January 29, 2011


I decided that the only post in January will be dedicated to my sister, Mikel, who passed away from a heart attack on the 1st of this month. New Years will most certainly never be the same. Many of you didn't know Mikel, so I thought I would share a little bit about the sister who left behind a legacy of love and laughter in our family.

Mikel was my closest sibling - we were 3 years apart. As young children, we were the biggest headache for my parents. Mikel was the dictator and I was the passive-aggressive type. To put it nicely, we did not get along.

As we grew older, we began to tolerate each others differences and found a common bond: movies. We watched everything together: Labyrinth, Goonies, Never-ending Story, Gone with the Wind, Anne of Green Gables, The Music Man, Singin' in the Rain, and pretty much every Disney movie ever made. Basically all my VHS days were spent with with my sister, Mikel. Later, we would make up songs together, share many inside jokes, and laugh so hard we would have tears streaming down our faces.

As we entered our teen years, I couldn't help but envy my sisters porcelain, white skin and dark, naturally curly hair. Not only was I jealous of her natural beauty, but she seemed to have the ability to articulate exactly how she felt about anything and was completely comfortable in her own skin. I was dirty blond with a patchy complexion and scared to death to be myself.

Through the years of sharing clothes and make-up, we also fostered a deep love for music. And just like our personalities, our taste in music was very different. I was Mariah Carey, Amy Grant, and Wilson Phillips. Mikel was Erasure, Oingo Boingo, Depeche Mode, and any other retro 80's band. I remember watching her with her friends and wishing I was as clever or outgoing. Mikel was unique and quirky and totally proud of it. But one quality that always stood out, was her random sense of humor. She could make anyone laugh with her bizarre antics and never-ending stream of movie quotes.

Despite our opposite personalities and life choices, Mikel was a constant in my life. No matter where we were in our lives, she was always there with a listening ear and shoulder to cry on. A classic Mikel quote was that if anyone was ever unkind to me, she would "beat them to a bloody pulp." That was Mikel: A bit crass at times, but completely loyal, 100% hilarious, with a heart bigger than most.

I didn't know that Sunday afternoon in December was going to be the last time I would be one-on-one with her. Mikel's cats had had babies and she wanted to put them on KSL.com to give away. I simply went over to her apartment to take pictures of her kitty's. We ended up watching part of Eclipse together, and laughing about whether we were Team Edward or Team Jacob. All the while Toby completely tore apart her apartment looking for new toys to destroy. She didn't mind one bit and even set up a few rows of dominoes for him to violently knock down. Before we left, we talked about how we both loved the Eclipse soundtrack and Mikel even pointed out one particular song on there that was her favorite. That song is forever burned in my mind and will always remind me of her. The next time I saw Mikel was Christmas Eve at my parents house. It was a good day. Mikel and I shared little inside jokes at the dinner table and together helped my parents clean-up after the feast my mom prepared. Then it was time to open all the presents from my parents and Mikel gloated a little that she must be loved the most because she had the most gifts out of all the siblings. I just laughed. Typical Mikel. My biggest regret was the way we parted. Toby was acting up so Nick and I decided to leave early. As we were backing out of the driveway, Mikel rushed out to say goodbye. She gave me a little side hug through the window and then made Toby smile with one of her funny goodbye antics. I wish we hadn't been in such a hurry to leave. I wish I would have given her a real, big, sisterly hug one last time.

It was almost one week later when I got the call from my brother, Terry, that Mikel had passed away. I was in shock and disbelief. It wasn't true. I kept thinking he would call back saying there was a mistake, that she was OK. But it never happened.

There is so much I could say to describe the week following her death. I experienced emotions I had never felt before. Although I was incredibly grateful for having the priceless knowledge of the gospel, I still felt this deep ache in my heart. There was now a hole in my family. A gaping one. I couldn't get over the fact that I wasn't going to see her at our next family birthday party or Sunday dinner. She wouldn't be there at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I wasn't going to hear her boisterous laugh or hear her rattle off one of her random movie quotes. She wasn't going to be around to convince Toby that she was his favorite Aunt or even more heartbreaking, she wouldn't be there for the birth of my baby girl in April. But whenever I slipped into those dark moments of "what might have been" and seemed overcome with pain, it was then I felt such a deep love from my Savior. I felt these invisible arms around me, softly comforting me and telling me that this was how it was supposed to be. That Mikel was alright, that although it may be a little while before I see her again, I need to take comfort in the fact that I will see her.

Sometimes when I am alone, I think I hear Mikel's voice in my head, telling me not to cry or be sad. She tells me that she's happy and not far away. I take comfort in that thought alone - she is not far away. In fact, I have discovered again and again that she will always be around, because I see and hear her in my day-to-day. Whenever I am alone in the car, inevitably a song will come on the radio that will remind me of Mikel. I sing as loud as I can and pretend she is in the passenger seat singing right along with me. A few days ago I watched Aladdin with Toby and instantly a myriad of Mikel quotes filled my mind. This morning I was in a nesting frenzy, cleaning out our pantry and listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. Suddenly tears streamed down my cheeks as I remembered Mikel and I listening to the same soundtrack as we did our Saturday morning chores in our younger years. I smiled as I remembered us making fun of Raul's voice. But the Phantom song that really did me in was "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again." I just sat and cried as these lines poured from my laptop:

Wishing you were somehow here again
Wishing you were somehow near
Sometimes it seemed if I just dreamed
Somehow you would be here

Wishing I could hear your voice again...
Help me say goodbye

A few days after her funeral, Beckie, Nessa, and I watched Little Women together - a sister tradition since we were young. It was strange with only the 3 of us. It didn't feel right. But every once in a while I wondered if Mikel was there, laughing and crying right along with us. I know that she lives on. I know Mikel is on the other side, working and preparing for the day we see her again. One thing my sisters and I look forward to is doing her temple work in a year. What a beautiful and special day that will be. And I am so grateful we still have sweet, little Azia - Mikel's daughter. We all see pieces of Mikel in her. And although she a very strong girl who is definitely wise beyond her years, I can't even imagine what she is going through with losing her mother at such a young age. Please keep her in your prayers.

I just want to close this post with expressing my deep gratitude for the overwhelming love and support I have felt the past few weeks. I was extremely humbled and blown away by loving friends who sent sweet emails, cards, and texts, helped out with Toby when I was at my wits end, offered their time and support at the funeral services, spent an evening with me to get my mind off things, or just simply let me know that they were there for me. Basically I had many little guardian angels helping me get through such a difficult and foreign event in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your kindness and love was not unnoticed and will not be forgotten...

One last thing: I asked each sibling to email me a song that reminded them of Mikel. Later I burned all the songs onto a CD and mailed a copy to each family member.  It was a little something I felt we needed as a sweet reminder of her quirks and loving spirit. Each song has a story behind it for why it was chosen. Someday I might elaborate on those stories.

1- The Heart of Life - John Mayer
2 - Take On Me - a-ha
3 - 1979 - Smashing Pumpkins
4 - Think of Me - The Phantom of the Opera
5 - Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 3 - Muse
6 - Meet Virginia - Train
7 - Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles
8 - Winter - Tori Amos
9 - Soul Meets Body - Death Cab for Cutie
10 - Don't You (Forget About Me) - Simple Minds
11 - As the World Falls Down - David Bowie
12 - Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton
13 - I Will Remember You - Sara McLachlan
14 - She's Got a Way - Billy Joel
15 - Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again - The Phantom of the Opera
16 - Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing - MoTab
17 - My Shepherd Will Supply My Need - MoTab

And my blog will remain purple for a while, as it is both mine and Mikel's favorite color. One thing we did have in common. :)


Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting this tribute. She was absolutely amazing and one of a kind - you captured her spirit perfectly. I loved all the pictures too. :)

*Big hugs*

Aleta said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your sister. I'm so sorry for your loss. It's especially hard when it's so sudden and when they're so young. I can totally relate, as I had many of those same feelings when my brother died too. But thank goodness for the peace and joy that come from the gospel! It definitely makes the grieving process easier. Let me know if you need anything.

Jessie said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I loved seeing those pictures!
You and your family have been in my thoughts and prayers so much.
I was sad that the day of the funeral landed on a day I wasn't able to make it down there. I really wanted to be there, to hear the words said about Mikel, to hug all you fun Rarick cousins. I got a pretty good scoop from Annie and my mom, but it's just not the same as being there.

Anyway, know that I was longing to hug you guys and chat with you, and know that I sure love you!

Kristina said...

Deb, I am so sorry for your loss. I can't even imagine what it would be like to lose one of my sisters. It's so amazing to know that the Lord has a plan and that we will see our loved ones again someday. Our prayers are with you and your family.

Colleen said...

I couldn't help crying as I read this post and thought about my own sisters. I am so sorry, Debbie. You have been in my thoughts and prayers. Love you.

BeeP said...

What a beautiful, beautiful post. I'm glad you have fond memories of her and things that will constantly remind you of her. Is it weird that a lot of my associations with my mom have to do with food? Almond windmill cookies- lemon drops- Rolos- Dr. Pepper. Strange how the little things remind us of such great people. I'm glad you have felt love from everyone and mostly carried by our Savior. You continue to be in my prayers.

Pam said...

Debbie, you really have a gift for creative writing. First,Mikel's obituary, written with finesse and inspired thought, and now this blog which is so-o incredible! You have described Mikel's heart and soul and captured her fun quirkiness and timeless sense of humor.
Thank you dear daughter!
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of Mikel. . . . this tribute brought tears. . .
I am so looking forward to the day that we go to the Temple in behalf of Mikel!

Tim & Jodi said...

How I love my sisters! I am so blessed to have 4 beautiful daughters of our Father in Heaven as sisters, 3 as daughters, 1 for a mother, and 1 as my companion--all sealed to me. Mikel will always be part of who I am, and I couldn't be prouder.

Thank you Debbie for reminding us that Mikel lives on, both in our hearts and the Spirit World. May we all love others with the unbridled enthusiasm that Mikel did!