Tuesday, Nov. 01, 2011
Dear Diary:

On her tenth day in the Intensive Care Unit my younger sister gave me the finger. There she was, someone who'd been teetering a whisper away from death over a week, and she shot me the bird.

The doctors were about to pull out the tubes that connected her to the ventilator which had been breathing for her all those days after her emergency cancer surgery.

They warned her that the pressure on her vocal cords from such a long hook-up to a ventilator would leave her with a low, raspy voice. I kidded her about being another Bea Arthur. This did not sit well. Hence the birdage.

My sister has suffered, suffer being the operative word here, from Crohn's and celiac disease for several years now. The two illnesses masked the fact that non-Hodgkins lymphoma had basically destroyed her upper bowel. Her surgeons left her with the seven feet of upper bowel a person needs to survive, but part of what they left was cancerous.

In a made for tee vee movie my sister would be one of those miracle cures, the spunky person who beats the odds and lives to a ripe old age. The happy ending machine broke down, though.

Those of us who love her had a handful of days where she was the funny, cranky, stubborn, loving, exasperating, and compassionate Julie I had known forever.

We had time to tell her how much she was loved. If there is one ray of light in all the darkness of watching my sister die, it was seeing how many people loved her. A woman who had never had much self-esteem died realizing just how loved she was. The happiness this realization gave her was my life preserver as I swam in an ocean of pain.

That handful of decent days were book-ended with some of the hardest days of my life. My daughter was an extraordinary blessing to me during those days. I will always be grateful she was there. So was my sister.

As things deteriorated, her surgeons came in and listed all the last ditch treatments they could offer her. No cures, just extensions. Julie told us to let her go, to stop delaying the inevitable, and to keep her as comfortable as possible. She showed the sort of quiet courage and dignity I hope to muster if I'm ever in the same place.

We buried Julie October 28 beside my father, mother and youngest sister. It half killed me to lower the box of her ashes into the ground. Fifty-eight is way too young to die.

I live 1000 kilometers from where I grew up, so I only had a day to help my stepbrother start the painful process of packing away Julie's life. My sister loved her tiny bungalow and her neighbours loved her. While she was in the hospital they cleaned her house, cut her grass and took care of her cat so that all she needed to focus on was her health. Their pain from the loss of her was as great as my family's.

My sister never had much money but she had great taste. Her home was a cozy nest and everything about it was intensely Julie. I knew I couldn't be in there until the rest of the family got her clothes and other personal items boxed up. So I spent that first sunny fall morning washing windows, giving her grass one last mow, and cleaning up the flower beds she so lovingly tended.

When it came time to choose mementos, I chose photo albums for the memories they hold, her dishes because they were something she used daily, and a special mirror that said everything about her taste. I have shed many tears over those pictures.

I cannot remember a time when my sister wasn't in my life. It is inconceivable to me that she is gone.



--Marn

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Want to delve into my sordid past?
She's mellllllllllllllting - Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 - Back off, Buble - Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 - Dispersed - Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 - Nothing comes for free - Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 - None of her business - Friday, Nov. 04, 2011 -


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This template is a riff on a design by the truly talented Quinn. Because I'm a html 'tard, I got alot of pity coding to modify it from Ms. Kittay, a woman who can make html roll over, beg, and bring her her slippers. The logo goodness comes from the God of Graphics, the Fuhrer of Fonts, the one, the only El Presidente. I smooch you all. The background image is part of a painting called Higher Calling by Carter Goodrich which graced the cover of the Aug. 3, 1998 issue of The New Yorker Magazine.

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2000, 2001, 2002 Marn. This is me, dagnabbit. You be you.