It has been just over a year since I lost my sister. It is an odd turn of phrase, to refer to death as having ‘lost’ somebody. As though they are a misplaced set of car keys. It gives a sense that if only I could retrace my steps and remember where I left her – there she would be, smiling at my forgetfulness, having been waiting there the whole time. I know exactly where I left her, and I try not to recall it too often, for it breaks my heart in to shattered pieces. Slivers of porcelain scattered at my feet, an overwhelming sense that I’ll never get them back in to place again.
I left her in the hospital. The place where she was held together by tubes and needles and beautiful nurses whose names remain a blur to me. The place where she was wheeled past us to a hail-Mary-pass of life threatening surgery in which she had a one in ten chance of coming out alive. Of course, by then, alive had become a fluid concept with machines doing the work of her living. The place where she was a medical marvel for having made it through the surgery, and the place where the next battery of tests told us that it had come too late.
I remember well all of it, every nuance, every conversation, every medical jargon-filled update I could not wrap my head around, every visitor, every friend who held my hand, listened to me cry (who still listen to me cry), who were there for me each evening as I went home in a daze, who cleaned my house and cooked me food that I did not eat. I remember every sight of her as I held her hand while she slowly died. I remember the moment they wheeled her by for that surgery when I hit the floor and wondered how I could ever find a way to get back up again if she did not make it. I remember the hands of my family lifting me, placing me in a chair. I remember the numbness, the shock that this was happening to us, to her.
And over a year later there are songs that come on the radio, scents in the air, sounds, fragile memories seeping in to consciousness and I am on the floor again. They come less often now, but still daily. I marvel at moments when I have mundane thoughts about doing groceries, or cleaning the house, and wonder how that can possibly be.
I think of mothers who have lost babies, and babies who have lost mothers, I think of parents who have a missing child, and children who have missing parents. I think of entire communities across multiple countries annihilated by tsunamis,and I wonder how we do it. How we get back up again, how it is that the human spirit has so much resilience? Then I remember that there are more people who have lived on this earth that are now passed than are living and I realise, we have had a lot of practice at saying goodbye.