Monday, September 22, 2008

13 years

Today is the Anniversary. The one that slaps me in the face with memories. She was my friend, she was my niece, but she could have been my sister. She was almost 15. I was 16. It was my first experience with death.

I'd watched the cancer suck her away bit by bit for four years. First her hand, then her breasts, small and budding as they were, then, finally, her lungs. She was always so delicate to begin with, but with that coy smile and the thick chestnut hair she'd never cut in her life until the chemo started. The cancer made her more fragile, like a pristine doll, her long fingernails her one grasp on beauty.

As children she laughed shyly at my jokes and giggled at our dress up play. We meticulously taught each other how to recreate our most prized artistic creations. We always slept in the same bed during visits.

While she was sick, my parents planned our hospital visits around when I would be sure to come, though I didn't know that at the time. She languished in her strange bed, but she listened and watched me and I tried to laugh. I began to mourn long before she passed.

I always believed she would live. She endured so much during the four years of her fight that I was sure she'd always come out on top. She was doing well, even dancing again and attending school, when we got the call to make the five hour drive as quickly as possible.

I didn't realize how close death was hovering. Her lips were dark beneath her oxygen mask, her eyes rolling in her head. I held her hand, waiting for her to notice I was there. I was alone with her for about 15 minutes, stroking those long nails and listening to her staggered breath. My pain was present, but isolated somewhere beyond me. I waited for her to show some comprehension before I told her I loved her, that she was my friend.

She began to struggle and I left the room in fear, calling for my sister. I went outside. My dad was showing my nephew how to shoot a BB gun. 5 minutes. When I went back inside everyone was crying, saying "At least she's not in pain anymore." My pain still lingered outside myself. I knew it was there, but I couldn't touch it. I'd been the last one before her mother to be with her before she passed.

I went in to see her. There she was, just where I'd left her, but she wasn't there anymore. That was clear. I expected her to look peaceful. She just looked dead. It took a while to cry. When the pain finally came gushing in, I thought it would never go away.

She taught me about death. She made me realize that I really do believe that I'll see her again. I don't mourn for her, but for those she left. I mourn for my sister, who might have had grandbabies by now.

She would be nearing her 28th birthday today. With every year the woman I am and the girl she was grow further apart, but I truly know in my heart that she is accomplishing something great just beyond my sight. She is a beautiful soul. She is my Moriah.


Anonymous said...

This was a truly touching post. I

'm struggling with what to say here. I guess I'll just leave it at that.

The Quoibler said...

I'm so sorry that you experienced such a tremendous loss, Hoodie.

Have you considered naming your little one after her?


Hoodie said...

I actually have thought about it. I don't want to use her actual name because I feel it belongs to her, but we will use a variation as the middle name.

Aine said...

What a moving tribute, Hoodie. I'm rather choked up. Death has a way of changing us profoundly. I'm sure she is glad that you've found the positives.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this, Hoodie. I'm staggered by the deep humanity (and mortality) of it.

Beth said...

I had an early experience with death as well. Peaceful death is in the casket, not in the bed. In the bed, it's like a sliver of the person you knew. Touching post.

Sarah Hina said...

Thank you for sharing her with us, Hoodie. This choked me up. So painful, and yet uplifting, too. I'm glad you still feel the connection.

i am storm. said...

i am left speechless.

so many thoughts swirling unable to form.

i have not experienced loss like you have in my life. words seem inadequate.

your writing brought to mind something a friend once told me. she always believed that those in pain hold on for their loved ones as long as possible. that as much as we believe we are easing their passing, sometimes the best we can do it leave them to pass quickly to a better world. if we are not their holding their hand at that moment they go more easily as they do not feel bad for leaving us.

i do not know how that sounds to you, but as i read your words, it came back to me. you had said she was struggling and when you came 5 minutes later she was gone and peaceful. it sounds like you gave her the love you needed to and then the peace and space to go to a better place.