A butterfly symbolizes transformation, beauty, hope, and love. For my college graduation I received a butterfly necklace I wore every day until I lost the special momentum in 2013 and could never replicate the unique design. My search will continue to find a replacement.
Honored to be the keynote speaker at the Bereaved Parents USA National Conference to represent the bereaved siblings, I felt like a butterfly, transformed from the shy, middle introverted sister, having the courage to present and speak in front of a crowd. The experience was more than that. Sharing my grief journey and having the validation of the loss of my beloved sisters Margie and Jane after decades with individuals who understood and spoke the same language, overwhelming, and grateful. I shed many tears throughout the weekend, my heart full, and memories and friendships to last a lifetime.
Prior to the day of the talk, my nerves escalated. The run through provided by the technical crew and encouragement dissipated after a few seconds when I began with, “I am the middle of three. Sadly, I lost both my sisters.” Looking out to the room of warm faces the words flowed knowing Margie and Jane were on my shoulders cheering me on, not unlike the feeling I have when I skate.
To my surprise, I told the group, I never imagined myself standing in front of them speaking, publishing a memoir, or skating my first solo in front of a crowd. I must pinch myself to ensure this is not a dream. After decades of being alone in grief, to have others to talk is a genuine gift. If another person can relate to a piece of my journey and not be alone in their grief, I will be eternally grateful.
The journey to DC brought me back to childhood memories. Due to tunnel construction in Boston, I flew out of Providence. Our small aircraft settled out on the tarmac. Not seen since I was a teenager when I flew on an airplane, wore white gloves and a dressed up to fly, did we walk out of the terminal to the plane? Thankfully travel in both directions seamless and flights were both on time.
At the conference, I hugged fellow bereaved siblings in person whom I met on Zoom and podcasts. The connection face to face only solidified our bond. We laughed and the funny comments, “I thought you were taller,” as they looked down on my stature of five feet.
Because of the size of the conference, many conversations ensued with attendees throughout the county, each with a story. Astounded by the courage and resilience of many whom suffered multiple loses, children and siblings, came together in love, conversation, and music.
The closing ceremony released butterflies, a symbol of hope and comfort.
Judy Lipson, is the Founder of Celebration of Sisters, an ice skating fundraiser established in 2011 to commemorate the memories of her beloved sisters to benefit Massachusetts General Hospital. Judy has published articles for The Open to Hope Foundation and The Centering Organization. Massachusetts General Hospital and SKATING Magazine featured numerous pieces on Judy’s philanthropic work. Judy appeared as a guest on The Open To Hope and The Morning Glory Podcasts. Her passion for figure skating secured the recipient of U.S. Figure Skating Association 2020 Get Up Award. Judy’s memoir, Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve, released December 2021 by WriteLife Publishing.