My sister in 2005, watching while our daughters play in the slip and slide.
For the Ragtag Daily Post: past.
This is my sister and me in early 2012. She died on March 29, 2018, from breast cancer. She was 49.
For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: copyright.
This is my sister being a goofball on Christmas morning in 2010. The puppet was a family gift that we all played with. The Christmas hat is mine. This was after her cancer recurred: she died in March of 2012.
After she died, the people who write on everything2 were notified that another blogger had stolen multiple write ups and posted them on a blog as their own writing. That is a violation of copyright. And it feels particularly painful when it is my sister’s writing, who is dead at 49 from cancer. I do not think nice thoughts about the thief and I hope that the person regrets and makes penance for what they did. Hundreds of write ups were stolen from all sorts of people.
That is what the word copyright brings up. Don’t steal. Don’t steal my work or photographs or my sister’s or anyone else’s….
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.
A picture of me and my sister in early 2012, about 6 weeks before she died.
Some days are about longing.
There is a door, so I submit this to Norm2.0 Thursday Doors.
There is more than one list of seven virtues. Courage, or bravery, goes back to Aristotle and Plato as one of the four cardinal virtues.
What is bravery to you? An extreme sport? A warrior?
My sister endured cancer treatment for 7 years, over 30 rounds of chemotherapy. She said, “People say I am brave, but they don’t understand. I don’t have a choice. It’s do the therapy or die.” It’s still brave, though, isn’t it.
The person who comes to my mind for bravery is a woman, a long time ago. She spoke Spanish and we had a translator. Her son had had rheumatic fever and they had gone to the pediatric cardiologist for the yearly visit. Her son had a damaged heart valve that was getting worse. He was somewhere between 9 and 12.
“The heart doctor says he needs surgery. He needs the valve replaced. But the heart doctor said he could die in surgery.” she said.
I read the notes and the heart ultrasound. “The heart valve is leaking more and more. If he doesn’t have the surgery it will damage his heart. He will be able to do less and less and then he will die. If he has the surgery, there is a small chance that he will die. But if he doesn’t, he will be able to grow and to run and to be active.”
She said, “I am so afraid.” But she returned to the pediatric cardiologist. And he got through the valve replacement surgery and did fine.
That is courage to me. The parents who take chances for their children: get into boats to escape war. Search for treatments. Fight for their home, their children, their loved ones. It is both men and women, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and people who have no blood relation to a child that they reach out to help. Adoption, volunteering in schools, supporting a student, supporting an organization that helps children grow and thrive.
When Beth is dying in Little Women, she says that it is like the tide going out….. sometimes I miss my sister so much. I am trying to make sense of the third stage, the stage after mother. With my daughter in college, I am living alone for the first time in 28 years. And I don’t have my sister or my mother or my grandmother to accompany me.
I took the title from one of my sister’s essays: An early promotion to crone. Here: http://e2grundoon.blogspot.com/2007/08/early-promotion-to-crone.html
I want to discuss my sister’s essay with her …. I can’t, except in dreams.
mother, maiden and crone
small child in my heart
baby cuddled warm
safe and loved
small girl dancing
sing run shout
woman seen and heard
woman silenced dressed undressed
woman learning searching writing
woman held and loved
woman gravid bearing carrying
woman feeding raising nurturing
crone quiet watching
white haired dismissed old
unseen unknown ignored
laughing playing dancing
sing run shout
When my mother was dying of cancer, she did not want us to cry.
So we didn’t. We had her at home in hospice for nearly six weeks and we did not cry. Almost.
My sister called me. “I started crying today, at the kitchen table.” My mother was in another room in the hospital bed. “Everyone left. No one stayed with me. Everyone left.”
I didn’t cry but when people called to say how were things, I couldn’t speak. I sat there with the phone, silent. Because what I wanted to say was my truth and I knew very well that that was not what they were calling to hear. So I did not speak.
After my mother died, time passed. I felt…. many things, but the strongest one was “I wish my mother had let me cry.” We did what she wanted. But I wanted to cry.
My sister got cancer and fought it ferociously. She refused hospice until the last week. I flew down three times in the last two months.
Six days before she died, her friend and I were helping her. “I’m sad!” said my sister.
“Don’t be sad.” said the friend.
“It’s ok to be sad.” I said. “What are you sad about?”
My sister started crying: “I won’t be at my daughter’s high school graduation! I won’t see her get ready for prom! I don’t want to leave her!”
“You won’t leave her.” I said. “You will be there. Not in this form.” I meant it absolutely.
“I want to stay!” she said.
“I know.” I said. “I am so sorry.”
With my sister, I did not do what she wanted. I thought of my mother and that I wished she had let me cry. With my sister, I tried to listen to what she wanted and listen to what I wanted. I tried to be honest with her. She even got mad!
But… I watched her go in the cancer bubble. Where fewer and fewer people were being honest. They were afraid. They did what she wanted. They wanted her to be happy. And she tried so hard….
When I had arrived for the last visit with my sister, she was sitting with my cousin. I hugged her. She was not speaking much. I asked if she would like me to sing something and she nodded. I started singing “I gave my love a cherry”, a sweet lullaby. My sister shook her head, angry and fierce. I studied her. “How about Samuel Hall?” I said. My sister smiled and nodded. I started singing “My name is Samuel Hall.” It is about a man who is going to the gallows for killing someone and he is entirely unrepentant and angry. My cousin looked at me, startled. “I haven’t thought of that song in years,” he said. We both sang it to my sister. “To the gallows I must go, with my friends all down below, damn your eyes, damn your eyes.” That was the right song, angry, resisting, raging. “Hope to see you all in hell, hope to hell you sizzle well, damn your eyes, damn your eyes.”
I flew back to work three days before my sister died. I am told that she was scared when she died. “I said, don’t be scared.” said a friend.
Why not? I thought. Why can’t the dying be scared, be anxious, be angry? Why are we afraid to let them? I would have said, Why are you scared? And I would have said, I am scared too. And sad. And angry.
I told my counselor once that my husband was on the couch, angry, and I had to leave the room.
“Why?” she said.
“I am afraid.” I said.
“Why?” she said.
“I am afraid he’s angry at me.” I said.
“So what?” she said.
I thought, so what? “I want to fix him. I want him to not be angry.” Even if it isn’t at me.
“Why can’t you stay in the room?” she said.
I practiced. I stayed in the room. He was angry, grumpy, acting out. It’s not my anger. I don’t have to fix it. It may be just or unjust. Does it really matter? It is his anger not mine. I can stay present.
A friend said that his friend was dying leaving small children. “He was so angry that almost all his friends stopped visiting.”
A man and his sister are not speaking four years after their father died because they disagreed so strongly about how his lung cancer should be treated.
An elderly woman in the hospital agrees to go home for care with her son when he is present and with her daughter when she is present. When neither is present she will not make a decision.
A woman says to me that she is angry that hospice didn’t tell her which drug to give at the end to keep her friend from being anxious.
I hope that we learn to stay present for the dying and for the living. For all of the “negative” emotions. I see most of my hospice patients want LESS medicine rather than more. As their kidneys fail, the medicines last longer. They do not want to be asleep. They may cry. They may be angry. They may be unreasonable. Why should they be reasonable or nice or peaceful?
We want most to be loved entirely. Even when we are sad or whiney or angry or anxious. Who wants to be left alone when they are afraid? I hope we all learn to stay present.
And when we were alone, in that last three days, my sister said “I’m bad!” I said, “You are not bad. You’ve done some really bad things.” She said, “I’m sorry.” I said, “I love you anyway.” And she lit up like a buddhist monk, like an angel. And we both cried and I am so glad I was there.
I just want you to know
even if I never see you again
even if I never touch your hand
even if I never hug you again
even if you don’t answer
even if you don’t let me in
even if you are deaf to anything I say
even if you forget the moment you stop reading
I just want you to know
you are loved you are loved you are loved
for my lost ones, living and dead 9/15/16
The photograph is from 2004, in the Hoh Rain Forest.
I am submitting this to the Friday Night Music Prompt #62 : Never too late for love & Keep me in your heart
M is for mourn. We mourn for losses. Mourning is part of being human and we have to give grief room and space. How can we love and feel intimacy without also feeling grief and mourning?
I wrote a poem the day my sister died. I had flown home four days before, after seeing her in hospice, 7 years of cancer. I flew home the day before her birthday. My birthday is three days after hers. She died the day after my birthday. It has now been four years.
An apology, a love note and a remembrance
I step outside into a fine mist rain.
I am enfolded in cloud.
The dog still wants to be walked.
The cats want their treats.
The bunny rattles her cage.
The fish will want feeding at the usual time.
My heart lies stunned in my chest.
The dog does not pull.
I walk measured.
The rain comes harder.
I hope that where you are, is joy.
The crows harsh caws comfort me.
They watch from the tree tops as we circle.
I am enshrouded in cloud.
We are back to the house.
I try to remember.
I have the birds.
I have the trees.
We go in.
first published on everything2.com with other poems for her here: http://everything2.com/title/An+apology%252C+a+love+note+and+a+remembrance
I don’t know who took the photograph. Probably my grandparents.