This is one of the most beautiful and saddest photographs I have taken. It is my sister, about a month before she died of cancer. And her daughter, who was 13.


On the last visit to my sister, she was in kidney failure, dying. We had conversations that were surreal. All I wanted was to stay with her.

One day a friend of hers, another mother and I, were working to make her more comfortable.

“I am sad!” my sister said, and started crying.

“Why are you sad?” I said, “What are you sad about?”

“I won’t be there! I won’t be there when she graduates from high school! I won’t be there for her first date! I won’t be there when she gets married! I don’t want to die!”

By now we are all crying. “You will be there!” I say. I am certain. “You won’t be in this form. You will be in another form!”

“I will?” my sister said, crying.

“Yes.” I said, crying too. “You have to go. You have to transform. You can’t stay. But you will be there for her.”

We cried and held her.

And I know for certain that she is there, she is here, she is with her daughter as her daughter graduates from high school, goes on a date, does all the things that daughters do.

Now and forever.

And the living children must be returned to the living parents. We cannot do otherwise and call ourselves humans.


4 thoughts on “separation

  1. V.J. Knutson says:

    Such a touching piece. My sister died young also – I never thought of our conversations as “surreal” but that is a good term for them. Some acts can never be forgiven. Your words are very apt.

    • drkottaway says:

      thank you. Our minister says forgiveness is within us, and we do need to forgive. He says, however, that we should not reconcile with an abuser. So he differentiates between forgiveness, a one person internal process, and reconciliation, which requires two or more to step up and take responsibility and listen.

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