Four Sisters in Life and Death

Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow - Chicago, Illinois
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, January 14, 2011
Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow

When Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow’s youngest sister, Ivy (second from left), died in a plane crash at age 16, the remaining siblings decided to always honor the love they had shared. In doing so, Chaplik-Aleskow (far right) believes Ivy lives on in the hearts of her family and friends.

Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: death, family, love

I believe in Ivy. She was my youngest sister. She died in a plane crash with my father when she was sixteen.

Ivy was born an old soul. There was something in her brown eyes that touched your core when she looked at you. When she smiled, you knew that she understood.

I lived at home for most of Ivy’s life. That was my good fortune. Our bedrooms were next to each other. We shared a common wall. Every night when we went to sleep I would call out to her through the wall, “Good night, love-love. Sweet dreams.”

That was my nickname for her. “Love-love” described how I felt about her. It was a double love. We were thirteen years apart. She was my youngest sister and the daughter I would have wanted.

When Ivy was in high school, her English teacher wanted to promote her into Honors English. As was Ivy’s style, she asked the family’s advice, pondered it, and then came up with her own practical and clear decision.

On this issue she had decided to stay in regular-level English because she felt that her teacher was excellent. She said that when he spoke, he made her want to “hug a dictionary.” Ivy was fourteen years old at the time of this particular insight.

She was the girl who befriended the underdog. If someone were made fun of by the group, Ivy would defend that person and protect his or her feelings. Her friends were a cross-section of many different types of people.

Ivy was quiet and gentle. Often she would observe others, not missing a thing. She was thoughtful, endearing, and loyal. She was her own person, her own young woman. Unknowingly she had no time to waste. She had only sixteen years to do what she was going to do.

Ivy observed that there were many people who were quietly giving of themselves but who were never noticed or acknowledged for their generosity of time and caring. After the plane crash, based on Ivy’s philosophy, my family created the Ivy Lynn Chaplik Humanitarian Award at her high school.

Ivy’s beauty lives on in her family’s and friends’ hearts. Each year in the hearts of the nominees for her award, her being is once again touched and her beliefs continue to inspire.

I have been blessed with three sisters: Linda, Susan, and Ivy. They are my treasures. They come from the same love from which I came. We are bound by DNA. Yet we are also connected by an invisible frame and foundation in which and upon which our lives have been shaped and implemented.

What happens when one of the four sisters goes away? Dies? Devastation and longing continue always. And then the magic happens. The unspoken focus among the three of us to keep our Ivy with us in life. If someone speaks of the three of us, in an almost naturally choreographed oneness, we answer, “Four. And she was the best.”

There will always be four. We are four. We exist as four. We loved and love as four. We are four sisters in life and in death.

Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow is founding general manager of WYCC-TV/PBS and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Wright College in Chicago. Her nonfiction stories and essays are published in numerous anthologies and magazines. Her husband is her muse.