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Chapter Three: It’s a Girl!

It was the morning of May 5th, 1988, and the bustling about the “mansion home”, as we called it, was filled with joy and anticipation. I was 6 years old. I could feel the love in the air as my parents prepared for the birth of their 3rd child. We were home on “furlough”, just a short time between the Greece mission and the Germany mission. I was about to get a real live baby doll. Best day ever!!

The house was full and even though it was before dawn, this group of family and friends awaiting the birth didn’t care what time it was, we just couldn’t wait to meet the newest Caligiuri.

We all thought she was going to be a boy. After 2 girls, a boy just seemed right. So we thought. We were so wrong!!! Clearly God had other plans and so he gave the Caligiuri’s another daughter.

With worship music playing, a doting husband mopping his wife’s brow, a feisty midwife barking orders, grandparents filming the birth, and 2 sisters walking around with pillows on their heads, the National Day of Prayer was interrupted by the cutest little cry from a 7lb, blue eyed, dark haired, chubby cheeked, baby GIRL, who from minute one on this earth, had a mind of her own.

Shyra’s first act of rebellion was being born a girl. She knew we wanted a brother and she was like “in your dreams, sisters!” She also had quite a set of lungs on such a little thing, and she was named “Shyra” which is Hebrew for “song”. Very fitting. Especially since she couldn’t even sing on key! That blue eyed, dark haired, chubby cheeked, determined baby girl came into this world surrounded by family and worship music. Ironically, thirty-three years later, she said goodbye to this world the same way … surrounded by family with worship music playing.

Shyra Joy Caligiuri, a blue eyed, dark haired, chubby cheeked, determined baby girl, was born into a loving family that always made time for each other and travelled the world together creating memories and adventures made for the storybooks.

Shyra was so stubborn as an infant, that when she woke up in the middle of the night, the only thing that could get her back to sleep was her daddy rocking her in his arms and singing. The minute he stopped singing, she would wake right up and start crying.

I’ll never forget living in the southern Californian mountains and that blue eyed, dark haired, chubby cheeked, determined baby girl Shyra was 7 months old and it was below zero out. (Although by this time, I believe she had lost all her hair and the cutest bald baby you’d ever seen!) Our fireplace was the one thing keeping us warm during the harshest winter storm (6ft of snow!) and our dad would be rocking Shyra back to sleep in the middle of the night, singing “put another log on the fire”, keeping the melody of the song he was already singing to Shyra, in hopes one of us would hear and keep the fire going. I think he figured out that it would be worse for him to wake a sleeping Shyra than for the fire to go out!

From the Southern California Mountains, to Greece, to Germany, to the beach life in San Diego, to Spain, and back to Southern California, Shyra saw the world. With travels to all neighboring states and countries in between, Shyra had a beautiful childhood.

It wasn’t a normal childhood, that’s for sure, but it gave life, purpose, and experience to us girls that we would have never known otherwise. It shaped Shyra into a wandering soul, who couldn’t rest until her heart beat its last. Her final adventure was allowing us to love on her while she battled cancer in return for all the love she had bestowed on us all the years prior.

Shyra was a daddy’s girl AND a mama’s girl, and the most lovingly annoying sister on the planet. She followed me around like she was my shadow, stealing my clothes, copying my style, crushing on my crushes, playing my drums. Nothing deterred her from getting what she wanted. She was so determined I always gave in. How could you say no to that blue eyed, dark haired, chubby cheeked, determined little girl?

She was loud and funny and her natural charm lit up every room she was in. She was the life of the party. She was the bachelorette of the year. She was the employee of the month. She was the favorite sister, the perfect daughter, and the best wife. She treated each friend like they were a VIP. Despite her incredible social skills and beaming personality, I don’t think she never knew how valuable she was.

Shyra, much like the rest of us, sought approval, and identity in affirmation, and she worked so hard to show love to her family and friends, even at her own expense. She always said yes and gave so much of her self and her time to anyone that asked. Even on her bad days she outshined the Good Samaritan. She drove me mad! How could someone be so perfect? I bet even the angels were jealous.

Just like in her birth, God’s plans were also different in her death. He knew her human body just wasn’t cutting it. For that girl to shine, she needed to become an angel, for real this time. A blue eyed, dark haired, chubby cheeked, determined little angel.

Now, Shyra has been reborn. She’s been given a new life, a fresh start, and an eternity to continue being the best version of herself. A wandering warrior, who keeps finding creative ways to visit us even after her death. I am convinced the heavens learned real fast not to stand in her way. She either charmed them with her homemade tabouli or she tapped her foot while placing a sassy hand on her hip, shaking her finger “I don’t think so”. Either one could have done the trick.

She was a blue eyed, dark haired, chubby cheeked, determined young woman who always knew how to work her magic in order not to be forgotten, as middle children usually are. This middle child was an exception! She wriggled her way into all of our hearts and she will never be forgotten.

This time last year was her last week on earth. It was very much like her first. She slept a lot. She was held a lot. She cried a lot. She got pampered. She had a bunch of visitors. She was curled up in a blanket. She couldn’t speak so she just smiled. She had an appetite again! Even in her discomfort and pain, she smiled through it all and fought a little harder each day … knowing that we just wanted her to stay.

She stayed as long as she could. She held on so tight that even when death tried to snatch her up on Mother’s Day, she put that sassy hand on her hip, tapped her foot and said “I don’t think so”. She stayed with us another 2 full days. On the third day, that blue eyed, dark haired, chubby cheeked, weary little girl, returned to the restful arms of her Heavenly Father. Our loss is Heaven’s gain.

Happy Birthday, Shyra. I’ve asked the angels to sing you happy birthday and to make you a birthday crown. Of course it won’t be near as good as my homemade birthday crowns in the past, made of newspaper and safety pins, but it will just have to do. I miss you. I love you. Feliz cumpleaños!

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