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.
Linda 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.
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.
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?