My older sister passed away almost 11 years ago. She’d had multiple battles with cancer and finally it came back with a vengeance.
I was in Iraq when I got the call. 48 hrs later I was back home and had a chance to spend a week or so with her before she died.
My family is a weird one. We grew up with mom giving us the silent treatment for weeks or months at a time with no explanation and my sisters inherited that behavior from her. I did something to offend my older sister and we went almost ten years without speaking, so when I came home it was more to be with the rest of my family and support them than to be with my sister before she died. I was hoping for some kind of reconciliation, but it never really happened. We were cordial, and laughed and joked some but she died with us never really making peace or me ever finding out what I’d done to earn her anger.
I’d come to terms with us not speaking years in advance. You can’t chose the family you’re born with, I’d chosen to start my family and at that time had a wife and son to focus on.
My Dad called me out of the blue at work today. I was in the office doing some stuff but everyone else was working from home so I had the luxury of talking without having to worry about other people listening in. He’d been driving and thinking. My family is getting ready to go the south at the end of the month, where they’re naming a wing of the hospital after my sister. With all of the upcoming “stuff” coming up, Dad was thinking of things that happened and felt the need to reach out and tell me thank you for coming home to be with them. That was really, really weird for me, I mean what else was I going to do? It’s family.
So over the course of the discussion, my Dad just casually mentioned that my mom was with my sister the night before she died. My sister was on a lot of pain killers and wasn’t making a lot of sense in the end. In a moment of lucidity, apparently my sister asked her to make sure that me and my little sister knew that she loved us and forgave us for everything and hoped that we forgave her.
“Uh. Dad? That kind of would’ve been nice to hear ten or eleven years ago.”
I get it. Emotions were high, my mom told my Dad and my sister about it, and just thought she told me. But still. I’ve spent all this time thinking she was still mad at me when she died. I don’t know, for ten or 15 minutes I was stunned. I remember thinking I didn’t know whether to laugh or be mad about it.
As the day went on, I realized it didn’t really change anything. I gave up trying to understand years and years ago. Sure, at random times I’ll get a little mad about it, that she gave me the silent treatment without telling me why. That she missed so many opportunities for us to have fun and be close together, especially when we lived less than two hours together. That she missed the opportunity to get to know her nephew.
But that’s all passed now. It’s nice to know that she still loved me when she died, but in the grand scheme of things, but I don’t really see how it changes much. She’s still gone, I’m still here and life is still goes on. Her passing was so long ago now, the memories of her have faded so much. Not just by her death, but also by the distance she put between herself and us. Not just by the silent treatment, but even when we were all talking, she still separated herself from the family. Locking herself in her room to listen to music instead of watching tv with the family, partying with friends at every possible opportunity, staying on the East Coast when we moved west. Sure, she’s been dead over a decade, but it was almost another decade on top of that since we’d spoken, and probably another decade before that before we had more than a serious talk or two a year.