Last December I blogged about, “The Dash”. This April, my last post was “The bucket list.” Neither posts have much to do with writing, but reflect something more personal: dealing with death and terminal illness of a sibling. Last year November, my oldest brother died suddenly of a heart attack. He had a healthy lifestyle which made me contemplate the fleeting nature of life. A few months later my younger sister was told her cancer was terminal and she immediately made up a bucket list. On May 1st she succumbed to her disease, accomplishing nothing on her bucket list.
The two deaths impacted me differently. My big brother, was more like a father figure to me offering guidance and protection, but my sister was my best friend. She and I were the last ones remaining when everyone left home. We went to primary and high school together. We even went to college together. She was the maid of honor at my wedding; the Godmother of my son; the encourager behind my accomplishments; she was the wind beneath my wings. When I decided to give up my job and go to graduate school for my doctorate, she was right there telling me “Go for it!” When I was terrified of driving and no one would trust me with their vehicles, she tossed the keys to her new vehicle to me and told me to drive. I am still scared of highways, but she kept encouraging me to take a short stretch at a time. Her goal was for me to drive from Maryland to New York. I never did that in her lifetime, but I did drive part of the way to Canada on highways.
When I first told her I was going to publish a book, I expected her to laugh or be dismissive. That is the reaction I got from most people. Instead she asked me to send her the manuscript so she can edit it. On the dedication page of my first published novel are the words, “This book would not be possible without the unwavering support of my sister and my husband.” I had five sisters then, but my baby sister was the one referenced.
During her illness, she suffered greatly, and her loved ones suffered along with her. One of my older sisters called me one day and said she was just so tired of my sister’s suffering. She felt helpless, out of control and she just wanted to sit in the sun, smell the flowers and for one minute not worry. I told her to go ahead and sit in the sun, take a walk in the park, garden do anything that she can control. I told her that is why I write.
You see, all through my sister’s illness, even the days when I camped out at her hospital room (I jokingly referred to it as my hotel), I still took the time to write. Why? It was my escape. I couldn’t control her disease, I couldn’t ease her suffering. So I left that up to God and tried to encourage her and comfort her. But in my writing, I am the god. I have total control. I can give the characters trials and tribulation; I can give them their “happy ever after”. And for a brief moment, I am totally in control.
So writing for me is more than a hobby, more than a profession. Writing is a balm.
This post is dedicated to my younger sister. May your soul rest in peace, my sister.