Such a mystery this business of dying. One day you are surrounded by objects upon which you placed your touch: telephones, DVD controllers, magazines, vases, Russian dolls, spices, sponges, nail polish, cutlery, books…yes…books..lots of books and the bigger items one collects in a life time such as furniture, appliances, cars and houses. Then death arrives, sometimes expectedly, sometimes not. All THAT is left behind. None of THAT matters anymore.
Not even your flesh and blood.
So what does matter? Kindness. Generosity. Memories. These days I often think of my sister’s grandchildren. Six in all ranging from one and a half to seven. I don’t know what it means my thinking of them so often. I make up scenarios of hope. Here she is from wherever still with them in however. Can she be with all at different places at the same time? Why not? I realize that my question is much like that of a four-year old who asks why is the sky blue?
Even in her death I am asking a big sister to reassure me.
It is also during this time that I find myself facing mini good-byes in the most unexpected circumstances. Yesterday as I was going into a drugstore a woman came out. Her walk like my sister’s and something else impossible to grasp made me follow with my gaze this woman into the parking lot. This strange woman is the sister who held my hand as a child, who taught me not to be afraid of the dark, and who in the long and distant summer afternoons brought out iced tea and slices of pecan pie to savor before her rose bushes.
When I was eighteen I saw my dead aunt Jean sitting at the front of the bus I was on. Not someone who looked like my aunt. She was my aunt. But I was too afraid to approach her. Too afraid to face the reality she wasn’t my aunt.
That’s how it seems to go for me these weeks following my sister’s death.
After the drugstore incident I go to work and get a phone call from the Quebec Pension Plan. My sister’s partner has put in a request to receive her pension. Since they were not married the validity of their relationship needs to be verified.
When was the last time you saw your sister?
The night she died.
Did you often go to her home?
Yes. We were close.
Did she have children?
How long was she and her partner together?
Seventeen years. He was so good to her. Took care of her throughout her illness.
I want the woman on the other end of the line to say I am sorry for your loss, we will send someone over to put their arms around you. Instead she says the interview is over. Thank you for your time.
So there I sit in my office, alone and cry. Another shard of mourning. Something else to help sink in that my sister is dead. Still I continue to seek her our even in a sit com such as Reba where she sings Carol King’s song You Need a Friend.
So far away…doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore.