Over the years I have lost family and friends to various forms of Cancer and I must say that you never truly recover from the loss. The very first loss occurred when I was just ten years old, my sister developed a lump on her inner thigh, and the diagnoses turned out to be leukemia. Now, I was too young to really understand what that meant for her as a vibrant, creative, little girl, nor was I old enough to prepare myself for the impact that it would have on our family unit.
Watching someone die right before your eyes is one of life’s most cruel realities, because it makes you feel so helpless and every emotion inside of you is activated, so there are times when you really don’t know if you’re going or coming. At ten years old I saw the physical effects of it gradually increasing over the course of weeks and months, but the most chilling moment I remember is when I saw a large hunk of her hair come out in my mother’s hand one morning when my mother went to brush it. The chemotherapy had killed it at the roots so it wasn’t just few strands at a time, it was entire section that detached from her scalp.
Even though it has been over thirty years ago, 1972 was the year, I’ll never forget the helpless look on my mother’s face as she took it in her trembling hand and glanced over at me, teary eyed. As a child you never quite connect the dots about what is happening, but that moment in time assured me that my eight year old sister was extremely ill.
My mother has always had a flair of making things pretty, so when she bought the curly little afro wig for my sister, her daughter, to wear, she always had a bright, colorful ribbon or bow in it and she always made my sister feel so very special, but to an eight year old who had lost all of her hair the ribbons and bows still didn’t ease her sadness about losing her hair. That’s when grandma stepped in and told her that she was a special little girl, and that other little girls wished they were given the opportunity to show just how strong a sick little girl could be. She caressed her face tenderly and told her that she was still beautiful, and that she was, indeed, very special.
You know what that cute, little, beautiful creature did after hearing that? She snatched that wig off of her head exposing her curly new growth, which was a slight peach fuzz at the time, and she danced happily around the room with glee. It was truly a remarkable moment which set the stage for just how well she would demonstrate her strength and faith during the final stages of her illness.
As the months progressed, she was unable to walk and had to be carried places because inside of her body the disease was eating away at her tiny frame. The gaunt look in her eyes, and the dark circles beneath them assured me that the end was drawing near.
I remember seeing her alive that final time, she looked so tiered and weathered. She didn’t look like my sister anymore, she looked like an ill person who was in their final stages of life. Our parents didn’t allow us to accompany them to the hospital that time, that time we were sent to stay with our relatives and what we didn’t know is that we would never see our sister alive again.
It seems like it just happened yesterday, sometimes, and I can still hear the words coming from my uncles lips as he sat me on his knee and told me these words: “You know how much we love you and your sisters and brother right?”
I looked him in his eyes and said yes. He went onto say that, she had passed away and I couldn’t feel anything except an overwhelming sense of loss. From the time we learned of the lump, until that moment, everything seemed surreal. It was one of the saddest days in my life. She and I were most alike out of the four of us, and it felt like someone had ripped my heart and soul right out of my chest. Even as I write this story to you, my eyes have welled up with tears.
During the memorial service, a children’s choir sang “Yes, Jesus loves me,” and to this day I can still hear their angelic voices singing to the hundreds of mourners who attended her funeral, as a tiny, white, open casket, held the remains of my sister.
As the final rites were read at the memorial park, and we walked away, I can still hear my mother crying and begging them not to leave her baby there…
Cancer not only takes lives, it also leaves a hole inside of the living that is never quite filled, so I say to you who chose to read this recount of my personal experiences; never let one day slip by being angry at a friend or loved one. Cherish them every single day, because there may come a day when the only thing that matters is having them with you, but sometimes that cannot be…
RIP, little sis I have never forgotten you
Author, G. D. Grace; Published © 2010 April