[Originally posted by Cb on Feb 10th, 2012]
– – –
… we lost our dear sister Penny yesterday morning due to the effects of stage 4 lung cancer. This was clinically not unexpected. In this life she was a rascal and a very thoughtful person. It is an extremely sad experience to consider not being able to interact with her everyday. I love Penny dearly.
6 OF 9
Penny and I are among the middle children in birth order and come from a relatively large sibling family. I am the exact middle of the 9. Penny is the eldest of the last 4 of the 9. All of our siblings are validated at middle age to be highly intelligent and talented individuals. Penny was always among the most brilliant persons within this group.
1 of 9 – Richard Dean
2 of 9 – Nathanael Anthony
3 of 9 – Joyce Nadine
4 of 9 – Bonnie Jean
5 of 9 – Christopher LeRoy
6 of 9 – Penny Lynn
7 of 9 – Mary Jane
8 of 9 – Donnie Ray
9 of 9 – Keith Duane
We Are Family
From my perspective, Penny was the quintessential little sister who idolized me as her immediate big brother – unless I was around, of course. And, our childhood together included the typical adventures a big brother and little sister share while growing up together. Terri and I saw this type of dynamic between our own son and daughter during their sibling years with us at home. And, even when our parents divorced while we were both still high school students, Penny was back to back with me on the mission of keeping the family together while achieving that immediate goal of our younger siblings graduating.
We became mini-parents by proxy, while still being just “kids” ourselves. We walked around as if nothing had changed and took care of business. I had two after school jobs to help buy food and Penny made sure that chores and homework were getting done. When I graduated and joined the Army two years later, our single parent home life was relatively stable. Penny and I stayed in touch during her senior year and beyond. I would send money home to help out the family and come home on leave whenever I could. Penny held it down, even after she went to Emporia State to school. Everyone graduated. We had kicked ass indeed.
Penny continued to be the “glue” that kept all of us together. She knew what everyone was doing and what was going on in their respective lives. Penny knew what kind of characters we had all grown up to become, she knew our strengths and she tolerated our weaknesses. I always thought that was cool. She could have gone on with her own singular life after high school graduation, like many siblings choose to do. We weren’t our siblings’ parents after all. However, I came to appreciate the fact that Penny made a deliberate choice to keep in close touch with me, no matter where in the world I was over the subsequent years. Penny also made a deliberate choice to get to know my wife, Terri, and our children, Micah and Lorri, from the very beginnings of our edition of the Burnett Family through and up to the day that she left to go ahead of us.
I was tempted to post a photograph of my sister with me. But, Penny gave of herself to me and so many people as well. So much so that we all felt the special love she had for each of us individually. I could not post a singular picture of she and I together alone and still accurately represent that enormous dynamic. However, I posted a picture of her house instead. It is a beautiful little carriage house to one of the historic mansions in Leavenworth. It was a mess when she and Bill first moved there. Penny worked on that house for the better part of the 10 years that she and her husband Bill were married. Inside and out. Hardwood floors to kitchen remodel. Lawn and landscape. She finally finished it and was ready to begin buying her furniture to fill the special lovely places that Penny’s imagination and dreams had created within that house.
The only frustration or sign of complaint that I heard my sister utter was objective disgust at the facts that she had her house done and that she had become terminally ill. Not a negative comment, just matter of fact. Those who know and love Penny too, know that it would not have gone down any other way. That house is the way Penny was with most people. She could see the beauty and greatness in all of us, no matter what condition we were in at any given moment. Now, that is a big heart and is truly what love is about. Peace, Penny. Well done, little sis’. I love you. Cb