LIBERTY HILL, Texas – To my family, my sisters and brothers,
Let me assure you that I am at peace, knowing great love and joy. I no longer see through a glass, darkly, but see clearly and in full. When you speak of how I love you, or how you love me, be sure to use the present tense, love is eternal.
I was born in Champaign-Urbana on the 23rd of July, 1951, to the profound joy of Osie Irene Brown and Delbert Earl Winget. I made them proud sometimes, I made them cry sometimes, but their love was unconditional and so I was a great joy to them throughout their lives. I learned many things from them, though I sometimes resented it. They had a very close circle of friends in Champaign-Urbana, where I was born and raised. These friends were indistinguishable from family to me. This broadening of the family circle - friends becoming brothers and sisters - was to have a profound effect on my life. I was the first child born into this circle, all shared the joy my parents experienced, and soon there were many more children in the circle. One of these was my baby brother, Don. We fought early on, but when forced to make peace with each other - to get a dog - we became fast friends and confidants. At first, I looked after him; later, we looked after each other and loved each other unconditionally.
Our cousins were much more like sisters and brothers, each special, each treasured. Cousin Kim died far too early, in a tragic motorcycle accident; his death affected me deeply. We all clung more tightly to his brother, our brother, Kurt. I was going to a faraway place, Ireland, when it happened, I wanted to be there, but I feared the journey. So I realized it was the same with that final faraway place where I am now: I wanted to be here, but I feared the journey. As the years passed, I found it comforting that Kim made the journey before me, somehow that lessened my fear. He would be there when I arrived. I had started dreading birthdays; I was afraid of dying; gradually, I didn't dread them quite so much.
Growing up, going to school, I found new sisters and brothers. I went to college. There I met a new sister, Teresa. At first, she was one sister among many sisters and brothers, then she became my sister-in-law for a time. After this, she became so much more, she became my sister of the heart.
I worked in many places: for the Army, for the Air Force and finally the U.S. Postal Service. I made many friends there - fast friends, dear friends. I never identified with my work, but I did with the people it brought into my life. The family circle got bigger with each one; they became new sisters and brothers. I met Ruth, a friend who became a sister, and then I met my very special friend and sister, Ellen.
Later, I began to struggle with darkness, a fog of drugs and alcohol. I forgot about God; fortunately, God did not forget about me. God used another friend who became a sister, Dolly, and my cousins Lee and Gene. I leaned on them; they helped me move back toward the light. I learned the important lesson of humility - I needed their help. God used my parents, my brother Don (my br'er), friends Cindy, Jana, Debbert and especially my friends and spiritual teachers Billy, Dot (thank God you are a night owl), Sarah, Cathy, Paula, Linda and Rebecca, and countless others, to help keep me from stumbling, allowing me to continue into the light.
I began to find a purpose. God used my experience and the tortuous path I had walked to help others climb out of the darkness, using love to shine a light that all could see by. Somehow my fogged and senseless path now had a very clear purpose. I had a challenge and a purpose: through loving kindness and selfless love, breathe courage into others - inspire them.
Don eventually brought my wonderful sister Karen into my life, and together they brought me five wonderful children: Dean, Eric, Charles, Maegan and finally my dear Dave-meister, to whom I could write an entire timeless chapter of our experiences together. I was transformed, reborn. I was now Aunt Cheryl, their AC. I celebrated their triumphs with them and shared their defeats; they gave me tremendous joy and a renewed sense of purpose. Then Dean brought Amanda, and Eric brought Shaunacy into our lives and family. This added two more sparkling jewels to our family crown.
Eventually, many of my aunts and uncles and then my parents made the journey Kim had made. Mother confirmed that I should have no fear. Her last words to me, with her final breath, were, "I love you." A short while later, my cousin and sister, Kathy, left, and her brother Denny followed just before me.
Every step of the way, as I struggled with letting my parents and my cousins go, Teresa, my sister of the heart, was there, shouldering my burdens while walking beside me. When I was faced with the terror of breast cancer, she was there to serve me, for every test, every surgery. She was ever-present, along with the One I serve.
Through God, I found the courage to face my heart problems and ultimately the breast cancer, to accept them, to value them. Thanks cousins Jan and Gene for being there for me. Thank you 'cuz Dink, for your laughter through our long conversations. I always grabbed the phone when I saw you on the caller ID because I knew we'd have another cherished conversation. Aunt Lula, you are my guardian angel! Aunt Lo, Mine Auntie, I could share my deepest thoughts with you, and you made me laugh and also cry. Do not fear because God is always with you at every twist and turn. Remember when you told me that faith means believing, even when we don't understand?
When the heart problems loomed again, after beating the cancer, I was afraid, but these challenges had one ultimate purpose. They helped me grow spiritually. All the people around me, my family, my community family, shared this journey with me; they were there to support me in ways large and small - journal my experience, mow the yard, work on the house - whatever I needed, someone was there to help. I learned to greet each day with a special joy, a celebration.
Before I was to face the loss of Mother, something else happened in my life. Anita! She was at my side when I learned of the devastating news that I had breast cancer. She carried me, and I carried her, and our relationship deepened as we shared our journeys together. Anita, heart of my soul, stop fretting! We are already in a new phase of our relationship because we always were.
Well, I've gone on too long - I often do. Please forgive me if you think I have left you out of the thread of my story, know that it is not true; you are in my heart and will always be a part of my story without end.
As you pass my old house, remember this: I am not dead; I just don't live there anymore. You must choose your path forward; I want to see you again, but that is up to you - you know the way home.
May I ask one last thing of you? If you wish to memorialize me, do it by loving others. Help a sister or a brother, help a stranger; listen to them, serve them, love them. Most of all, remember, everybody has to serve somebody, so serve the One my parents served, the One I served through you. In the words of my adopted Texas, Adios my brothers and sisters, until we meet again on the other side.
Cheryl Ann Winget was born July 23, 1951, and died on March 31, 2011, in Liberty Hill, Texas.
Memorial services will be from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 23, 2011, at Beck Funeral Home in Cedar Park, 1700 E. Whitestone, Cedar Park, Texas.
Memorial donations may be made to Susan G. Komen and The American Heart Association.