Hello Dear Ones...
Back in January of 1976, my sister's battle with Hodgkin's disease (that is what it was called then), ended peacefully in a hospital room. I was 17 and she was 27. She was my only sister.
Next year it'll be 30 years and that is just amazing to realize, and there are parts of the three years of her fight after diagnosis that still sting just as if it happened yesterday.
Her husband brought her back to the family home that Fall, because he had just landed a great job, and really needed to be have peace of mind that she was cared for and safe while he was at work, and in retrospect, I can see it was a very overwhelming time for him- of course it was- and he and my sis were so young and their whole married life was full of this disease.
At that time, however, it felt like he was dumping her...and dumping the whole thing on us, and while of course, we accepted and welcomed her back into the family home, it was very hard work taking care of her. My mother and father both worked, and I was a senior in highschool. I was pretty much the default caregiver since I was there most of the time.
I got to a point where I dreaded going home after school but I was just a kid and my sis filled my life with her needs. She was 10 years older than I, and was the good student, while I was the slacker, and she was the very talented one, while I was just lucky alot. She was neat and attractive, and had a Bachelor's degree about the time that I was a preteen mess and didn't understand school at all.
She was off to college when I was in second grade. We didn't know one another all that well, and she resented me because the improvement in my parents financial situation provided me with stuff that she had to work hard for. She thought I was spoiled, but in fact it was just luck of the draw as to when I was born and what my parents could afford by the time I wanted things like a guitar, which they bought me- used, but it was a great instrument and I had it a long time. She worked hard for such things with summer jobs in high school.
I so admired her, and tried to be like her, falling short in every way. And she died tragically. At her funeral there was nothing but red, American Beauty roses. We sang her favorite hymn, "Amazing Grace", and my best friend sat with me, as did my sister's best friend and we all held onto one another.
My parents were in their own world. They had nothing left after they lost my sister, for me. It was all they could do as individuals to grieve for the loss of their firstborn, how could I expect there would be anything left for me? I mean, I really saw clearly that they were not turning away from me in anger or anything, and I clearly understood their deep grief. I had total compassion for them, but it was a big disconnect between my parents and me.
I had to turn to the minister of the church in which I grew up, and that family became my source of comfort and support. There were some messed up things that happened with me and with my sister's husband...he just transferred his love for her, to me and it led to a year or so of emotional confusion in my life. Finally I was able to break away from him and his neediness.
A year and half later I met my husband and was married a few months later. I had incredible dreams where my sister came to me, and I still do, but it's very rare in recent years. I truly believe she has visited me through my dreams.
It is tragic that just as my sis and I both had realized we could be close and friends, she took a turn for the worse and I ended up being her caregiver instead of her sister/friend. That is a different relationship carried out lovingly of course, but there is a level of objectivity that must kick in to help a caregiver survive the daily efforts to give care preserving dignity also. Very hard for a highschool senior.
I quit school just a few months from graduation and hid the fact from my parents. I needed the socialization of school desperately and went to hang out, but didn't go to class. I felt as if the rug had been yanked out from under my life, as giving care to my sis was the center of it all very intensely for months. But even when I did go to school and hung out with my peers, I felt as if I had had this life-changing experience and that nothing was the same and there was distance between myself and the school experience, and also between myself and friends who seemed so immature to me.
It was all so long ago, and yet you see, that some things will never stop hurting, but the really big hurts DO begin to fade much later, and you don't even realize how far you've come in your grief till you can talk about it, or have a pleasant memory without completely falling apart. It does come to that place, but I still cry for the relationship I might have had with my sis...the one we were on the verge of. And still my eyes well up about that...even as I type this.
You will survive your great loss, but you won't realize till later how it made you a stronger, better and more compassionate person...but it will. The memories will buoy you up in unexpected ways...really they will.
I know everyone is different, and I honor that, but after nearly 30 years since my sis' death, I know her life and process and passing has had a huge part in the choices I have made in my life and with regard to many aspects and all to the good.
All my best to you all, as we all do our best to cope with our losses. Time really does help, memories are helpful, and support is necessary in the process of our grieving however that process unfolds for each of us.
My hand reaches out to comfort...
Joyce in the mts.