How I Connected With My Late Sister Through Books & Essential Oils

I love books. I have bought copies of the same books I love over & over, usually found treasures in thrift stores, so that I can give copies away when the opportunity arises.

When my sister passed away in 2014, I remembered that she had the same love of books as I do.

A Story of Life Coming Full Circle

Connecting With my Late Sister Through Books

She had a guest bedroom with two large bookshelves full of books she had read. Her husband & I started going through them as he was going to need to move into a smaller place. Letting go of my sister's books became a difficult task.

For hours I went through the shelves. What became even more complicated was when I realised that my sister stuck pictures & notes in books that felt like messages from her. I wanted to preserve each title untouched so I could give them just as I'd found them, to her daughter, yet the task became overwhelming so I ended up taking as many of her books as I could, boxing them up & storing them in my garage. 

About six months ago I decided to open the box & put them in one of the book cases in my office. Having had three years to let some of the grief transform as grief does, into something that is less raw but forever a part of who we are, I was finally ready to read some of the books from her collection.

Two weeks ago I was heading out on a business trip & went to the shelves with all my sister's books. I looked for something small that wouldn't take too much room in my computer bag & wouldn't be too heavy. My sister was smart & had similar taste in literature so I could almost bet that whatever she loved to read, so would I.

I found a book called Dancer with Bruised Knees by Lynne McFall. Without even reading the book jacket I grabbed it & headed to the airport.

A Bond Never Broken

Once in flight I opened it to find the receipt for the book. On December 14, 1994, my sister had paid eighteen dollars and twenty-four cents cash at what was then our neighborhood bookstore, Bay Books in Coronado, California.

We were single parents in Coronado in the 90s. I could see in my mind's eye my sister walking up the street to the bookstore, her blond bobbed hair & red pursed lips while she looked through the isles for just the right book. 

I read every word knowing that her eyes were the last to read them before me. I laughed at lines I knew my sister loved. I cried at moments when I knew for sure my sister had related to the sadness. It was a visitation of sorts.

This week I grabbed a book from the shelf, thinking how familiar the cover & the name of the author was. Because my sister & I shared writing that we both loved, it would make sense that some of the titles would have belonged to me first.

This one, The Journey, was written by a literature professor who did a quarter teaching at University of California, San Diego, when I would have been about to graduate. I vaguely remembered her.

I opened the book to see a note card with what was my name back then, "Claudia Lopez," written in red pen. Inside the cover was a note from my professor, "For Claudia--A true presence in the class & a noble spirit. I learned from you & hope you learned from me. Be brave. With love, Indira, 1993." 

It was a note that my former self missed, in many ways. Back then I was in my early thirties & so insecure. I'm sure I didn't even believe Indira's words, thinking that she wrote the same thing to every student who bought her book, assuming that I bought it. I was so certain of my own inadequacies back then that I never dared to believe that I was noble or a presence. 

What I remember about the author of the book, Indira Ganesan, is that she was young that she seemed so far ahead of where I was at that time that I believe I felt jealous of her if truth be told. I wanted to be that published writer. I wanted to be that professor. Yet, I was a single mother working three jobs just to pay the rent on an apartment in Coronado that I couldn't really afford. 

Now at 54 I read Indira's words & feel the simple love she imparted to me all those years ago. I began to read the novel, & I loved Indira back. I loved every word she wrote about the lead character’s cousin who dies in a train accident in India & the time she spends on an island with her family, trying to endure the loss.

Reading Words & Connecting Them With Essential Oils

In one passage she talks about her aunt brushing her hair & anointing it with oil. I wondered what sort of oil they used, & went searching for oils for hair.

"Cedarwood." I said under my breath, reading that the Essential Oil stimulates the scalp & promotes hair growth. I went to my growing collections of oils, unlocked the cabinet with the tiny key I keep in a black felt bag in the drawer under the bathroom counter, & pulled the bottle from the shelf. I opened it & inhaled an exotic aroma that smells like bark & freshly cut wood chips.

So, I had come full circle, traveling back in time, my sister by my side, to a life that was complicated, yet innocent in so many ways. I felt my sister reminding me through the words in my professor's book that I am loved. This is how my sister would do that. She would make sure I knew, all these years later, that then, & now, love would be the key.

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Claudia Faerber is a writer who is on a journey to learn about the healing properties of Essential Oils. She has written articles on juice fasting & a published nonfiction book on the politics of Iran. Her latest journey takes her to the exploration of oils & abundance.

To learn more about Claudia, visit her website.