Warrior Up

By Heather Wiley

Today, as we all WARRIOR UP I want to take a moment to thank you for joining us as we celebrate the life of my Big Sister, Chessie, otherwise today known as CHA. On behalf of Jared, and I, and our family, thank you for supporting us in honoring our favorite Warrior, Celeste Anne Wood. Beautiful Mother, Daughter, Wife, Aunt, Niece, Cousin, Friend, and BIG SISTER.

This room is filled with the LOVE that Cha would have embraced.

Cha would be pretty thrilled to see each and every one of you here. As many of you know Cha Loved a good party. The hardest part is although she and I had many courageous conversations throughout the last year planning this celebration today, well, we both really hoped beyond hope that we would never have to have it. But we planned it anyway. After all, you know Cha was a planner! When we were little Cha planned the parties even for the elderly neighbors, planning her role in the plays that we put on, and telling me that I always had to play Annie.

Over the last weeks I have had many opportunities to reflect on my big sister, our family, and this journey that we have all been on together. #STRONG TOGETHER #WOODSWARRIORS. Standing here today honoring my sister I have to be honest seems a little unreal and overwhelming.

A couple nights after Cha passed I came across a card that she had written me shortly after she was diagnosed that said, “H…tomorrow we Warrior up – there is strength in our anchors-and together we can and will weather any storm with our LOVE for one another, FAMILY, FRIENDS, and GOD.” She reminded me often as I did the same, that TOGETHER we were powerful, not because we weren’t scared, but because we were STRONG together despite the FEAR.   Seems that became our mantra for two years, fist pumps to the survivors as we briskly walked through the door at U of M, and Warrioring up whether we wanted to or not.

I feel fortunate today to say that for 44 years I am certain that Cha and I lived our best possible life as sisters and best friends. I reflect on a recent conversation with Doug the Nurse who took care of Cha at Munson hospital the day before she was discharged to U of M (via H transport). Doug came in at the end of his shift with tears in his eye as he said good bye and goodnight to us. He stood in the door and looked at Cha and I and asked, “What’s the secret?” Cha and I looked at each other…… She said boldly what secret? He said since your sister came today there was a feeling in this room, a peaceful, quiet, calm…..what’s the secret to your sisterhood? Cha grabbed my hand as she often did when I was at her side and said, “Love. That’s our secret Doug………..Unconditional LOVE.”

When I think of this love that we shared as sisters for 44 years I have to say that I would put it up against the LOVE of anyone who lived 100 years together.   I credit our parents for giving us the opportunities to have so much love in our life. Cha had a love for life and all of the good things life brought to us. As a little sister she took me under her wing and loved me even if I was a pest.

I am grateful that growing up family was a priority, that there were no such things as cell phones (for a variety of reasons)……LIKE………….parties when the parents were out of town, sneaking in to peek at Christmas gifts, riding bikes to catch a dip in the Ryan family pool, neighborhood shenanigans on our mopeds, toilet papering friends trees, or taking out the boats in the middle of the night at Deer Lake Beach! I am grateful that Sunday dinners were a priority and that supporting one another was an example in our life. We enjoyed a great life growing up. The thing is it wasn’t extravagant. We weren’t entitled. It was a simple life! Our parents worked really hard to give us vacations with friends, either in a caravan to Myrtle Beach, a trip to Caseville, snowmobiling in Luther, or traveling to the campgrounds via our BIG red, white, and blue motorhome.

WE sure had some FUN!

As we got a bit older Cha developed her love of friends but never ditched me, her little sister (even though at times my parents friends offered up a bribe to me to spy on the big kids and give them the teen dirt). Cha loved me anyway. I can count on my one hand how many arguments or fights we had in our life…2!

Friendship was important to Cha along with excelling in athletics, academics, and working a full time summer job starting at 14. Cha was a FIERCE athlete. She had grit and determination, which I believed served her well growing up and through adulthood. She was an incredible role model to me my entire life! I am grateful for each and every moment! I BELIEVE we made the best of our moments together.

Woodswarriors, as we honor my sister today I gotta say #woodswariors has become something special hasn’t it? It went from a facebook post liked by a few to thousands of followers and supporters in a few months. On behalf of Cha I want you to know that the daily love shown in Woodswarriors propelled her fight through the positivity, prayers, support, and love that became a very unique support system not only to cha, but I expect to many of you in this room.

Perhaps Woodswarriors is a way for her spirit and legacy to live on, to continue to encourage each one of us to LOVE life. I have been humbled and proud to hear the messages from many of you that have expressed ways that Cha has motivated them in their work, helped prioritize family, unplug, make a difference, or making a positive healthy change in their life. Cha inspired many, especially me lately, to keep going when you feel like giving up, to get up, face the day, and get in the GAME we call life!

I have witnessed Cha’s message through both of my sons in recent months. Brayden facing recent football practices determined to push harder knowing Cha fought so hard, and Luke persevering teen life despite obstacles and showing his WARRIOR strength through his unconditional love for family. Cha was determined to never give up and continues to be a positive example to all of us.

Believe me when I say she was not ready to leave this arena we call life. I’d like to think she is dancing with the angels, but I am convinced she is still stomping her feet.

As I look around this room I have HOPE you will help us keep her legacy alive through your actions and help keep her FIERCE spirit present in our lives and community.

Once again I want to say Thank you WOODSWARRIORS! We feel the LOVE!

Please RAISE your GLASS and WARRIOR UP with me in honor of my BRAVE BIG SISTER CHA!

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