Saturday, August 05, 2006

We Need to Speak--I Have So Much to Tell Her

Another post from the past. Carole was my only sister.

FROM 7/7/2006

In a few weeks, it will be two years since my sister died. The time has passed so quickly.

In the weeks after her death, I did what I had to do to arrange for the memorial service, find her cats a good home, and deal with all the paperwork involved in settling her final affairs. I needed to dismantle her apartment and bring over 15,000 photographic prints to my place (and find room for them!), to deal with our mother's sorrow and health, and to put together a eulogy as a memorial to my sister's life and her inspiring 22-year battle with cancer.

Once the busy phase ended, I faced a tough two years. Many times I found myself heading to the phone to call her before I realized I could not reach her. I guess it takes quite a while to get one's head around the concept of death and separation.

She was my only sister and only sibling, and as the younger sister I looked to her for encouragement and counseling. For her, I was the perpetual child in pigtails who needed to be looked after--despite my age or success.

I remember my sister smiling broadly as I entered her hospice room early one morning in August. She was cheerfully eating chocolate pudding (pretty much the only thing left that she could digest other than pure liquids) and was sitting up in bed beaming at me as I entered the room. We both had worried for the last few years how I would handle these last days of her life, and we were pleasantly surprised that I had received the gift of grace to get me through it. I think that gave her a real sense of peace.

That morning, there was something different about her countenance. She smiled, but behind the smile I saw a sadness in her eyes that I had not seen before. I knew at once that her life was coming to a swift and sudden end.

So I sat at her bedside as she put her head back down on the pillow and closed her eyes. We sang hymns and prayed, and occasionally she would squeeze my hand to let me know she was still here with me. Sometimes she'd open her eyes to look at me intently as if it were difficult to focus her eyes, and when my image became clear to her, she would smile. Sometimes on awakening she would say, "I love you" and then quickly fall back into sleep.

By evening she was no longer able to open her eyes. She had slipped into a coma from which she could not be awakened. Before leaving that room late at night, I stood at the foot of her bed and stared at her for a very long time. I wanted to remember every last detail of her face.

The following morning at 6:30 AM, Carole died of breast cancer that had metasticized to her liver.

I miss her more than I am able to express, and the sense of loss has increased with time. I want so much to pick up the phone and speak to her. Sometime I just stare at the phone, feeling a bit lost. We need to speak--I have so much to tell her. And I know for certain she has so much to share with me as well.


Blogger Teri said...

I can't imagine your loss. I'm the eldest between me and my sister and can't imagine if anything happened to her. Especially when you want to pick up the phone and call her and then you realize that you can't. I think the realization would make me stop breathing for a few seconds.

I hope it gets easier with time.

Aug 5, 2006, 4:04:00 PM  
Blogger Zed said...

Oh Teri thank you so much. I miss her greatly but my apartment is now full of so much that belonged to her (her photography, clothing, furniture) that to some extent I feel she is still near to me.

Exactly one year to the day she died I quite accidentally found an unopened letter that she had written to me in Feb. 2004 (she died in August 2004) telling me what a good sister I had been to her and how much she loved me. I just keep that out on my dining room table day in and day out, and when I need comfort I go read it again.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Aug 5, 2006, 4:40:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

It's been 4 years for me since my sister died. We weren't close and she had been 10 years older than me, but it didn't stop me from standing in a toy store last year bawling at the display of Breyer Horses like an idiot. She and her husband were in the process of getting a divorce when she died and he booted my parents out of her house (they had been staying with her) before they could grab too much of hers. I do have 2 horses on my shelf that were hers and that's about it. It is hard. It does get easier, most of the time... :)

Aug 6, 2006, 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger Zed said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Jo. Even though you say you were not close, there's just something about a sister-sister connection...

I understand completely when you say you broke down looking at the display of Breyer horses. I find sometimes I'm blindsided by the unexpected. A commercial (just forget about the Hallmark ads--I'm a goner!!), a quick glance at someone who looks remotely like her, a picture she took of a beautiful flower, etc.

Hallmark ads should be outlawed!

Aug 6, 2006, 1:49:00 AM  
Blogger Lynda said...

I lost my sister last October to non-smoking related lung cancer. She was only 25 years old and she lost her battle after only 4 1/2 months from diagnosis.

I think this is a beautiful tribute to your sister.

Aug 7, 2006, 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger Zed said...

Lynda, I went to your site yesterday and tried to comment, only to find it was too tough for me. But I promise to go back and try again. What happened to Laurianne and my sister Carole should not be happening to anyone at any age. We need a cure!

Your devotion to your sister's memory is a beautiful thing to see. She'd be very proud.

Aug 7, 2006, 12:39:00 AM  
Blogger Zed said...

Lynda, I just placed the code with Laurianne's picture on my sidebar. Go take a look.

Aug 7, 2006, 1:00:00 AM  

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