Bucket List Realities

This past Christmas I received the best gift of a letter of apology and awakened realizations from my sister. Our relationship had been extremely difficult as she had adopted the role of mimicking my mother’s cruel ways of interacting with me. That’s often what happens inside a dysfunctional family dynamic. Years ago, I had chosen to walk away from my entire family of origin. My sister and I had only communicated briefly, respectfully at my dad’s celebration of life after he died in August 2019.

She mailed the letter with additional items from our parents’ house in the aftermath of my mother’s death in March of 2020. I wept audibly after reading this letter as I had finally, after all these years, received the validation and apology for which I had stopped hoping.

I held a Christmas miracle of a piece of paper with her always beautiful penmanship in my hands.

I hand wrote a letter of gratitude thanking her and assuring her that I had forgiven her, that I knew her life had not been a cakewalk. I communicated my recognition that the last six years of navigating both our parent’s separate health challenges and transitions to death had to have been extremely difficult—that I would not ever know everything she had done for and experienced with our parents. I appreciated her for her bandwidth for the persistent mental/emotional struggles of my mother, my dad’s dementia—a bandwidth that I did not possess. I aligned with her commitment to kindness, compassion, and love going forward in our relationship-sister to sister.

A handful of kind text communications followed including photos of her grown children, spouses, a grandson, and grand dog. I sent photos of my two children and got her caught up in my grown children’s activities, careers. She did the same about her family.

I noticed that I became cautiously optimistic about our relationship as the texting stopped. I out bounded one on her birthday. She texted a kind, yet simple thank you. Then this Mother’s Day I accidentally hit the phone icon rather than the text icon. I quickly hit the red spot to stop the call, then composed a Happy Mother’s Day text to her with flower photos attached. Later that night she texted back kindly and appreciatively. She wished me a happy Mother’s Day.

The next day as I was answering emails my phone rang. My sister’s name showed up on my phone. I answered.


“Oh, Laura! Oh, I have been meaning to call you! When your missed call showed up on my phone, I knew that was my cue to call you back!”

I immediately noticed that I was hearing my own voice, a voice incredibly like my own in tone, intonation, articulation of her words…how do you even explain this?

I took a deep breath. I became utterly quiet in my very soul, being, mind. I knew I needed to receive all the words she had to share with me.

She then poured out the five-year journey of odd physical challenges that persisted for her husband, the too many inconclusive tests, the health care professionals’ bafflement, and directives for him to lose weight. He did lose the weight yet, his difficulties changed, worsened. She shared many details of these experiences, the research she attempted. Then I hear these words that hit my heart.

“Finally, after weeklong tests, two months ago, he’s been diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disease. The doctors say he’ll lose his ability to recognize faces, his vision may completely disappear. He’ll be able to recognize voices, smells. His memory will remain strong. He probably has two good years left.”

“Oh, oh, oh”

“We’ve been working his bucket list. We went to the Grand Canyon because he had wanted to do that and had never been. He’s on disability from work. He can no longer drive.”

I responded from my heart to this hard news. We shared some more about our families, our grown children’s lives.

“You realize I’m here in central Ohio visiting my daughter and we could see each other. I would love to see you.”

“Oh, Laura, I would love that too. I will text you the days/times I’m available while you’re here!”

I don’t remember if I told her that I loved her at the end of that astonishing, heart-opening, heart-breaking conversation. I stared at my phone in my hand as tears quietly slid down my face.

I didn’t know, really didn’t know that getting to be with my sister in person, in kindness, grace, in reconciliation could ever happen. This now bucket list item is happening next week. We’re meeting at a city park, hiking, and then getting carry-out lunch. We’ll eat lunch on the back porch of her home. I will tell her I love her.
Please add your voice alongside mine and so many others worldwide to BucketFest 360° —the inspiring “for good” production now underway ⤵︎

Looking Forward: What’s In Your Bucket?


Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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  1. Oh Laura! Your journey so mirrors mine. I’ve been estranged from my sister for six years now. I wonder if this adventure might be in my future.

    Your post bring up such raw emotions for me. I’m not at a point where I would even want a reconciliation, but who knows what the future holds. Thank you for always being so brave and eloquent with your words.

    I cherish your voice.

    • Oh, JoAnna, thank you so much for your kind words and your honest reflections about your own situation. I hear you in those raw emotions as I cried as I wrote this latest essay. There are no guarantees-this I know-as there are other relationships in my life that likely will not ever come to reconciliation-and all I can do is forgive myself and those individuals, and send them love/compassion from a distance. I do also realize that sometimes people and life surprise me-that there is divine choreography that I will not ever completely understand, but I know it’s there. Know that you whatever happens you are loved. You are whole. You are a beautiful soul. I appreciate you and your voice more than you may realize, my friend.

  2. You are such a beautiful writer. You pulled me in on the first sentence and kept me reading, which is exceptional because I usually don’t take time for long stories. Not because i don’t want to, but due lack of time. Forgive me! Thank you so much for this open hearted, fragile interaction with your sister. I celebrate both your courage to have gone through so many layers and ended up in truth, in essence in what it is all about; love. May you have such a wonderful reconnecting! ❤️❤️❤️

    • Thank you so very much for all your incredibly kind comments-that you felt pulled into this story. I’m so grateful that you took the time to do so, Eyra, and weren’t disappointed in making that choice. I’m certain she had to work through many layers of her life experiences-have many small and large awakenings-that self-awareness-paying attention beyond-to have written the apology letter filled with much deeper insight, honesty, insight, and vulnerability. I had done and continue to do this deep work to heal/transform patterns. We seemed to have landed in love. I really appreciate your heartfelt reflections and good wishes. I admit I’m a bit nervous about tomorrow, yet, that may be excitement too. I know to remain open hearted and as centered as I can be-even as my whole body may shake and I will likely cry when I see her. Self-compassion and compassion for whatever transpires. I will listen deeply and share from my heart.

    • Carolyn, Thank you for your kind words of reflection. I continue to be astonished by how Love can unexpectedly show itself through the cracks, the past detritus like wildflowers emboldened to grow out of crumbled concrete. #brokenopen Yes. Indeed. Grateful for you.

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