“Well…here I am again…faced with losing a sister.
After the last 24 hours I can only wish that death and dying were more like the movies: sweet and loving words; peaceful scenes; and soft music for the fade out. Of course, the next scene shows all concerned having learned, having seen the purpose of it all, and carrying on with bravery and increasingly high and lofty spirit.
And then there is reality.
I am very sad. And I know one thing for sure: there is no good time to lose a sibling.
There are so many levels.
I am grieving for my sister. She doesn’t seem to be afraid…just a bit pissed…which may be how she has lived her life anyway.
And there is the shock. We all know there is only one way out. But somehow in this clan of the sisters we cling to our ancestry and belief that we will live long lives. We even expect them to be fruitful and productive until the end. How can she die at a young age in our paradigm?
Then we come face to face with another reality: the sisterhood is seriously threatened. We cannot bear to think of losing each other. Losing her weakens the thread that holds us to this earth. If she can die, then one of us can die, too. The failure is in the leaving of each other.
When we go it will be the natural order for our children. In a perfect world parents (but not in the case of my first sister) will precede us in death. But our sisters…? We are a pod, a unit, an inseparable cohort that is the keeper of our history, our angst, our hatreds, our foibles and our true understanding of who we are. We understand each other because we know exactly why we are the way we are. We share the dysfunctions, the functions, the parents, the jealousies, the questions…I could go on and on. Now only my oldest sister, who will be separated by yet another link in the chain of sisters, carries memories that fill in the blanks of our lives. I can’t describe the grief I feel for her. She is losing her true peer in the family.
And why must death be so miserable. Mom always said, “You don’t have to be sick to die”. Why, then? I feel I am watching myself carved into pieces as she deteriorating before my eyes. It is torture to be able to do nothing. I am ashamed that I am happy to be gone rather than to know that there is no handholding, no shoulder rubbing, and no head patting that will ease the discomfort of her physical misery; that I am relieved when she takes her dose of morphine or atavan and is quiet. Her inability to communicate is a trade off that I am willing to make to see her less agitated, in not in pain or in some horrendous inquietude with what is happening to her body. I hope she is happy with that trade off, too.
I have hated her and I love her dearly. She was a mother and I resented the mother in her as I resented my own mother. She was a big sister and she wanted everything for me even as she envied me the getting of it. I acknowledge that she is crazy and I don’t recognize all of the craziness because some of it is my own.
But the sister I know is already gone. I spent the night with her last night. She was excited that I was coming. I was special to her because I was her charge when I was a baby. She loved and cherished me.
But she couldn’t acknowledge me in this last visit. Her absorption in her own ending is more and more overpowering. Barring a miracle moment I will never have another conversation with her. I didn’t realize that the phone conversations and those face-to-face visits in the last weeks were the last we would have. I might have cherished them more.
Maybe not. Maybe we live and die by the moments we spend with each other.
I dread the recurring memories of times when I was unkind, or critical, or just plain unfeeling. I hope I remember her cleaning off the top of my refrigerator instead of visiting, or riding around with her husband in one of her big Cadillac convertibles with an old-fashioned glass of whiskey in the cup holder. But it takes a long time to erase the memories of the last days.
I want my sisters back. It is so hard to be without them. I don’t miss my parents very much, but I will miss my sisters forever. Mom and Dad and both of my sisters loved me. But my sisters understood me. They saw ME. They knew ME.
I haven’t wept many tears for my parents since they died. But I weep for my sisters. And for me.
(My sister died on June 15, 2008. I spent time with my remaining sisters in early July, 2009, and woke up the next morning with thoughts of losing my second sister.)