It’s been four years and I’m finally able to write about losing my sister

It has been 4 years since I lost my sister Linda and I haven’t written about her until now. In all fairness I wasn’t writing on a regular basis when she died and I was weary from all the grief I endured over a five-year period, first losing Mom, then Dad, then Linda.

She taught me to keep a child-like view of the world and its wonders. And I miss that so much.

It is an appropriate season to break my writing silence about her since she loved the holidays. At Thanksgiving, we shared our day with a traditional family meal, but the highlight of the weekend was Black Friday when Linda led us to the mall to have our photo taken with Santa. Shopping was secondary to this non-negotiable ritual and we had an abundance of laughs squeezing into Santa’s booth, knocking down small children to be first in line.

santa-photo-2004-editedLinda didn’t have an easy life.

She was a teenage mother and she and her childhood sweetheart raised four rambunctious children. Finances were tight and there were crises throughout the years, the worst being the loss of her 16-year-old son Danny from cancer. She could have justified an attitude tainted with bitterness, anger, and depression but instead she continued to bless us with a beautiful smile accented with the sound of her laughter.

During the last years of her life, her family included a beloved dog named Lady Bug, a Peek-A-Poo with an attitude. Linda always said she could not bear the thought of losing her and Lady Bug outlived her in the end, sparing my sister from enduring this sorrow.

Close calls.

She had inoperable uterine cancer in the mid-1980’s, postponing a trip to the doctor until she had insurance to cover the treatment costs. We thought we were going to lose her and I did the typical bargaining with God, asking for more time in exchange for never taking her for granted again. My prayer was answered and life went on with me taking her for granted.

In the 1990’s a new cancer embedded in her colon and the surgeon prepared us for the worst predicting stage IV. I’ll never forget the night before her surgery when she and I dashed into the grocery store for something and ran into a family friend.

Linda told her she was going to have surgery the next day and Mavis looked concerned and asked, “What for?” Linda grinned and chirped, “Colon cancer!” like she had just won Publisher’s Clearing House. She and I immediately doubled over laughing until we cried and peed our pants. That is the way it was with Linda. You never got together with her without someone needing a change of underwear.

Once again I met God at the bargaining table negotiating for more time with my precious sister. I promised I would appreciate every single day with her if only we could have her for a few more years. Miraculously her cancer was stage I, cured with surgery. She adjusted to life with a permanent colostomy and we adjusted to having her alive, forgetting that our time with her was borrowed.

The final diagnosis.

The final diagnosis was lung cancer and this time there was no cure. She wasn’t a surgical candidate but embraced radiation and chemo with a spirit of “I’m going to beat this!” When the tumor didn’t shrink she made the brave decision to stop treatment and entered the hospice program.

Thus began six months of renewal when she gained weight, restored some of her strength, and sprouted hair with uncharacteristic natural curl. We spent heaps of time together talking, crying, laughing, and changing our underwear. There was no forgetting that each day was a gift and she helped us prepare for the pending loss reflecting her faith in a loving God who would carry us through it.

Photo courtesy depositphotos: used with permission

Photo courtesy depositphotos: used with permission

The aftermath.

And now we live on; a family forever changed without Linda’s spirit of love, life, and laughter.

And none of us has been able to bear the thought of having a photo taken with Santa on Black Friday.

Do you have adult siblings? How do you make sure you don’t take them for granted? If you have lost a sibling how are you doing? 

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51 thoughts on “It’s been four years and I’m finally able to write about losing my sister

  1. Your experience with losing your sister is much like my own with losing my brother. I wrote through the grief. I admire your sister and you. Peace, STP.

  2. Your sister sounds like such a fun person. What a wonderful tribute to her and her life. My brother is 3 years younger than me. Grew up fighting like cats and dogs then became the best of friends. We live in different states now but we reach out all the time.

  3. A beautiful, heartfelt read, Molly! I can see why you had to wait to write this. My hubby lost his older brother almost two years ago to a sudden cardiac arrest. He lived in Chile and my hubby and next older brother traveled there to bring his ashes home. They successfully navigated the Chilean government with the help of cousins that still live there; my hubby and family speak Spanish. I can’t imagine losing either of my two younger brothers. My sympathies to you and yours, Molly!

    • It is a loss like no other Terri, and I hope you don’t experience it. I have had an outpouring of support from this post and another more general one I did on Sixty and Me. People who have lost siblings are longing to connect with others who have shared the ordeal. Thank you for your kind words and may condolences to your husband and you.

    • She was amazing, Jess, and it is so hard to be without her. Writing about her on my own blog and on Sixty and Me have really brought up her loss afresh. It is a unique and profound loss that I didn’t understand until I experienced it.

  4. I’m so sorry. I lost both a brother three years ago and a sister a little over a year ago. I was closest to my sister, she was 15 when I was born and practically raised me. I used to go on her dates with her (because I had the best pouty lip!) As we got older we did a lot of things together and we talked weekly. It’s the talking I miss the most. There are times I pick up my phone to call her and then remember that I can’t. I still have the last voicemail that she left me and I listen to it now and then. And I still cry, like I am right now, when I think about how much I miss her. I blogged about her right away, while she was ill in the hospital and after she died. It helped me to get through it all, I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I wasn’t able to write myself through it. It was my sister who would egg me on to do some fun things (or was that the other way around?) Either way, we loved to laugh together as you and your sister did.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience about losing your siblings, Jennifer. I’m crying now as I read about your relationship with your sister as my sister was older too and somewhat of a mother figure turned friend after I became an adult. It is an empty chair that will never be filled and it has been quite an experience to write about it and read the stories of others who have gone through the same thing.

  5. Just found your blog, Molly and looking forward to reading more. I lost my sister 19 years ago when she was 46 and this past year her husband died at the age of 65. My sister and I were best buddies and I wrote an essay about her called, “Laughter Through the Tears”, that was published a few years back so I can totally relate to the humor connection you had with your sister. I held my sister’s hand as she passed away suddenly from a stroke and held her husband’s hand as he slipped away from leukemia. I have started to write about his death and about the loss of my two best friends in the world but I can’t seem to get the right words out yet. As you’ve noted, it takes time to be able to do this but I know I”ll get there. Thanks for this blog post, Molly and I look forward to getting to ‘know you’.

    Virginia
    http://www.virginiafoley.com
    (My blog is so not up to date!)

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and introducing yourself Virginia. I am excited about checking out your blog and getting to know you too. I want to read your essay about losing your sister. It is such a tough thing, isn’t it? And I’m sorry about your brother-in-law. Writing does help but I’ve found there is no shortcut through grief.

  6. We suddenly lost our “baby” brother last summer at age 51. A beloved brother, husband, father, uncle, son and for those not related by blood, a friend to everyone who knew him. He was the picture of health, a well-known marathon barefoot runner where he lived on Cape Cod, planning on running his second Boston Marathon this past spring. He was the youngest of six and a caring, loyal, funny, adventurous and enthusiastic person. He and our next-youngest brother were Irish twins. None of us, or our elderly dad, ever thought we would outlive him. Your tribute to your sister has me crying. So touching,loving and (unfortunately) I can so relate to the huge loss. But we were both lucky to be a sibling of such wonderful people, right? And the thought of my brother being reunited with our mom who was also taken too soon is at least small comfort. Hugs to you and others who have also lost a piece of your hearts. It seems especially tough at the holidays.

    • What a shock it must have been to lose your baby brother, Cheryl. Thank you for sharing your story. Losing a sibling is a unique loss and one I was not prepared for even though I am the youngest in the family and had so many opportunities to anticipate it with Linda’s medical history. Hugs back to you as you adjust to life without your brother and cope with such a fresh loss.

  7. Oh Molly, my heart breaks for you. I’ve lost a husband, but I can’t imagine the agony of losing a sister! And both your parents! You are an amazingly strong women, to still be sharing laughter with us, after all that! What a fabulous tradition, of Santa pix! What an adorable family you have! Linda sounds like a wonderful person, and sister!

    • Thank you Melinda. My family always used humor to help us cope, even though my sense of humor went undercover for a while. Linda was a fantastic sister and I’ll miss her for as long as my mind stays intact to remember her. So sorry you lost your husband. That must have been a rough one to get through too. Hugs.

  8. A life that was wide rather than long—always hard to imagine life going on absent of a personality that looms so large (and loud!) but it does go on—and your own unrestrained and frequent laughter keeps Linda’s spirit alive and well, Molly ♥

  9. It must be so hard to deal with and VERY difficult to write about. But you did it very well from the reader’s point of view. It’s a non-dramatic, warm and honest account of losing your sister. Must be a bittersweet time of year for you.

  10. I am very, very blessed to still have both of my siblings. Do I take that fact for granted? You betcha. Thank you for the nudge to remember not to. I have lost a husband and a good friend so you’d think I’d know better. Sending you a jumbo hug.

    • I am blessed to have two remaining siblings and do I take them for granted. Yes I confess I do too, Kelly. Reflecting on the loss of Linda makes me stop and think about how I can appreciate them more. Thanks for the Vancouver hug!

  11. A lovely and touching remembrance, Molly. And, in yet another coincidence — we both include mentions of underwear in our posts today.

  12. Linda sounds absolutely lovely and I can see why it took so long for you to write about her passing.

    My siblings and I are currently immersed in the raising of our children and this post is a good reminder to not take them for granted and reach out even when we are busy.

  13. Oh, Molly. Your post really touched my heart. I understand how hard it is to write about something that wounds so deeply, but you did it with your usual insight and humor. And that you remember the laughter tells me that your heart is healing. A big hug to you.

    • Thank you Roxanne. The laughter has helped to heal me and my entire family since losing Linda. She would be the first one to say we need to keep our sense of humor. I think I lost mine for a while but am so glad it is back and I have writing as an outlet. Thanks for the hug. XOXO back at you.

  14. Linda was always a “light in the darkness”. I remember being home that summer and Mum and I stopped in to say “hi” after visiting Daddy’s grave in Perham. We had a delightful visit – yes – with laughter!! She died just a short time after our visit. Family is priceless …. The other day I read this on FB: “”Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”” Love you Molly !

    • You have made me tear up Joan! Thank you so much for this beautiful comment and the quote is perfect. I’m so glad you visited with Linda that summer. She was a delight to all who knew her and now through this essay even more people know her. Love you too Joan.

  15. My husband’s oldest brother died in January, and it’s been a rough year. He was diagnosed with cancer one year ago – we learned about it the week of Thanksgiving. He died on January 6 without ever coming home from the hospital. It was shocking, because of the brothers, he took the best care of himself.

    There were tears on Thanksgiving, and there will be more on Christmas.

    Even though my siblings didn’t know his brother, it has hit them hard. We realize more so now that our time is limited, but my sibs and I live in three different states. I am the youngest and still have two children at home and working, so life’s dailies prevent us from spending the time together that we would like.

    Thank you for sharing about your sister.

    • My heart goes out to your family as you adjust to life with your brother-in-law Crystal. It is a unique loss and the first year is probably the hardest. Reaching out to your siblings in any way you can keeps that connection. Hugs and prayers for you and your family as you continue the grieving process.

  16. Molly, what a beautiful tribute to your sister. I’m so sorry for your loss. Sisters are so special. There’s such beauty in your love for her. I’ll be thinking about this post as I go through my day. Frances

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