You died Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 at 0830 central standard time. You had stage 4 stomach cancer. You’d been dying for 1 or 2 months. Our sisters knew. I had no idea. I had no idea until 5 hours after you’d died that you were even dying. Nearly 2 weeks later, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the notion that my oldest sister is dead, and that she excluded me from the most important journey of her life, all in the name of waiting for that miracle. Which, incidentally, never came.
Do I sound bitter? Perhaps I do. Forgive me, then. This bitterness and rage act like a sort of scab, a cohesive force, you know, holding me together, walling away the grief that comes at and through me in giant tsunami waves. I never got to say goodbye. And so I push past your pride, your strange desire to keep everything you deemed a weakness secret, and your near obsession at appearing perfect in every way, through to the real you under those many onion-like layers of falsity. Beneath the standoffishness, the righteousness and the fanatical jesus-freakiness existed a vulnerable girl, wanting to be told what to do, what to think, what to say, all so she could win approval.
I try not to think of the way you hurt your family – perhaps without even realizing it – with your rigid fire-and-brimstone. I try not to think of that time, many years ago, when you brought our other, quite vulnerable and emotionally fragile sister to one of your religious gathering and sat and watched while your leader called her a slut and a whore for wearing pants. I try not to think of the fact that you’ve deprived your children of a proper childhood, and an objective worldview from which they can choose their own path. Most of all, though, I try not to think of the ugliness of the cancer thing that killed you ~ how it ravaged you, left you in unspeakable pain, slowly withering away. I try not to think of tubes going in and out of you. And of freaks praying over you “in the name of jesus,” for a miracle cure.
You know what, though? I don’t have to think of that stuff. You’ve crossed over. You’re not in pain or ravaged by disease. And I know that you are freed from the shackles of your earthly fanatical beliefs. Because I felt you. You came to visit me three times after you died: the day you died, and then each of the two days after that. I felt you. You felt warm, loving, like the protective big sister that I felt safe with as a little grrl. Words cannot really do justice to the experience. I can only say that you were inside me, during those moments. And that you felt … oceanic ~ vast and amazing and wondrous. You caught my breath. You held me, from the inside, out. It felt … divine.
Where did you go, sister of mine? Your body is in the ground. But you are not. You have crossed over, to the other side of the veil. Where, exactly, is that? People tell me all sorts of trite things like, ‘she’s with you always.’ Yes, I appreciate that. But what I’m asking is … where did you go? Where? Is there a special place in the universe, a wee corner, where people go?
All I can think about is that scene in Harry Potter, when Sirius has died and Harry can hear him, knows he’s there, but cannot reach beyond the veil.
I see the veil … and yet I do not … and, I cannot reach it ~ it’s as fleeting and ethereal as a dream upon waking.