Editor’s note: In last Wednesday’s paper, Vickie Henley Hestley wrote about a cruise she took with her sisters. This is the conclusion of that story. (Part 1 can be read at www.thearabtribune.com).

Part 2

We made a ton of pictures at a fabulous resort. She made me pick out a beautiful ring while we were there shopping and told me it would be the perfect thing for me to remember the trip by.

That night as we were getting ready for bed, Marcie told me stories about when I was a baby.

She and Cindi were quite disappointed that Mother and Daddy did not bring home little William Bradley Henley. Instead they brought home Victoria Lynne Henley.

Once they were over being mad about the fact that I was a sister and not a brother, they warmed up to me, though, and Marcie said I was like having her own living baby doll.

Then she told me that I was a sweet, but kind of chunky, lazy baby. And she added “you know you really haven’t changed all that much, Vic.”

Sisters can get away with saying things like that I guess.

On Wednesday night after dinner we went to a karaoke lounge and she was shocked to hear me sing (from our table) every word to an Usher song, followed up by a rowdy version of “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

I remember her turning to our sister, Cindi (properly: Cynthia Denise) and asking her what in the world did I think I was doing?

Before poor Cindi (who is always the voice of reason, and always in charge) could answer, I looked at Marcie and said, “I like Usher. And I like Glen. If you don’t like it, then Kiss it, Mon.”

It was the most fun we had had together in years. And I am so grateful for those memories.

The next day we docked in Grand Cayman. It was the highlight of the trip for me.

It seemed to be like paradise. I’d wanted to go ever since I read “The Firm.”

Marcie and I both re-read the book in the month leading up to the trip. Cindi, ever the rebel, refused to read it with us.

Marcie wasn’t feeling well and decided to stay on the ship and rest. She waved us off with her signature over the shoulder wave and told us just to go have fun and bring back some good sunburn.

Things changed quickly for the Henley Girls that afternoon in Grand Cayman.

When we came back onboard after lunch our beautiful Marcie had simply gone to sleep. Beautiful and peaceful when we found her tucked into bed, she had already left us to go on to a different kind of paradise.

While Cindi and I, and our friend, Deb, were stunned (and that’s an understatement) we also realized very quickly that this trip was something no one but our Marcie could have taken.

Her daughter-in-law told me that she thought if this story had been a novel, Marcie would have loved every moment of it. Leaving this earth from Georgetown, Grand Cayman, would have sounded exotic and exciting to her.

Leaving us with three-and-a-half days to cruise without her was incredibly hard, but it also gave Cindi and I time to be together like we could never have had if we had been at home.

Cindi, Deb and I took our scheduled train ride home on Monday and Marcie flew home on Wednesday.

We had a very simple but sweet graveside service for her because it was what we knew she wanted. No night of long drawn out visitation, no weeping and wailing, just beautiful scripture to comfort us and one of her favorite hymns, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.”

I’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks.

Family is not always something you are born into, sometimes God places people in your life that become chosen family members.

I’ve learned that in the end, “stuff” means nothing. Relationships mean everything.

Memories will carry my sister and I through this loss, and I hope we can witness to others and make them understand the importance of having themselves straight with the Big Man upstairs.

If I could talk to Marcie, I’m sure she would tell me to start being more serious about experiencing life. Quit daydreaming and go out and live the dream. Make days count for something. Soak up time with my children and with Cindi.

I’m grateful for that last Henley Girl trip. I’m grateful for my sister the dreamer, and I will always be grateful for what she did for me in the end…

She blessed my heart.

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