Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My Sister would have been 49 today

It doesn't seem right to let the day pass without acknowledging her.

For years it was a dilemma when people would ask me how many siblings I have. I have 2 brothers, and technically that would have been the correct answer to the question. To say I had a sister who'd died risked unplanned emotions when people would inevitably ask what had happened to her. It was one of those awkward gray areas like how honest to be if someone asks how you are and things actually aren't going well. Sometimes it's surprising how complicated an answer to a simple question can be.

One of my favorite literary works is Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy, which follows the life of an Egyptian family from WWI to the 1950's. I came to care so intimately for this family. In the first book Palace Walk one of the sons was killed in a demonstration--perhaps against British rule? I don't remember. He was referred to by his grief-stricken family as 'my late (brother) (son) Fahmy'. That seemed like a dignified way to refer to a deceased relative, simple, but conveys information clearly and gently. Unfortunately it seems a little quaint in the context of modern American culture and so I never felt comfortable using that either.

This summer will mark the 20th year since her death. She left behind a daughter, now 21. My beautiful niece was 19 months old when her mother died; she never got to know her mother (and her mother never got to see what a wonderful daughter she had) because my sister was in a coma for 19 months before she died.

I called and talked to my mother on this day. An acknowledgment of the truth that having children means having your heart outside of your body and away from your ability to protect--always at risk of being broken.

6 comments:

Lori said...

I think of her on this date (well, yesterday's, since I'm late to this post) each year, too.

I remember her impish smile when she was playing with her pesky younger cousin.

I am sorry for our loss.

Suzy said...

Mu sincere condolences for you loss.

I am so sorry.

Love,
Suzy

excavator said...

Thank you, Lori & Suzy. Both of you, for your kindness, and Lori, for sharing Karen's loss.

Kindness is a gift that fills me with gratitude.

Douglas W said...

I share your sadness in remembering your sister. And the dilemma in answering what seems like a simple question.

I will always remember the day my father died... and always wish that he had come to know what I did with my life after he left.

As for answering simple questions... you might like to read a short story of mine called "How are you today?"... you'll find a link to it somewhere on my web page.

excavator said...

I did read your short story, Doug. I will respond over on your blog.

Thank you. And, I'm sorry for the loss of your father. I am sure there are many times you've wished you could have had his counsel, his company, someone to share your common memories with from a male perspective.

Martha said...

Hi, Excavator, I was sent here by your wonderful cousin too.
I acknowledge your loss and thank you for the beauty and clarity of your feelings.
I lost my brother twenty four years ago when he was twenty four. We were very close. Our family has talked of this "how many" dilemma, and let go re. the unplanned emotions of others.
To not acknowledge my brother's or your sister's life, is to strip them of a piece of their identity and their ownership of a rightful place in our family, hearts, and spirits. I just tell folks that I am one of four children, and one of my older brothers died. It is what it is.
Thank you for allowing me to share, we are not alone.