Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughts Today on my Sister

Today would be my sister Esther’s eightieth birthday. She died of breast cancer on 6 December 1991 when she was sixty. I spent the last week of her life with her in a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, was with her when she died, and with my brother took charge of her funeral as she had requested.

Until then, I had not thought much about the truth that being human means sometime we will all leave this beautiful earth. I remember after I came home from that week in Atlanta, I went for an early morning walk though our twelve-acre field surrounded by the light of a brilliant sunrise, and I felt in every cell of my body my human-ness, how that when the end comes no one can do my dying for me. I learned that from Esther. You can be surrounded by people who love you, but it’s still up to you to take your last breath, something no one else can help you with. This was a new realization for me. Sure, I knew I’d die sometime, but that was very different from what I now knew on a gut level.

As Esther was dying, I watched her gather together the tiny bit of energy she had left, and watched her focus on doing her own dying. Her last words were “Stand back.” I think she did not want me or any of her four children hovering over her and distracting her at that important moment of her life.

I still miss her, but I am grateful for what she taught me about living and dying.

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