(I wrote this memory for my sister Auralie’s Facebook Page a few days after she made her transition in early June.)
Bridges don’t fall from the sky. They don’t rise from the ground. People build them. Eboo Patel
I have a million Auralie stories. I’m her sister. And all I have to do is conjure one up now to feel her buoyant spirit. Many of our sister stories are funny, some hilarious. We’re sisters who carried the love of a good laugh from childhood into our adult reunions back east in our beloved state of Maine. And these stories will sustain me and I’m sure many will find their way into print. But now, I want to share an Auralie story of appreciation.
Twice Auralie traveled from her adult home in Connecticut to the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where my husband Cam and I have lived most of our adult lives, once when our kids were small, and again, years later, along with her grown daughter Tina, to attend one of our son’s weddings. Both times, with Auralie enthusiasm, she threw herself into the trips to Lake Superior’s rocky coves and beaches, to eating a U.P. favorite, Cornish Pasties, to embracing our friends with her openhearted ease. All of this is wonderful, but it was at the wedding attended by our kids’ friends and our friends, and my husband’s family from Lower Michigan that I clung to the happiness that my sister and niece, my people from my childhood home place, had made their way to the celebration. It meant the world to me.
I have learned recently from her two kids that Auralie had a fear of bridges. I don’t remember this from childhood. I think it must have developed later when she moved from Maine to a town in Connecticut that was built in the 1600’s, a town with rickety narrow bridges, bridges that must have made her feel vulnerable. But the day of our son’s wedding, she stood steady on the bridge she built for me between my adult world in the northern woods of Michigan and the world of coastal Maine where she and I romped the in the woods and swam in the sea.
At one point during the reception, music and voices blasting in the background, she wrapped her arms around me and whispered in my ear with buoyant wonderment as she looked over at the groom, my son. “He looks and talks just like Daddy!” I was seventeen when our father died, Auralie, twenty-two. No one else at that packed wedding celebration had known him in the flesh. No one else could have told me that — no one but my bridge-building sister. And for that I will be forever grateful.