On May 20, 2018, I lost my sister to lung cancer. She is my only sibling — I say is because she hasn’t actually left me even though she is in heaven with her nursing home roommate, Jesus. My longing for her is intense. I always wondered how miserable my life would be without her. Now I know. Waves of staggering grief come over me, even now, a month after her passing. It’s like being in a raging river of doom, where the dirty water pulls me under — then I somehow reach the top, catch my breath, and suddenly — I’m back under the gushing waters of sorrow.
At first, I thought if I just kept busy my heart, soul, and mind would smooth out. That I would live in remembrance of her and I acting silly and having fun, the times when we shared secrets, commiserated with one another over life’s problems, or went to lunch and a movie together. After this first month, I’ve concluded that I will always yearn for her in much the same way as I hunger for God’s presence in my life when I’ve somehow inadvertently moved him to a forgotten corner. It’s not that I would do that intentionally, but as you may or may not know the press of life, when controlled by Satan, sometimes gets in the way.
Interestingly enough my agony over losing my sister is ten or more times worse than the combined loss of my parents. Mickey and I lived in a patch of green grass surrounded by the rough and tumble of our parent’s tumultuous marriage. Our parents were unconsciously detached from us in a mysterious way. Our dad lived for his business, and our mom lived for our dad. They did the best they could. Four and half years older, Mickey became my beacon in life. I’d always want to do the same things she did, because I looked up to her and adored her.
However, it was during her short illness that Mickey taught me so much more. I think her attitude of gratefulness is what kindled my love for her into a torrent of reverence and respect for my one and only sister. She and Jesus walked very closely together from the time of her diagnosis in early February until May when he grabbed hold of her hand and ushered her into his arms. She had been feeling un-well from September of last year to February of this year, but her symptoms came and went, and they seemed more like heart problems than lung cancer, so that by the time of the biopsy her cancer was well advanced, though it hadn’t spread to other places in her body. After eleven radiation treatments (two each day for one week and one the next week) and one chemotherapy treatment, she made the decision to forgo further treatment. When she told me about her decision as I sat on the floor next to her lying on her living room sofa, I said, “I understand completely,” and she said, “I knew you would.”
She had been at home receiving palliative care until late April when she announced that she preferred to spend her last days in a skilled nursing facility. When I asked her if she wanted a roommate, she said, “No. I already have one.”
When people visited my sister at home and then later at the nursing facility, the first thing she did was lift her two arms and hands up slightly above her shoulders, and say, “We have such an awesome God,” or “Isn’t God so awesome?” Upbeat and smiling until that the last two days, she was comforting her visitors rather than receiving comfort from them. Her husband visited her twice or more times a day, and her children took turns tucking her into bed each night. During my last visit, I leaned down close to her ear and we quietly sang Jesus Loves Me several times while her daughters joined in.
Her graciousness about her illness and imminent death are what struck me right down to my core. I think and pray, ‘If only I could follow in her footsteps when my time comes. If only.’ I pray that I can and will. I talk to her every day and sometimes ask her opinion about something. It feels as though she is right here with me, and as our pastor told me, “She misses you up there in heaven as much as you miss her down here on earth.” That insightful reflection helps me cope with my loss.
What a blessing she was, is, and will be to all those who come in contact with her — especially me.
Love you sis.