Has it really been 16 years since I heard your voice? Sixteen years since I smelled snickerdoodles baking in the kitchen. Mine just never taste as good as yours did. Sixteen years since we spent hours talking. Elsie Marie Weston, my mom’s baby sister, lost her battle with breast cancer 16 years ago and will forever be known as one of the strongest women I know.
Elsie‘s battle with lumps on her breast started when she was about 18 years old. Always removed and always were not cancerous. Until the life changing diagnosis – you have breast cancer. Her first mastectomy in 1990. Her second reconstructive surgery 6 years later to replace a leaking implant. Then they found it in her bones. She went through medication regimines, and chemotherapy. She continued to fight through it all.
Sure, Elsie was family but she was also my best friend. Growing up, Elsie was privilege to some of my deepest secrets. I may have been the pesty niece that she was forced to babysit when I was little but that changed. She visited me in college. We partied at the Headliner when we both worked for Neptune Township. We both went to Atlantic City to open the Claridge Casino. We were roomates – Tuckerton and Somers Point. We weathered hurricanes, blizzards and life itself. Elsie was there when Belinda was born – she even cut the cord before heading out to attend a wedding.
Elsie and Belinda were buddies. From the time Belinda was born she was there to help. When I was in detox and rehab, she made sure life remained as normal as possible. I remember being in detox, not being able to have visitors – she helped Belinda make a sign and they stood outside the hospital window to show their support. When I came home from rehab, Elsie took us in when we were evicted from our home.
Elsie fulfilled one of her dreams by opening Small Wonders, a gift shop in Ocean Grove. Belinda and I traveled up on weekends to help out. Belinda traveled with Elsie and Edythe. They taught Belinda to bake while spending countless hours watching Disney videos. When the cancer spread, to Elsie’s eyes, things got a little tougher but she was determined to work every day in her store. We all helped – Belinda learned how to work the register and run credit cards at the ripe old age of 10 so that she could work in the store as Elsie was going blind.
Belinda put together one of her famous surprise parties for Elsie’s 50th birthday. Elsie was mad but she never stayed mad for long at Belinda. That would be her last birthday with us. On May 23rd, Elsie was admitted into the hospital – she had lost 95% of her eyesight to cancer and had given up her will to live. Seven days later she became another Weston Angel – joining her parents in heaven.
The imprint that she left on the world will long be remembered by all of us. She was a fighter. She was loving & kind. She was Belinda’s Buddy! A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about her. When there is a crisis or we are in the hospital, a sense of calm comes over me and I knew that everything would be okay – see all my Weston angels are always with me – Mom-mom, Pop-pop, Elsie and Edythe.
Elsie, like the rest of the family, hated having pictures but this is a collage from the scrapbook we made for her 50th birthday.
Elsie, I miss you and I am sure that I didn’t tell you enough how much I loved you. Cherish the moments today – the good, the bad and the ugly for life is precious.
Have a ThirtyOne-derful day.