My sister is dying. These are the words I’ve been trying to hold back in my mind. I’ve been using ‘not doing well’ and ‘not getting any better’ instead. That way, there was still some hope. But that’s not the case anymore. Her time is now measured in hours, minutes and seconds. Not weeks or months or years.
So I read to her. She’s sedated because she gets agitated by the breathing tube she’s on, (the tube that is doing most of the breathing for her.) I hope she hears me, the nurses all say that she can even though she’s sedated. I don’t read the Bible or any other spiritual book, that’s for someone else to do. Instead, I read a mystery. Mysteries, thrillers, and suspense have long been her favorite reading genre and we have several favorite authors.
Reading is a shared love which started early. She was 15 when I was born and she used to read to me when I was young. Her strong voice clear and soothing. I miss that voice already and secretly listen to the last voicemail that she left me so I can hear her. We used to joke that her voice was so strong it could penetrate the womb. When I was pregnant, each time she saw me she would speak to my belly first (not me) and the day my son was born, she called his name and he turned to her. The nurse said she never saw anything like that before, not on the day a child was born. That’s how strong her voice was.
Favorite books from childhood turned into sharing favorite authors. Not all were mysteries, we loved historical fiction as well–James Michener was a particular favorite for this. Sis was particular about her books, some she got in paperback, but others were always in hardcover, Michener was one of those authors. There were also no dog ears in her books, god forbid if you brought one back that way. Bookmarks were the only things allowed to keep the pages as she lovingly stored each book she owned, whether paperback or hardcover.
I will never forget the time she gave me Captains and Kings by Taylor Caldwell to read. My mother started reading it at the same time, not a problem if I was in school or working, but a problem when we were both at home. Once, we grabbed the book, a paperback, at the same time and it split down the seam. We were horrified as we each held one half of the book and then both dropped the book and at the same time yelled “See what you did!” I laughed about it with my sister recently, when I came across the book (the one my mother and I bought to replace the original,) as we were sorted through some of her books.
We also devoured many mystery and suspense authors together. Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stuart, Anya Seton, Elizabeth Peters and Anne Perry to name a few. I turned her onto the pub series by Martha Grimes featuring Detective Richard Drury and she brought me Max and Annie from Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series. It’s from one of these books that I read now.
Each night, I leave work and drive to the hospital, putting other things on hold for now. It’s a nightly ritual that will, unfortunately, end soon. Perhaps sooner than the book. Her breathing tube is being removed today, without it, she will not last long. And so, we gather information for her obituary as we wait. It’s funny how we can all be so sensible and practical at a time when our hearts are screaming out it pain.
My sister is dying and I miss her already.