It’s Hard to Say Good-Bye
It’s my oldest sister’s birthday today. Linda would have turned 57, only she can’t because she died on April 2, 2008 from a heart attack. It still makes me incredibly sad that her biggest, most giving part – her heart — is what physically failed her.
For many of my growing up years, I worshipped and admired and wanted to be my oldest sister. In my young eyes Linda led a glamorous life, moving out on her own at 18, working at a series of cool jobs, leading a sophisticated life, so unlike my own of study, study, study. She was a beautiful exotic bird.
As the years passed, I moved further north and worked long hours, while she lived her life and raised her two kids. I saw my sister at major holidays and birthdays, but we had really lost our connection until our Dad became seriously ill. Then, along with my other older sister Cindy, we reconnected in an effort to help our Mom cope with the mechanics of caring for her terminally ill husband and to spend time with our Dad before he died.
Our Dad died, our mother moved away to live with our youngest sister far away, and we three sisters, all living in the same state, began to meet for monthly lunches. It was fun, it was therapeutic, it was so important, and the best part is we knew it. We talked of our childhoods. We compared notes and discussed who remembered what events and people. We talked about our todays and our tomorrows.
We had our last lunch together on a Friday, we three sisters, and I got a call from Cindy early Monday morning that Linda was in the hospital. She said Linda had stopped breathing at some point during the night. I don’t really remember how I drove to the hospital that morning. What I do remember is seeing my sister Linda hooked up to a ventilator and a bunch of tubes. I remember seeing her husband standing there motionless. And my sister Cindy moving to hug me and guide me in. My niece, Linda’s daughter, so very distraught, and her husband, quiet and strong, were there too. And Linda’s son. . .he was pacing, watching, and waiting.
Linda didn’t move; she didn’t regain consciousness. We talked to her, we petted her, we tried to will her back to consciousness, but nothing worked. No magic, no luck, nothing. If earnestness and sincerity could have worked, it would have worked because that’s how hard we tried. Have you been there? Do you know what I mean?
We spent two days at Linda’s bedside, willing her to live. And still the ventilator breathed for her. Finally, we knew. Her very essence, her heart, had left the building much earlier, no doubt winging its way to be with our Dad. My todays and tomorrows will never be the same.