Monday, December 7, 2009

Missing Debbie today...

My heart is aching as my sister Debbie passed away around noon today. She was one of the most special people in the entire world. She will be missed more than anyone can imagine.

Debra Kay Cozzens was born March 13, 1958. She was born with cerebral palsy, a very severe case. She wasn't diagnosed until she was old enough where it was obvious she wasn't developing normally. Once it was realized how severe she was, the doctors told my parents to put her in a home. They said that she would live a very short life, probably never to see her teens. She never walked or talked, but had a personality that was bigger than life and believe me... she knew what she wanted and knew how to get it.

When I was born in 1973, Debbie was 15 years old. I was the youngest of 7 children and there was a huge gap between me and Jennifer, my closest sibling (9 years). As our family grew up, Debbie and I were home alone for most of the years. She sat and watched as I got ready for dances, went to school and had friends over. She would get so excited about the most simple things. I remember feeling so bad for her that she couldn't do the things that I could, but she seemed to have a very happy and full life.

My dad has always doted on Debbie. He suffered a rare illness the year I was born that left him in the University Hospital for months. My mom actually went through my entire pregnancy and gave birth to me with only a friend by her side. When dad came home from the hospital, Debbie and I became his reason to live. We all had a very special relationship. I think my dad was able to understand a little more what Debbie went through, as he was now trapped in his paralyzed body, unable to move and had a very hard time communicating to others. He and Debbie bonded more and more over the years. The last few years it seems my dad has lived to make Debbie happy. Every morning he would drive his wheelchair into her room with a ton of her boxes piled high on his desk. He would run into Debbie and they would all fall, she would laugh and laugh!

Debbie enjoyed her 51st birthday last spring. She was around 40 years older than what the doctors predicted. The reason, in my opinion? Love, pure love. She had the love of all of her family. She was treated just like one of us (actually much better... as she didn't ever have to do any work!). When she screamed and yelled and acted like a brat, we told her to "shut-up", which I'm sure outsiders thought was appalling, but that was just life. We gave her rides all of the time and she loved it more when the brother-in-laws pretended to almost wreck, or go really fast. She would giggle and shake her arm like crazy, looking toward the window. That meant she wanted a ride. She wasn't denied much. She loved balloons, a lot. We always sent her balloons on all occasions and would always bring her one when we visited. She had a ton of Mylar balloons that we would take to the store once in a while and have filled back up with helium. I still think the people at the store think we are insane, bringing in these old, random balloons to fill up!

Mom took the best care of Debbie, and has become the most Christlike person I have ever known. Taking care of Debbie was similar to caring for an infant. She would change her diapers all day, bathe her, get up sometimes 3 times a night (when Debbie cried) to turn her or give her a drink. My mom had to grind up her food and spoon feed her, give her medicine and brush her teeth. This process every day took nearly an hour for each meal. She combed her hair beautiful each day. Mom never accepted any help from anyone to take care of dad or Debbie. She has always done it on her own and never complains (I didn't inherit that quality from her, unfortunately).

Debbie loved her entire family, but I think she and I had a wonderful bond. Mostly I think it is because when I was home growing up, most everyone else was out of the house. It was pretty quiet and we got a lot of time to spend together. She knows lots of my secrets! After I got married and would move away, I would call to talk to mom every few days (and still do) Debbie always knew it was me on the other line (just from the tone of my mom's voice) and would scream and yell and giggle until my mom would let her talk to me. She would usually laugh so hard that she couldn't even hear what I was saying. The conversation usually went like this, "Hi Debbie. What are you doing? Are you being a good girl for mom today, or do you need a spanking (she loved violence of any kind, especially spankings)? Debbie, Nathan was bad today. He spilled his cereal all over the kitchen and we had to spank him (again with the violence, and sometimes lots of lying, making up things the kids have done while trying to make her laugh). Well, you be good for mom. Love you." Those were great conversations. I am trying to think of the last time I talked to her, I think on Friday or Saturday while walking in a store. People usually give me interesting looks when I talk the way I do! But, I loved every minute of it.

My sister Karen sent a message reminding me of the game I used to play with Debbie's socks. It started when I lived at home and we would be bored. Mom would either be out running errands or in the other room. I would pull off Debbie's socks and hide them somewhere. Mom would come in and get mad and try to find them. Debbie would just laugh her head off, because she would know where they were but couldn't tell. She would laugh harder when mom got closer, kind of like her version of "hot and cold." When I moved away from home, I would continue the tradition every time we visited. I would hide her sock right before leaving. Sometimes it would take mom days to find it. I didn't do it the last few years, as her feet were so crippled and sore and I was afraid of hurting them. But, that was a very fun game we played!

She also got away with a lot when I visited. My mom has the most beautiful old china cabinet and it is filled with precious antiques that should really never be touched. Debbie loves to "collect" things and acquire items of interest to her. She loves boxes, pitchers, cups, etc. She actually started looking like a bag lady at the end, with crazy piles of stuff in her room. When I would arrive for a visit she would always point to the china cabinet and laugh. I would give her beautiful antique vases and cups and then mom would get mad. She thought this was a wonderful game.

Going back to the fact that she loves violence, she loved it when people dropped things. She always would laugh and demand that people spank the culprit. She would watch intently when we did dishes and just wait for something to drop on the floor (which happened a LOT because it made her so happy). We always teased her for not helping us work. I was there for Thanksgiving a few weeks ago and we kept yelling at her for not even helping us cook and clean. She would just smile smugly.

She loved watching t.v. shows, although her taste changed through the years as she aged. She used to love the "A-Team", and other action-packed shows. She slowly moved into more mellow stuff that didn't scare her, like "Little House on the Prairie." She hated football, but would tolerate the Utah Jazz basketball team. My mom is obsessed with the Jazz and would usually feed her during the games. She may have thrown a fit a time or two, but maybe gave up after realizing mom would never turn the channel. Likewise, she hated news, but knew that dad would never change the channel when listening to Fox News.

The kids took the news hard today, they loved her more than anything else. Nathan and I had picked out a stuffed kitty for her for Christmas, one that meowed and moved when it sensed motion. We wrapped it up and put it under the tree for her. Every so often it meowed and we all blamed it on the kids, or whoever was closest to the box. She would laugh so hard. When Nathan found out today, he was very sad. He got this sad look and tears started rolling down his face. He said, "She will never get to see her kitty!"

Our kids are better people because of Debbie being a part of their lives, as all of are. She taught us invaluable lessons that will stay with us for a lifetime. They lived to spank Debbie, fight in front of her and make her laugh by doing anything they could think of. She taught them pure, Christlike love.

The world is a much sadder place today with out her sweet spirit. She will be missed more than I can even say in words. I loved her with all of my heart and I will miss her every day for the rest of my life. My only hope is that she is dancing and singing in heaven today. Today I have a testimony and believe in The Plan of Salvation. I am so grateful I will someday be able to be with her again and see her in her perfect body and let her say all of the things she has always wanted to say to me. I only hope she will never tell all of my secrets.


Stacey said...

I am so sorry Ellen. You and your family will be in my prayers.

Carolyn said...

I am sorry to hear about Debbie. I am thinking and praying for all of you. How wonderful to have a knowledge of the plan of salvation.

kidsmom said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Your sister sounds so wonderful. I am glad she was in your life.

Leslie Jam said...

Ellen this was so beautifully written you brougght me to tears. I know you will find comfort in your testimony of the Plan-let me know if you need anything.


Kim said...

Oh Ellen! So sad for you and for your whole family (especially Karen who is so far away!) I want to be relieved for your mom, but I don't think she feels that way. What an amazing family and example to me! Please let me know if I can help with anything!

Kimbrey-Daniel said...

Thanks for writing those fun memories of Debbie. It will be hard to visit Grandma and Grandpa's house without her there.

I was thinking about her last night and came to the conclusion that we all better watch out backs in Heaven (especially you), she has a lot of teasing to get back at us for. You probably better pack a lot of socks! :)

Monica said...

Ellen I'm so sorry for your loss. I remember meeting your sister. She was so sweet, and your poor dear mom. I think Heavenly Father sends angels like Debbie hear to remind us that Heaven isn't that far away. If you need anything, anything at all please let me know.

Deon said...

Oh, Ellen. My heart aches for you and your family. The love you have for Debbie, as well as for your mom and dad, shows with every word of your post. This is a beautiful tribute to your entire family; Heavenly Father knew what He was doing when He gave you to each other. Thank you for sharing your tender feelings. You will be in my prayers.