I hate waking up sad. I hate when I dream and dream about the people I’ve lost and wake up with tears in my eyes.
That’s what happened this morning.
13 years ago, I lost my sister, Merlene. It was a period of time where I’d just had my fifth child, and my sister had called me, telling me how she was suffering from Pneumonia, had problems with her breathing and other complications. None of us, my siblings, knew at the time that she was suffering from the complications associated with Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy. She’d lost her hair, claiming to want a new hairstyle, and had cut it off. She lost weight, without explaining what the underlying causes were, and even though there was that niggling thought that something serious was happening to a person you love, you never want to go that far and imagine it could be Cancer.
We actually found out how serious her illness was, about 2 weeks before she died, and it was one of the most devastating experiences in my life. I remember when I saw her, and realised that she wouldn’t be here for much longer and I wanted to enfold her in my arms, keep her with me, not admit that she was suffering. She was in so much pain, she was shrieking with anger and hurt. She was vitriolic, angry, full of pain and hurt. She was in denial, thinking that she would get better, but the only aid the hospital would give her was increasing doses of morphine to ease her pain.
2 days before she died, she begged me to help her, and there was nothing I could do, to take it away from her. What I would have done for her, I have no idea. I couldn’t even hold her to comfort her, as she was so full of tumours across her body, that every inch of her ached and burned.
This morning, I dreamt I saw her. I was saying my goodbyes to my oldest sister, and I turned, seeking to hug the other. I asked her, what was wrong, as she had her mouth covered with a face mask. She told me, with sadness in her eyes, that the cancer was back, and I hugged her so fiercely, so hard, begging her not to leave me, imploring her not to go, I had lost so many people, people I loved in my life, that I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her again.
To wake from a dream with tears in your eyes, pain in your heart and sadness in your throat, is one of the worst ways to awaken. It sets the pace for the rest of your day, your mood is coloured by it, your eyes leak at the slightest provocation, you wish only to curl up and remember the people who have been taken from you.
Life is bittersweet. Life is a moving pathway, that even if you wish to get off, there is no way to do it. You move onwards, until the time comes for you to leave those who love you behind. Along that path, people step away from you, some step closer, some leave and some you expel. Your awareness of the losses you experience never get easier, you never cease to grieve for those that leave you behind, you go through days, with an awareness of them and the understanding that they are no longer there. You come to accept that they are no longer at the end of a phone, or a car drive, no matter how long or short.
This summer marked 13 years since Merlene died. 11 years since my brother Glen died. It’s been 4 years and some months since my brother Kenny died and 4 months since my mother passed away. I didn’t choose to surround myself with grief, that is just a fact of my life now. Sometimes I wonder if it is better to leave the ones you love behind, so as not to experience the grief, but then I remember that there are those who will feel the loss of your passing just as much as you will feel the loss of theirs.
Life is truly, bitter and sweet!