In 2011 I took the journey after thirty years to grieve for my cherished sisters Margie and Jane. I refer to the process as my journey of comfort, bringing my sisters back to me. Suppressing my grief for three decades and not talking about Margie and Jane never felt right. I always felt like a part of me was missing not comprehending or understanding the grieving process. Unable to know what I needed or where to turn, the years ticked away. Thankfully when the time was right, I discovered my journey of comfort.
Surrounding me are numerous photos of Margie and Jane, Margie’s mahogany desk chair with the pink leather seat, Jane’s nightstand, the faded white trimmed in gold, jewelry inscribed with my sister’s names, Margie’s cheerleader necklace, cards and letters scrawled with Margie and Jane’s handwriting, and best of all more memories recalled without the intense pain and the willingness to share with a smile.
The emotions run the gambit like the speed of a roller coaster – gradually riding to the top, accelerating at high-speed coming down and repeating – the highs, the lows, the pain, the joy, the sadness, the happiness, and learning to go with the ebb and flow of all the waves.
Now that I have dug deep and truly paved my journey of comfort, I miss my sisters more deeply than ever. Being with others who have sisters or if friends talk about sisters, it is more difficult and painful. Learning to navigate the new feelings, and taking a “time out,” crying, or choosing to attend or not attend a function on my terms, still requires work.
For thirty years of not sharing or talking about my sisters the sorrow there but masked by shelving so many emotions deep into my subconscious. Today I am more open, transparent, and peeled that onion piece by piece, the tears more fluid, the hurt deeper on another level, the years of loss more pronounced, the missing the what ifs prominent, and the void at the holidays more defined.
The other piece of comfort I did not realize was skating, a chord that held me to my cherished sisters. Little did I know that of the three of us, the one with the least talent, I would keep skating and the connection to my sisters as a crucial piece of our past, and our love. Skating and bringing my sisters back provided me the confidence to perform on the ice before a large audience knowing my sisters, my anchors, my cheerleader, and champions were there on my shoulders with me with every glide.
My journey of comfort reconnected Judy to Judy. By tossing my grief through the deepest barrels of my brain the true Judy went there too. Hello Judy. Welcome back. Reconnected. Rediscovered. Restored.
Undeniable, unquestionable Margie and Jane are my life, my legacy, my past, my present, and my future.
In my wildest dreams I never dreamed of becoming a published author, of sharing my story that had been held to the vest and secret for decades, or receive the overwhelming support, kindness, and generosity from readers. The goal of helping others with their grief surpassed all expectations.
For me, the month birthed my own grief journey to a new level I could never imagined. To be transparent about losing Margie and Jane and able to express not only on paper, but express verbally when interviewed on podcasts a task I never could envision myself doing. I suppose when you are passionate about something, you deliver from the heart with an authenticity people appreciate.
I participated in The Compassionate Friends Sibling Grief Book Club. Years ago hearing about other siblings losses triggered me and I ran away. Now, I listen with compassion and the stories resonate with a bond I never felt before. Although I am forty years into my grief, and others are a few months, eight years, or a few years, the duration does not matter. We all lost siblings. That is our forever bond.
Much like a baby learning to walk and can now see things from a different view, that is how I see grief. A whole new world has opened up now that I let my guard down and talk about Margie and Jane, grief, no matter the time frame.
Hearing stories from childhood friends that remember Margie and Jane warms my heart. They are not forgotten. I squashed the grieving process for years and so a bit developmentally delayed, I am catching up.
Through Celebration of Sisters wonderful connections are being forged and my grief journey is blossoming. I see missed opportunities and am grateful for the gifts affording me now and I hope the wisdom I can give to others.
Life is not a dress rehearsal. We all do the best we can at the time. There are do overs.
I lost my sister Margie in 1991 after a twenty year battle with anorexia and bulimia. So often the siblings of those struggling with an eating disorder need support too. Kym Piekunka and Bridget Whitlow work with siblings providing them tools, support and a voice. I was honored to be included with two other siblings to share our stories in this valuable project.
I never comprehended the summer of 1970 at age 14, I witnessed my beautiful older sister Margie fading away when she picked me up from overnight camp. My sister whom I idolized was a shadow of herself. For so many years, I had held on to who I wanted her to be. Our lives would later veer off the path into a detour neither of us could have fathomed. Despite it all, Margie and I shared a closeness only sisters understand.
Although physically I could witness Margie’s decline, my heart always wanted the sister I looked up to. I felt cheated not only of losing a sister but of a sister I felt I deserved. At age 14 my world as I knew it turned upside down. Her illness allowed her to function well at times and enjoy a reasonable quality of life; then how quickly the tables turned.
I adored Margie. She always cherished me as well. Our age difference of two years cemented our close relationship, true soul mates. People commented on the resemblance between the two of us. Margie played the guitar and sang with an angelic voice. I admired her intellect. In junior high, she was the shortest member of the cheerleading squad, a great ice skater, and enjoyed playing tennis.
Margie’s illness a taboo topic in the 1970’s. Not immune to the vicious rumors that spread like wild fire and fingers pointed during school I heard loud and clear. The words hurt me to the core. Not able to talk or share with anyone I kept my head down and never told a soul. I knew the truth.
The role of big sister is one she took seriously, always wanting to take care of me, worrying about me, listening to me, advising me, with her wonderful wisdom and sense of humor. She always sensed what I felt; nothing about me went past her. Margie forever made me laugh.
One of my favorites photographs is of Margie taken a few years before she died. As she sits on the floor reading to my two daughters, Janie is looking up at her with loving eyes and Amy bending over proudly showing her the bow in her hair. The love of all is evident in the smiles they all share.
Celebration of Sisters is an annual ice skating fundraiser to honor and commemorate the lives and memories of my sisters Jane E. Lipson and Marjorie E. Lipson to benefit Massachusetts General Hospital will mark a decade, a grand finale in 2021 coinciding with the release of my memoir, Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve.
After a decade, my heart is full of many mixed emotions. Proud of all we have accomplished, eternally grateful to all the extraordinary individuals who have championed the event, honored to share my beloved sisters, and sad to see the close of one Celebration but the start of another Celebration. Our journey is not over.
My journey through Celebration of Sisters to grieve for my sisters after 30 years has been a roadmap of twists, turns, bumps, ditches, sunshine, rainbows with a destination of a halo of warmth, peace, joy, bittersweet emotions, sadness, resilience, love and happiness. I am and always will be Judy the middle of three sisters.
Ice skating is my passion, my solace, my peace, and the place where I have come full circle in my grief path to remember and pay tribute to my sisters. As I glide across the ice I feel free, the weight of the world gone, with my sisters with me. To those who see me skate, it is seen in the reflection in my face and movements.
Choosing the correct piece of music to skate for Celebration of Sisters is extremely important. The lyrics must have meaning, be comparable to the theme of the event, and reverberate my soul. My music selection reflects the love for my cherished sisters, Jane and Margie. For the finale I will perform to the lovely arrangement of Edelweiss by Andre Rieu.
The skating performance is about my journey, my healing, a piece of me that will always miss my sisters, re-discovering me, the independent 25 year old who got lost and buried when Jane died in 1981. I hope my sisters would be laughing and proud to see their sister Judy coming into her own and finding herself. Look at Judy the shy sister wearing a pretty skating dress out there skating before a large audience.
Celebration of Sisters is my gift to my beloved sisters, to me, and to all lost siblings. The legacies of my dearest Jane and Margie live on in me, my daughters, and in all who share my beautiful sisters.
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.