"In memory of my sister." "An unexpected death." How do I title a blog post that is so painfully unexpected, but which I have to write --- because that's what I do when I hurt, and when I don't hurt: write.
You say it like it is. My sister died today. I got the call from my brother-in-law, Bob, a few hours ago.
He said that Carol Ann, who was 71, went into a room to look something up on her computer that they had been talking about. When she didn't come back after a while, Bob went to look for her.
Carol Ann was on the floor. Dead.
Bob didn't hear a sound. It was a stroke or heart attack. Something sudden. Not a bad way to go. I wouldn't mind being on my computer, maybe writing a blog post, and dying snap, just like that.
My sister recently complained of symptoms that pointed to congestive heart failure. She'd had some tests. I've got an email in my inbox from her that came yesterday. Carol Ann talked about how one of the new medications she was taking made her feel out of breath and dizzy.
Maybe it killed her. Maybe it didn't. Doesn't matter. Life kills us all. It's just a matter of when.
I haven't cried thoroughly yet. Just a little. Maybe that will come later. Maybe not. Doesn't matter. What I'm doing now, what you're doing now, what everybody in the world is doing now, that's what matters.
Because yesterday you can have sent an email to your brother about how you're starting to feel better, making a comment on the weather...
Some sunshine today, but more rain is forecast. Hope this signals the end of our 3 year drought.
and the next day you go to look something up on your computer, and then you're gone forever, and you'll never know whether the rain came or didn't, or whether the end of a California drought is over or not.
So Jesus fucking Christ, who neither my sister nor I believes is the son of God, because God almost certainly doesn't exist, and neither will you, or I, or my sister after we die (though I hope to God I'm wrong), do what needs doing now.
My sister's one and only child, Cathy, should have gotten a Christmas card from me yesterday. Since 2000 she and her equally cruel husband, Steve, have refused to let Carol Ann and Bob have any contact with them or their two children, my sister and brother-in-law's grandchildren.
Cathy and Steve claim to be Christians. I call them something else, nasty swear words that passed through my mind when I heard that my sister had died.
In the card I told Cathy that her mother probably had congestive heart failure. Like I do every year, in every Christmas card, I told Cathy that it would mean the world to my sister if they could get over this ridiculous family spat and let her and Bob see their grandchildren (and child) again.
Now, too late. Too late, Cathy.
If I'm wrong about life after death, and you meet your Jesus, I hope he rakes you over the fucking coals for bringing so much unhappiness to your mother and father, and allowing your mother to die without having seen her grandchildren for ten years, since they were only eight and ten years old.
For a few seconds before I sat down at my laptop, I thought: "Some people are going to think this isn't the right time to write a blog post about my sister dying, since it was just a few hours ago."
And in the next few seconds, I thought: "Screw them. There is no right time to die, it's always a bad time to die, and there's never a right time to write about dying. So this is a good time, as good as any. And if somebody is bothered by that, tough shit."
Maybe one person will come across this who hasn't reached out to someone they should, or done that do it before you die thing we all talk about but never do because we don't really believe that death can come as suddenly as we all know it can.
Wake-up call. That's what the phone ringing a few hours ago was.
It was Life talking through my brother-in-law. Death is here, right next to us, you, me, everybody, one heart beat, one breath, away.
I didn't spend enough time with my sister. I didn't do enough for her. I didn't tell her "I love you" often enough. I always felt that I had plenty of time, and so did she, and eventually I'd be able to make not enough into enough.
Now there isn't. There's no time. So I'm not all that different from Cathy, Carol Ann's jerk of a daughter, except I wasn't quite as much of a jerk of a brother.
I want to make amends. But I can't. Because my sister ran out of time, and so did I.
I wish she was still alive. She can't be. But the rest of us, me especially, can be more alive if her death spurs us to appreciate our living more. I guess that's the greatest gift I can offer my sister, the greatest "thank you."
You gave me so much while you were alive.
And now you've given me a wonderful gift by dying: a deeper appreciation for living, and a gut-check moist-eyed knowledge that wherever you are, I'm heading there one day also, as are we all, and that day could be the next moment.
There's one thing, or ten things, or a thousand things we know, deep down, that we need to do before we die.
Things that when we're lying on the floor next to the computer, knowing this is the end, will make us smile, even through the pain and the oh no not now, because we did one thing, or ten things, or a thousand things that were exactly what needed doing.
Now. Now. Now.
Thank you, Carol Ann. I love you.