MWC Death: Two Minus One
Two Minus One
Someone once said to me that from the moment we are born, each breath we take brings us one step closer to death. I had never thought too much about death or had people close to me die until my twin sister was suddenly diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. From then on, I greatly began to feel my mortality and to wonder why it was she who was so ill and not me.
We were always very close when growing up and became even more so when she was in the hospital with her life before her on such a tenuous strand. Every visit with her was becoming very precious.
We were sitting together on her hospital bed when the doctor came into the room. I remember his expression as he paused, glanced closely at each of us and remarked on how much we resembled each other. His saying that had a great impact then, as the connection that was always between us was even more heightened during that time. We seemed to inherently feel what the other was thinking, not needing words to convey meaning.
As Joy’s life was winding down, our conversations were centered more around her two young children. Her greatest regret was the thought of not being able to be with them, to know them, that she was going to miss out on their lives as they were growing up.
There was a final hope that might work to prolong her life, in the form of a bone marrow transplant. My older sister and I were both tested, greatly hoping that two chances of a match might give her another chance at life.
After everything Joy had gone through she was regretting the possibility of the painful procedure that might lie ahead of us. But that possibility soon eluded us as there was not a bone marrow match, and ten days later her life ended.
A couple of nights after Joy’s passing, when I was sleeping I had an intensely vivid dream. I had the sensation of moving quickly and smoothly over a large body of water. I could see the ripples on the surface of the water and white clouds resting on the horizon but no sound or feeling of air moving around me. My eyes were seeing but I did not seem to be in my body.
In the manner of dreams I was suddenly placed in a pristine-white waiting room on a bench, and being startled because Joy was beside me, very healthy and smiling at me, clothed in white. It seemed in my dream that we were in a waiting room to heaven and I asked her what heaven was like. She was answering how wonderful it is, but it occurred to me that she was not supposed to be back to meet me. I was asking her if she was going to get into trouble for doing that, and she said she probably would. Her presence was suddenly replaced with a very frightening dragon-like apparition that jolted me awake.
My wife Linda also woke up, describing to me the amazing sensation she had just had. She was feeling an intense rush of emotional grief while she was sleeping, and woke to a very soothing feeling of a hand against her face. In the dream Joy was beside her, stroking and reassuring her as the sadness dissipated into a feeling of calm.
We like to think that we both did have a visitation from Joy that night, perhaps as her spirit was going to some wonderful place. As one friend said, it is nice to have the hope that there is something else after we die.
For many years after, I had survivor guilt, as did my older sister. The most difficult day of the year is my birthday, during which I like to have a quiet time to reflect on my sister and the good times we had as a family when my two sisters and I were growing up.
A few years ago, my nephew mentioned how he had grown up with no memories of his mother since he was a toddler when she passed. I began jotting down anecdotes and events from when my sisters and I were younger. I searched through my photos and papers to find anything that might show something of Joy’s life, her favorite songs, concerts she attended, anything that could be used to illustrate and bring to life what I could remember.
The one thing I have learned from the grief of losing her is to not take anything for granted. I try to keep my focus on the wonderful things I have in my life and how fortunate I am to have been able to continue to live a healthy and fulfilled life.