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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

'Til You Can't

Since moving to rural mid-Michigan, Marc and I had contemplated the practicality of buying a pickup truck for many reasons including hauling dirt, plants, and mulch from our local nursery, taking our monthly recycling to be sorted, and having the benefit of four-wheel drive on slick snow covered backroads.

This past fall, we purchased a Ford F150 and drove it off the lot with the radio station set to 94.5 The Moose – new country music. I’ve never professed to be a big country music fan but the truck and our rural lifestyle seem to go together effortlessly. And over these past few months, song lyrics have secured a place in my brain and slip into my daily parlance.

It has been fun taking the new truck on grocery runs and assorted errands, I am feeling more at ease in our country setting and my trips off property have afforded me the time to reach out and call my sister Irene while I’m on the road.

Our conversations were easy and always wound down a path for us to speak about design, color, styles and themes. We have always shared a love for art, color, texture and fashion. As the house was being built, I included her in the process and progress step by step. Irene was a fount of ideas and she provided me with some invaluable advice and considerations. My sister and I would communicate in some form almost daily. Our conversations were touchstones and a way to connect, laugh, report news, discuss issues, and just feel closer.

When I lived in Boston, Irene would come visit me as often as she could - this photo must have been taken in the mid 1990s. I was a freelance writer and barista at a local neighborhood café.

Prior to uprooting from Brooklyn, Irene and I met for lunch to talk about my big move from the east coast. Our time together to talk was unfiltered and real. We knew each other in a way that only siblings could fathom. She embraced our plans to move and was very excited to hear about our dreams to build a new house. I had always anticipated her to visit us so she could witness the beauty of the lake and tranquility of our quiet woods. I knew she would find such peace and serenity in the natural surroundings of our home but unfortunately she was not afforded that chance.

Three weeks ago, my dear sister Irene passed away from complications of the Covid-19 virus. She entered the hospital earlier in January and her condition worsened so quickly that she went into the ICU and was eventually put on a ventilator. On January 14th she passed away … and my world stopped spinning.

Days have passed and weeks have gone by and I’ve tried to write this post and give my sister Irene the honor she deserves for living her life and giving so much – and the shocking realization is I don’t think anything I write could encapsulate the love, loss, and reality of my sister’s departure from the physical world. I stumbled many times to prepare this post and questioned how I would ever properly convey the beauty and artistry that was my sister.

I so dearly wanted to express how often she put the needs of others in front of her own. I hoped to expound upon how much she loved her nephews and niece and how she was always there for them. I tried to reiterate the stories that would capture her depth of soul and creative talents. I endeavored to communicate how sweet, caring, and thoughtful she was and how she wore her heart on her sleeve – so exposed – that it often got hurt. We supported and leaned on each other until all of a sudden that all vanished. I’ve been told grief is the price we pay for love, and I am grieving deeply.

This past week as I was again running errands, my instinct was to call Irene and then I realized I couldn’t. On the radio a country song started to play – ‘Til You Can’t by Cody Johnson. Listening to the lyrics a wave of emotion washed over me and I was reminded to grasp each day with hope and love and to always be grateful for my family and friends. This refrain rings clear and is a harbinger to live to the fullest, love with all your heart, and hold those dear to you as close as possible.

If you got a chance, take it, take it while you got a chance If you got a dream, chase it, 'cause a dream won't chase you back If you're gonna love somebody Hold 'em as long and as strong and as close as you can…

'Til you can't

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Alex Oneto
Alex Oneto
Feb 04, 2022

Irene watched as you wrote these words and she touched your Heart! I know the pain you are feeling and I pray that Irene's spiritual presence remains with you and in your heart!


Feb 04, 2022

What a great tribute to Irene! I cried and I didn’t even know her. Hugs to you.

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