The clocks go forward welcoming Spring with flowers blooming, the freedom of walking out the door without a coat and taking long walks in the warm sunshine. I wish you all an early Happy Easter or Happy Passover. Please know that my thoughts are with you cognizant that holidays can be joyous, sorrowful, or bittersweet.
After four months of recovering from a broken foot, I have returned to ice skating, to a sport that is my passion, joy, peace, and connection to my beloved sisters. I stepped on the ice, a huge smile, pushed one foot, then the other, glided on the beautiful slick surface, felt the breeze through my hair, and off I went. Surprised by my agility, albeit slow, I stayed a short time. Encouraged by my fellow adult skaters, I was back home on the ice. Not wanting to leave, I knew it was wise and took the process step by step. The uplifting feeling cemented back in my soul.
Four months is not long, but for me, skating is such an important part of my life on so many levels. Ice skating provided the piece to share my sisters with others that forbade me to do for years. Celebration of Sisters, the ice-skating fundraiser, offered the backdrop to envelop my sisters back into my life, complete and continue my journey of comfort, and continue my circles of comfort.
As I step onto the ice, it is like magic from the show Aladdin, “A Whole New World,” shared by my sisters and me. My happy place, my sanctuary, my safe place. Ice skating afforded a theme throughout my life. Wherever I seemed to be in my life, ice-skating fed the central line. Ice skating is the connection, the chord, and the strings that bind me to my sisters. The smooth, shining ice is a mirror to look in and vividly see my sisters and me.
Through Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve, I have been fortunate to meet wonderful individuals. On April fifth, my beloved father’s birthday, I am honored to be a guest on The Surviving Siblings Podcast with the lovely Maya Roffler who bravely shares the loss of her brother in Season 1. In Season 2 and 3, Maya invites guests to share their stories and starts heartfelt and thoughtful conversations to show compassion for others dealing with grief.
I am grateful for my growing family. New life, new joy, new loves. With this comes mixed emotions. There will always be a hole in my heart, missing my beloved sisters Margie and Jane, wishing they were by my side to witness the milestones with me void of nieces and nephews. The difference today from decades ago, is allowing myself to feel the emotions and share my feelings. If I did not love so deeply, I would not hurt so deeply. If I did not love so deeply, I would not burst with joy.
I leave you with the following piece from Elizabeth Bishop:
“All of our dreams will be clearer than glass.
Clad in the water or sun, as you wish,
We will watch the white feet of the young morning pass
And dine upon honey and small shiny fish.”
Dawn DiRaimondo’s, Surviving Sibling Loss: The Invisible Thread That Connects Us Through Life and Death, is a beautifully heartfelt crafted memoir. Dawn shares the loss of her beloved brother and interviewed other bereaved siblings with thoughtful questions. A resource for any bereaved sibling at any stage of their grieving process. To quote Dawn,
“I will also use the bereaver and not bereaved because bereaved implied that the bereavement is in the past tense, and, as I will describe more in this book, sibling loss is a loss someone lives with throughout their lives.”
I pick up a black and white photo torn at the edges, the others white scalloped. Dressed up in our party dresses, Margie age nine, me seven and Jane four. We wore white lace ankle socks, black patent leather Mary Janes, and puffy winter coats off we went. Arriving at the Boston Common to feed the pigeons peanuts chasing after them. Margie gregariously runs after the birds with her peanuts, I stand back a bit contemplative not quite sure what to do, and Jane carefree skips around throwing her peanuts to the birds. A black and white photo captures the personality of the Lipson sisters.
Randy Gardner is a pairs U.S. and World figure skating champion, an Olympian, with his partner Tai Babilonia. Their heartbreaking withdrawal from the 1980 Olympic Winter Games made public, yet few knew of Randy’s private life. Randy bravely shares his life on and off the ice in a documentary film titled Go Figure: The Randy Gardner Story.
I had the pleasure of meeting Randy in 2011 at the Dorothy Hamill Adult Figure Skating Fantasy Camp.
He is kind, humble, generous, and his continued love of the sport of figure skating shines. Randy continues to give back to the sport on and off the ice.
Happy One Year Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve! I am thankful to my team of coaches, editors, family, friends, and WriteLife Publishing for solidifying the manuscript to publication.
I decided to proceed with another year of the Celebration of Sisters ice skating fundraiser in a slightly different format. After a decade and a year, 2022 marked the true finale of the special event to commemorate the lives and memories of my cherished sisters Margie and Jane raising over $80 for Mass General Hospital Internal Medicine and Eating Disorder Departments. I am forever grateful to the generosity, kindness, and devotion of many – my heart is full. Stay tuned for the next chapter.
This past year I have had the honor and pleasure of meeting new people, been more open in sharing myself and my sisters with others and felt the warmth and compassion of other bereaved siblings with whom I felt surrounded like a warm blanket.
We have more work to do to advocate for bereaved siblings, often the forgotten mourners. The needle has been moved since I lost my sisters 41 and 32 years ago respectively and for that I am thankful and indebted to all who work to make it happen. To name a few organizations for sibling support: The Compassionate Friends Sibs, Open To Hope, Bereaved Parents USA, COPE Foundation, and Grief Tool Box. In addition, some of the wonderful Podcasts include Where’s The Grief, Surviving Sibling Loss, L.E.A.P., The Surviving Siblings, and Good Grief.
One week after the finale of Celebration of Sisters, I fell and broke my right foot. Thankfully I have the unconditional love and support of my family and friends and rocking the crutches due to my skating training. I will use the time to work on my second book, catch up on my reading, and plan book events for year two of Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve. My grandson had a ball with my scooter that has been a game changer getting around. The goal for the three-month recovery is the arrival of my second grandchild due mid-January.
On a final note, I am honored to be selected as one of the keynote speakers at the Bereaved Parents USA Conference in July 2023.
I wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year!
I leave you with the following by Emily Dickinson:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all –“
Susan Casey lost her brother Brian, Rocky and has written a powerful book in Rock On: Mining For Joy In The Deep River Of Sibling Grief. Thank you, Susan, for sharing Rocky and other sibling’s experiences. There are so many nuggets Susan eloquently writes that resonated with me, made me think, and warmed my heart. I will point out a few and I encourage you to read the book.
“Grief and joy are wedded, they are one….One is more predominant than the other at any given time, depending on which one we shine our light on.”
“Our siblings have a critical impact on shaping who we become…”
‘If not us, who? If not now, when?”
With three daughters, our father attempted to teach us how to play baseball. With one bat, one glove, the swing set served as first base, the trees second, the bulkhead third, and a makeshift home plate. The ball pitched by our father directing Margie, Judy, and Jane to run the bases. I don’t think we were going to The World Series!
The growing number of Adult skaters is wonderful! Opportunities from the multiple disciplines of skating, camps, comradery, support, and health benefits immeasurable. To learn more about adult skating, the following Facebook groups keep you connected with fellow skaters:
Welcome to the premiere of the Celebration of Sisters newsletter! I want to thank you for your support and generosity in sharing the journey to write Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve, and a decade of the Celebration of Sisters ice-skating fundraiser to honor the lives and memories of my beloved sisters, Margie and Jane Lipson.
On November 7, 2021, we gathered for the grand finale of Celebration of Sisters. In my blue dress adorned with silver sparkles, I stood center ice waiting for the music of Edelweiss, a rendition by Andre Rieu to commence. The nerves that traditionally overtook me, were not present, I felt uncharacteristically calm. The lovely music allowed me to float across the ice, the wind blew in my hair, and joy was evident in my wide happy eyes.
At sixty-five I was living the dream and beaming to have skated the performance of my life to honor Margie and Jane. The love and support from all the donors, skaters, and champions of the event for the past decade exuberated from the entire arena and from those watching the live stream. I stepped off the ice and broke into sobs and needed to take in the emotions of the day- the fortieth anniversary of the loss of Jane, a decade of paying tribute to my cherished sisters, and the kindness of numerous special individuals. Hugged by many, I smiled and relished the rest of the magical day.
One month later, on December 1, 2021, Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve was released. Am I dreaming? My private story kept to the vest for decades now out for the masses. Writing my memoir has allowed me to be more open and have honest conversations with individuals who have read the book, and with friends new and old, establish a new connection and reveal deep meaningful stories never shared. The themes of the book from grief, love, sibling relationships, and secrets seem to resonate across many lives. I had put up so many walls unable to talk about the loss of my sisters or grief. Today, I am capable to open the dialogue. It is never too late to grieve. To order your copy, now available on audio, please visit www.judylipson.org
I leave you with the following quote by Thornton Wilder
“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.
For years I was alone in my grief. Thankfully today there are many groups and support for bereaved siblings like The Compassionate Friends, The Open To Hope Foundation, and The Cope Foundation. Monthly, I attend a Sibling Grief Book Club. One book I particularly liked, Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano tells the story of a young boy, the sole survivor of a plane crash who goes to live with his aunt and uncle. There is a parallel story to the lives of the individuals on the plane. Ann tackles the grief of the young boy and his aunt and uncle with grace and dignity.
Fearful, that after years of suppressing my grief, memories had been lost, I realize that is a falsehood. Please allow me to share my beautiful sisters Margie and Jane with you.
Music was an integral part of our lives and as girls, we went to see many musicals. Our favorite was The Sound of Music. Before attending each show, our mother would play the 33 record and have us listen to songs multiple times and in the car sing the songs. Margie wanted to be Liesl, me Marta, and Jane Gretl.
Figure skating is my passion, my joy, and the connection to my sisters in a sport we shared as girls. I have started to work on figures, tracking the lines repeatedly on the ice. I find figures very soothing and challenging. It requires discipline, good edge quality, and control of your body. Back to basics!
Philanthropy was part of my upbringing. We were taught to give back to various charitable organizations. U.S. Figure Skating’s We Get Up platform recognizes that in life on and off the ice, when you fall, you get up.
The Get Up® campaign was launched by U.S. Figure Skating in 2017 to help skaters and non-skaters alike to recognize the grit, passion, and perseverance needed to Get Up in the rink and in life every day.
The campaign is a celebration of the strength, resilience, and determination it takes to be a figure skater. Our goal is to attract new skaters to the sport, grow our fan base and empower our members to take pride in who they are as figure skaters while making a positive difference in their communities. https://www.usfigureskating.org/wegetup