I am writing this post two days early. On June 8th, two days from now, I will remember. What that will look like or how I will react, I don’t know. What I do know is that I have the strength right now, two days before the anniversary of my sister’s death, to write about the first year without her.
What I want to share with you, first, is an unfinished post that has languished in my drafts folder since the day I received the news about Kelly’s leukemia.
This is what I wrote at the beginning of March, 2015…
I had a long and elaborate Coconut Chronicle planned for this week, to celebrate the release of the third Warpworld novel. (It’s out; I’m happy). Then I received a text from my sister, Kelly. Well, two texts actually. I missed her first text because I’d turned my phone to vibrate and had forgotten to turn the sound back up, like I always do. (Insert photo of Prez rolling his eyes).
My sister had gone to Emergency because she was so tired she could barely stand upright and her vision was starting to blur…at noon. She has since been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, has been transferred to a hospital in Vancouver, and is currently being tested up the wazoo to figure what’s going on and what treatments she’ll need.
I have a workshop to teach this weekend and the truck needs new tires so we don’t kill ourselves driving on the highway, but first thing Monday morning I will drive to the coast to be with my sister and everything else in my life will have to wait for a while.
If it seems strange that I’m taking time out to blog about this, it is. I’ve been in a state of shock since I received the news. Oh, I’m sure Kelly will get fantastic care and I know the doctors in Vancouver are top notch. I hate that I know she’s scared and that she has to be poked and prodded in ways that make my palms sweat but until I hear otherwise I don’t have good reason to panic.
I’m in shock because in those first few moments, when I realized my sister was not just run down or low on iron, that something was really, seriously not right, it struck me that there are only two people left in this entire world who occupy the innermost circle of my life: my sister and my dad. When my mom died, we three latched onto each other because I think we sensed it then too. There’s something about the parent/child/sibling connection that no other relationship in your life can exactly replicate. We three are an island; we have a history that no one else understands. And I can’t bear the thought of losing even one person from our small island. This feeling transcends love or genetics, it’s about the million million little moments that we have shared. When we are gone, those moments will also be gone.
These are the things I never think about.
Only when life reminds me, in seventy-two point red font, that the people I love most are finite, does this brand of fear get the best of me.
But it’s good to remember, now and then. It’s good to take the hands of the people who share my little island and squeeze tight and let myself be afraid to let go.
I stopped there. “Stop being such a drama llama!” I chastised myself. “You don’t even know how serious this is. You don’t have any facts and yet you’re acting as if the world is about to end.”
What a fool I am. I knew. Some part of me knew this was serious business and desperately needed to get all the feelings of panic, helplessness and fear onto the page. And I, ever logical, told that part of me to shut up. Now, it’s all lost in a blur of memory.
I think that’s why I have not deleted the text messages sent between Kelly and me over those final three months, and I probably never will. While I do not believe in ghosts, technology has created a ghost of my sister and locked her safely away inside a little magic box. Whenever I want, I can visit that spirit and travel back in time with her.
Sometimes the conversation was serious.
Sometimes we found humour in the situation.
There were frequent kitten updates.
And then, like a bad cliff-hanger, it ends.
I would receive the answer to my question in the Nanaimo hospital.
Since June 8, 2015, I have never let go of my sister’s hand. I am holding it now. Squeezing so tightly. There are no pithy life lessons here, only a raw emptiness and a void that will never be filled. So I am, more than a year too late, giving myself permission to be overly dramatic on this page.
That little island is empty except for me. Those million million little moments exist only in my head. And when I am gone they will vanish. It feels like holding a wounded baby bird in your hands, knowing you cannot save its life but trying to make the end comfortable.
One year later, what I know is that it gets easier but it never gets easy. One year later, I see that losing Kelly cut a clean line through my life—before and after. From this point forward, no matter how wonderful or terrible my life is, it will always be my life after Kelly.
One year later, I miss my sister every day.