My friend Sandy Rankin died this summer on July 6. I never met her in person, but we bonded on Facebook when we discovered that I was from Austin living in Little Rock, and she was from Little Rock living in Austin. She wrote a book called Pearl Street Memories, a fictional but semi-autobiographical account about growing up in Little Rock, and sent it to me when we first became Facebook friends.
Sandy moved to Austin and worked as an ICU nurse at Brackenridge Hospital for over thirty years. She was delighted to find out I was born at the same hospital. She retired before we became friends, but she still had a passion for her former coworkers, sharing in their joys and sorrows. We had arranged to meet in 2017 on my last trip to Austin, but she felt sick and wasn’t up to having company or meeting at a restaurant.
We had another connection besides living in each other’s hometowns. I am a fan of singer/songwriter Carolyn Wonderland, and her son plays drums in her band! Sandy told me to go say hi to him when I saw her in concert a few years ago, but I couldn’t get up the nerve. He’s a phenomenal drummer, and I know she was proud of him. I’m still beating myself up for not trying to meet him, if only to tell him I knew his mom. (My son tells me I know everyone’s mom.)
In her Facebook posts, she talked quite a bit about her life at the Boca Chica apartments in Austin. She posted numerous photos of the wooded area around the complex with the caption, “Afternoon light.” She also posted photos of wildlife she spotted, especially the foxes. In May 2019, the Austin American-Statesman published an essay she wrote about Boca Chica called “Life, death and mysterious burnt feathers” in the Tales of the City section. Her essay starts out, “It was a sunny day when I finally moved to Boca Chica in 1997,” and from that point, Boca Chica seemed to become her muse.
After she was admitted to the hospital in late June, she posted, “Good morning my friends. I am still having troubles. But your kindness and my belief in me gives me strength there are no words we simply know life begins. There is a middle and an end. Some of us have a difficult time accepting that. Well (ha ha) I am one of those! I’m fighting!!” There are those out there who are endangering innocent people!! Get a mask. Wear it. Follow the guidelines!!! Wtf is wrong w you!! Stop hurting innocent persons.”
Sandy’s health problems didn’t stop her from lighting up Facebook, though, especially when #45 became President. A few days before her death, right after she came home from the hospital, she posted “Good morning. It’s a little daunting. Entering the world of politics. Horror. But I am going to try. My body is trying to heal. I need your help with that. I am trying to look out and see the big picture and hide the anger I continue to feel at tRump [sic] today. . . and I am going to maybe share some profanities.”
The next day, her last post read, “Good morning! How is everyone? A new day for sure. I am breathing deep, taking meds, and looking out at the hillside, no foxes yet. . . they must be asleep.” I’m glad she found peace at Boca Chica during her final days of life. Her son said she saw three baby foxes and their mama before she died.
Sandy also posted in her final days that she was going to write a book. That post gave me hope that she would recover, but she didn’t, and I miss her.
Rest in peace, Sandy, and know you were loved by many.
Photo taken by her good friend and neighbor Jeannie Taylor; used with permission.