We held my sister’s funeral yesterday.
She died two weeks ago last Friday. I type those words and it feels like it should be the beginning of a new story.
But it’s not.
She’s really gone. I’ve been trying to write about it for the last two weeks, but I couldn’t find the words. Or maybe, I just wasn’t willing to let the words out because that would make it too real.
A week after her death, I started writing this poem:
I’m lost without you–well that
that’s not exactly true
all these years I… I
that it was you
who held me
I stopped there but never pressed publish because it didn’t feel finished… or even enough to express how I felt. She was my only sibling and my baby sister…five years younger than me and boy, she never let me forget it! Even though her MS had been slowly stealing her from me for several years now, it’s still really hard to face that she’s gone. I’ll never hear her voice again or give her a hug. Most of our life, I felt responsible to protect her… and, in the end, I couldn’t protect her enough.
In the end, as her MS gave her seizures that stole her memory, I felt so guilty about that… not being able to protect her enough. Every time I saw her she told me how much she missed me… I knew that, but I still didn’t come to visit her as often as I should have. I couldn’t. It was so hard to sit and have the circular conversations with her, to see her struggle to hold a train of thought and follow a conversation.
It was hard to explain to her again and again that our children were two or three years older than she remembered. To see the number of times she forgot my daughter and thought, instead, that she was talking to a younger me.
Maybe if we were older… but she was only 33.
And here’s the thing… I love my sister with all my heart… and I felt relieved that she passed quietly in her sleep. Not happy… but relieved that she wouldn’t have years and years of regressing. That we wouldn’t have to watch her lose more and more of her world until there wasn’t a choice but to place her in some nursing home where she would stare at four walls and a television screen, unable to enjoy living.
Maybe I should feel guilty for feeling that way. I know I should have prayed for and believed a miracle would happen… that she’d be restored to her former self. But I didn’t believe that. I didn’t believe I would ever see more than the puzzled look and sweet smile she gave us… the one that told me she wanted to be part of the world, but she couldn’t grasp what that meant any more.
So I was relieved. Relieved that I would never again have to worry about a guy beating her or watch her in a hospital bed unconscious, wondering if she would ever wake up. I will never again wonder why someone with such a sweet heart had to live such a hard life and suffer so much.
I guess that’s why I couldn’t write about it. Because, in black and white, maybe this seems coldhearted, as though I didn’t cherish my sister, when truly, I did. I was just so tired of seeing her struggle, so tired of not knowing how to help her, or what to do to make a positive impact on her life… I wanted so much for her just to have a happy, peaceful life… simple, easy… normal… and it felt like she would never have that.
I don’t know why some people are born with struggles. We were raised in the same home and yet, our lives were polar opposites. And it hurt my heart to see her hurt and her pain. I hope… I choose to believe… she’s at peace now.
I hold that thought tight, wrapping my arms around it like a buoy.
Surely, finally… she’s at peace.