Looking back, it makes perfect sense now. I saw her pulling away. They didn’t show up as often for family meals or holiday celebrations. I remember thinking she was mad at me and trying to figure out which of my latest blogs may have upset her.
She was a woman of quiet dignity and intellect. Obviously, if you know me, I am none of those things. We often disagreed on politics, the demise of Dancing with the Stars, or who should win The Voice. We would debate my level of spoiled-ness and spend time comparing who had the most meals at our parents’ house each week. Our life was such fun. She was my sister; my big sister.
I think something deep inside of me realized what she was doing by making herself scarce. I really do think that I knew on some level that she was gently easing herself out of our lives. I’m not sure whether it was denial on my part, my typical self-absorption, or all my worldly travels that kept me focused on everything but her illness. At the same time, I am well aware that she wanted it that way. She never wanted the focus to be on her. Yea, I know – how could we even be sisters? Keep in mind she was the oldest sister; I am the youngest child.
After she passed, I thought back to just how long it has been since she’s driven a car or went out to eat. I tried to remember the last time she called me to discuss the latest reality show on T.V. What’s sad is I can’t remember the last time she did any of this but I seemed to skate through the detachment without thinking much at all. If I would have stopped to think, I’d have to admit she was dying. In her protective way, she didn’t want me distracted by such things.
I think she knew that I knew. We were nearing the end of her life and there was nothing we could do about it. We never talked about it. I did ask her one day if she was choosing to suffer for our sakes and assured her no one wanted her to suffer. I will never forget how she responded. She said, “Roni, when the doctors tell me to give up, I’ll give up.”
A little over two weeks prior to her death, the doctors gave up.
I miss my sister. The scary part is these feelings are nothing compared to what the holidays will be like. Christmas was her favorite holiday. The year she spent Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day in the hospital, we didn’t have our traditional Christmas fruit salad. My daddy would not make his infamous fresh fruit salad without Debbie because it was her favorite dish of the season.
I guess we won’t have Jamaican yams or deviled eggs any longer either. If she isn’t there to make them, who will? Or will we skip them all together since those were her signature dishes?
She always harassed me for spending an entire month celebrating my birthday – another aspect of being the baby of the family. As she lay dying, I whispered, “This is the worst birthday month EVER.” I’m going to be honest – I think she smiled.
I’m a Christian. I realize as a Christian it would make perfect sense for me to say, “Oh, but we’ll see her someday…” Somehow, that doesn’t bring me much comfort right now. Someday isn’t soon enough.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18