She had a pixie face framed by the most gorgeous long straight hair. She was shy, but seemed to bask in the love enveloping her. It was no surprise to me that the two would eventually marry.
I didn’t get a chance to attend the wedding. In fact, living 3,000 miles away I missed a lot of the wonderful events that took place with my family, especially the birth of my nieces. Maple came first, named in honor of the beautiful and magnificent tree; then Patricia, named for our late mother. My brother is the first to tell anyone that it was this family unit that he was so fortunate to secure that saved his life and sanity many times over. And it was Sharon that was the rock.
When I first met Sharon, I found her to have a timid voice. My brother has an overwhelming personality but over the course of their 25-year-marriage, Sharon emerged as a strong, stoic woman and a force to be reckoned with. When my brother’s health became an issue, Sharon knew just what was needed to keep him safe. When she perceived a threat to her family or those she loved, she would assert her authority. Once at a family gathering my husband and brother Jim tried to throw Michael in the pool, clothes, wallet and all. Sharon singlehandedly rescued her husband before the he hit water. Afterward, we laughed because Sharon said matter-of-factly that she wasn’t worried about Michael getting wet, it was the wallet she was protecting.I have postcards, letters, and cards written to me by Sharon. She was a most talented artist and would often put illustrations on her correspondence and then tell me about her day, share with me her feelings, express her gladness at being alive. I treasure those mementos of someone so dear that is no longer here.
|The 3 sisters-in-law: Sharon, Lisa, Kathy |
(that's Patricia hugging Mom's leg)
Here is a message from Sharon in one of the letters she sent. It is a message that helps me to remember the times we shared, rather than dwell on what I am missing: