It was the first few minutes of finding out that you had passed. I was on my way to be buy a de-breather mask that was needed for you. The ward you were admitted in didn’t have it in their stock. I was angry at them for not having something as essential as a de-breather mask. How many patients had to die because of this failure?
While I was hurrying to the pharmacy, my cousin, who was with you, called to tell me that the mask was not needed. I ran up the stairs to the 5th floor where you were with a lot of fear, yes, but a cautious hope that the mask was not needed because you had somehow made a miraculous recovery and that you were breathing fine. I knew, but I didn’t want to believe it. Couldn’t fathom it. Couldn’t internalize it. I walked into the room to find my cousin crying and something inside me broke. But I still held on to the stubborn hope that you would be fine, somehow. Come back to life, somehow. I mean miracles like that have happened before, right?
It was the moment I saw your body encased in the white casket. The anger surged within me. I was so angry. Angry at the world, angry at the cancer, angry at the doctor who had told us that yours was a cancer that could be healed. “90% of the people with this cancer get better, don’t worry…”. And we didn’t worry, we had hope but that hope was for naught. You left. You went. You died. I was so angry. Angry at a life taken so young. Angry at God for allowing this to happen. Angry at the doctor who was on duty and didn’t fight for you. Angry at you for not fighting hard enough to stay. But most of all I was angry at myself. I felt I was to blame for what had happened to you.
It was the thought that all that was happening was a bad dream. I pinched myself multiple times, trying to get myself to wake up. Convinced myself that any minute I was going to wake up. A world where my baby sister didn’t exist was not a world I wanted to exist in. I started to apologize for all the wrong I had done. The wrong that could have led to your demise. I asked myself a lot of ‘what-ifs’. What if I had insisted that you stand up more? What if I had looked after you better? What if I hadn’t been so concerned with work? We needed the money, but we needed you more. What if I had done this? What if I had done that?
It was the knowledge that you were gone. It was seeing the casket being lowered in to the ground. The knowledge that sank in that you really were gone and you weren’t coming back. It was the fear of forgetting you. Your cute little laugh, the way you would randomly dance. The way you would swipe things from my room and not look the least bit guilty for doing it. Your smile that you gave freely even when you were in pain and weak. I felt sick. I didn’t have the strength to get up in the morning. I cried all the time. Tried to show people I was strong because many of them expected me to get over it, and be my usual sunny self. I wasn’t able to write. I couldn’t sleep. The dreams that plagued me were too many. I sank into the lowest of lows and only counseling could bring me out of it.
It was the knowledge you were not on this side of the veil. It was the love of Christ. It was my church family that held me up. It was the friends that continually checked on me. It was the memory of the rain that fell at the moment the casket was lowered into the grave. Rain that fell from clouds that were clear all day. It was the rainbow that appeared soon after the rain. Letting me know that you are okay on the other side of the veil. It was the counselling. It was the knowledge that although I miss you like hell, I would get to see you after my time on earth was through. It was the patient love of my family. It was you – the knowledge that you were not in pain anymore. It was me finally accepting.
Grief is not something easy to go through, I have experienced my fair share of death, but losing my 22 year old sister to cancer was one that broke me. I am at the acceptance stage now, better than I was a few months ago. If you are going through this and need a sympathetic ear, don’t hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. You are not alone.