I have not felt pain from my sister’s death until now. I don’t think I fully let myself grieve. I did not realize this until I started seeing visions of her in my head lying in that hospital bed and the doctors who gave up on her. She started getting sick in the late summer of 2020. My sister learned that she had stage four metastatic breast cancer. The breast cancer affected her liver and kidneys, which affected other organs, including the bones. My sister had complained of pain in her legs before being diagnosed with this disease. It all happened so fast, and by September 7, 2020, on Labor Day, That Dreaded Day, we received The Call: my sister had died. It was all so vivid seeing my sister lying there in her final state, and it hurt me significantly.
We sometimes regret, after the fact, neglecting the most important thing, and that is family. I would have never thought my sister, my only sister, would die ahead of me. She loved life and her five children. She was pretty and vibrant in her later years, age 59 and turning 60 in November 2020, right before she died. Life can be so unfair, but who said life is fair anyway? I’ve learned this over time, so I adjust to the misfortunes.
Right before my sister died, months before, we had spent time talking on the phone and making hospital visits. I live one hour from my sister, so driving to visit her in the hospital was no problem. I remember, on one visit, hearing the doctors say there was no hope for my sister and that the chemotherapy was not helping her. It pushed my sister further into the disease. So, the doctors told us to decide whether to save her life or just let her die if she got to that point. Who could make that type of decision in someone’s life? We could not; letting her die that way was too hard. The hospital decided to stop ALL life-saving support, put her into hospice, and wait until she expired. Hospice contacted us to understand where we were in the decision regarding my sister’s care. We made my sister comfortable because the doctors told us she would die.
My sister told her children and me before she died that she wanted to live, and when the end came, she let go. It seemed that despite the fight to live, she could not. Maybe she was too far gone in the disease. Because by the time she learned of the condition, she was already in stage four of breast cancer. There are five stages of cancer, and it was too late for her even though we hoped she would survive.
Dealing with a close family member’s death can be traumatic for the surviving family. It was traumatic for me because my sister fought until the end despite our hope of her survival. The day I received the call from hospice informing me my sister had passed was dreadful, and it hit me in the pit of my stomach. I will never forget that day, mainly because it was Labor Day, September 7, 2020. It rained severely that day, and I could hear my inner self saying, “Your sister’s work is over,” and indeed, it was. She labored raising five children, experiencing the death of their father, moving from pillar to post trying to find a decent home to live in and struggling to feed her children.
After the call, we headed to the hospital. The trip there was ominous, and no one talked like usual. I recall my daughter asking me, “Are you okay?” and I responded, “Yes,” but I wasn’t. In my silence, I was thinking about all the times my sister and I spent talking on the phone, sharing our Thanksgiving recipes, sharing pictures via text, etc. What mattered the most to me was that my sister always called me to ensure I was okay. She was always there for me when I had several surgeries, my husband’s loss, and my son’s death. I no longer have her in my life; it is lonely sometimes.
After we arrived at the hospital, I had to sign papers to release my sister’s body. We walked into the room. There she was, looking as though she had fallen asleep. Initially, I was a bit nervous, but I felt at peace once I looked at her. She had no more suffering and no more pain.
So here we are, approaching Labor Day 2022, which is fast approaching this year. I’m feeling a certain way. I don’t have my sister here to text her an emoji wishing her a happy Thanksgiving and Christmas or even Labor Day. I don’t have her here to wish me a happy birthday or even play her trick on April Fool’s Day. That was one of her favorite things to do. All I have is memories of her, good memories.
Losing a family member can have a lasting effect on one’s emotions. I learned from this death and others that you never get over the pain, the hurt inside, but you know how to live through it. That saying “Time heals all” is not true because the only thing that time can do is lessen the effect of death as time goes on. The end of a loved one will forever be in my memory. So, as Labor Day approaches this year, I will forever remember the day I received “The Call.”