My sister’s death from cancer opened my eyes to life
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” — T.S. Elliot
My sister’s death from sudden, aggressive lung cancer changed who I am as a person forever. I know, without a doubt, that I will never be the same Kylie again.
We all are aware that death is inevitable. But, it still hurts in a way unlike any other pain when it happens, especially sudden and tragic deaths. Healing does happen and I know this. Her loss was not my first just my most sudden and tragic. I have buried a husband and my father, but this death just hit me differently and out of nowhere.
I woke up the day after her death, expecting to feel the heaviness of grief. And I did. But I also realized immediately that I was a changed person who, going forward, would be living life differently. I suddenly understood I had been holding myself back in almost all areas of my entire life. I was living my life by trying to avoid attention. I was not being who I really wanted to be. Life was suddenly an extremely fragile thing that I had been wasting for years on mediocrity. I would no longer waste a second that was given to me.
Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.
What stops us from trying new things? In my opinion, it is due to the opinion’s of our peers or the people we consider to be the closest to us. Why? Because we know the masses are uncomfortable with being different than the rest and with change of any kind. A lot of conformists want everyone around them to be leery and rejecting of anything different than the status quo. I refuse, adamantly, to live my life like that going forward.
The masses have always viewed anyone who does, looks, or acts differently than the rest of society as odd or outcasts. I find that herd mentally extremely disturbing. Why can’t the different personalities be beautiful or brave instead of outcasts or troublemakers? Personally, I find bland and normal people to be boring as hell and shallow.
What would our lives look like if we took chances, fought back or rocked the boat sometimes instead of cowering? Is the fear of failure or embarrassment really that big of a deal? I don’t understand, because I do not care if people like me or not. What if we had taken more chances? What could we have accomplished by now? Would cancer be cured? Would my sister be alive?
So, I decided in my grief that I would live my life without fear holding me back from anything. I owe this to her beautiful soul. I will never take my life for granted again. She did not want to die. I will live for her now. I will keep her memory alive in her granddaughter, Piper, that she never knew was coming or got to see.
My main goal is to go sliding feet first into my grave. I want the gossips to keep busy by talking about me. I want to have lived a large, exciting, meaningful life filled with amazing moments and memories astounding enough to be talked about in my family for generations to come. I will not accept my fate as being one of the other sheep in this world.
I started my new found way of living by deciding to follow my dream of writing. This was a huge deal to me because I had always let the opinions of others hold me back in this regard. The value of other’s opinions died along with my sister. I started writing and I have not stopped since. Much to my family’s chagrin. I have a lot I still need to get out.
I write more humor pieces than anything. I do this because I have used humor as a coping mechanism my whole existence. There is nothing that I can not twist and mold to turn into a laughable situation. I am comforted in my grief by the memory of her laughing at my antics.
Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.
I have started a website, started blogging, joined Medium, and haven’t looked back. Am I a huge success? No. However, success is subjective. Writing makes me happy. That makes it a success in my eyes. And, going forward, my opinion is the only one that I will validate.
From now until the end of my days, if I want to do something or experience life, I’m going to do it. Haters riding on my life train can get off at any time. I sincerely hope they do. I am not blind to a few of my friends and the fickleness they show with their support. The time has come for fake friends or people with less than pure intentions to exit my life. That way, I will have room for more supportive people to enter my life. I am definitely ready for some new passengers on my figurative life train.
I will no longer make any apologies or explanations for anything I do. I am different and I am loud. I am too much of a woman for some and too little of a woman to others. I am not here to follow. I am here to lead. I am me. I am proud of who I am and I am free for the first time in my forty one years. And it feels amazing.
I have the full love, support, and acceptance of my husband. He has embraced every change that I have made and fully supported every shenanigan and/or scheme that I have ever come up with. Whether it ends up being successful or not in the end.
I also have the support of my other sister who is my best friend in this world and has been since I was born. Even if my writing is terrible, she knows it is a healing process for me and builds me up every chance she gets. I also support her in how she expresses her own grief which is in a very different and private way.
Let us resolve to be masters, not the victims, of our history, controlling our own destiny without giving way to blind suspicions and emotions.
As far as the memory of my lost sister goes, I can still hear her sweet voice when I close my eyes. I know she would be supportive of me. I miss her everyday and I am prepared to live the remainder of my life missing her. But, instead of focusing on all that I have lost and my sadness, I am going to focus on living and making myself, and her, proud.
Sometimes, we just don’t have any good answers for our children, especially when death is concerned. Sometimes, we just cannot make the pain go away. I had to fight myself against issuing generic platitudes to my grieving son because no answers were sufficient for the questions that he had when he lost his best friend suddenly.
Don’t be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.
I have four kids and two stepchildren that are the center of my universe. My youngest son, and third child, has suffered a tremendous loss at only the tender age of 13. His best friend and sidekick died. For the sake of his family’s privacy, I will call this young man Daryl in this article. Daryl will be remembered by more than his family. My son is going to make sure of that.
Daryl was a bright thirteen year old boy that liked to play video games online and basketball outside of my house with the local neighborhood boys. My son, Nolan bonded with him quickly over their mutual love for Kobe Bryant, dark humor, video games, and attitudes.
Daryl had fought and overcome cancer three times in his short little life. He had most recently gotten the stats to indicate he was beating it again.
You never heard him complain, but he had a life filled with pain. He would be missing in action during the worst parts, but continually stayed in contact with my son via online messaging. My son was not one to talk about it. Like many boys are apt to be when it comes to emotions, he dealt with it in his own way and still does.
When COVID came around, Daryl was confined to his room. His immune system was already battered so his parents weren’t taking any chances by not issuing a strict quarantine. They spent the summer playing video games online and plaguing each other with dark jokes and pranks. They were showing their love as boys will.
Three days before school was to be let back in session, Daryl’s mom went to wake him and found that he had passed away in his bed. Though he was beating the cancer, he had passed away from a sudden aneurism.
Nolan found out later on that day and came to tell me right away. They had played on the X-box the night before and he seemed fine, my son told me in shock.
As grief tends to do, it had a delayed reaction on Nolan. He would forget for a moment and then he would go to text him and remember. He would get online and remember.
I believe the grief took a toll on his immune system because within days he was fighting a huge swollen gland from a sudden bout of mono and strep throat. Days after getting on antibiotics, he developed a mono rash. He ended up missing the first two weeks back to school.
I didn’t realize how deep the friendship had gone until I took him to school on his first day. Signing him in, the office staff all gathered around and hugged him and told him how sorry they were. It seemed that the boys were something of a duo at the school.
A few weeks later, I came home from work and went to greet all of the kids, which is my routine when I come in the door. After I greet the animals, of course.
I found Nolan in his room thumbing through a journal. He told me that for art class they all had to keep an art journal with drawings, thoughts, and the such. He said that after class the art teacher had given Daryl’s art journal to him.
Without me even telling him, he told me that he wanted to make a copy for himself and carry the original to Daryl’s mother. The image of the young boy’s self painted image in the journal made tears well up in my own eyes. Not to mention the fact that my teenager, famous for no empathy towards anyone but himself within our household, was showing empathy towards Daryl’s family.
I took the journal to work and made the copy. It was filled with what you would expect from a thirteen year old boy being forced to journal, but I knew the gift would be a priceless artifact given to a grieving mother. Another link to a love like no other.
This will not be the last time my son experiences a tragedy. I am proud of the way he has handled this loss and the way he continues to keep Daryl’s memory alive by talking about him. All too often, people try and drown pain away by ignoring it. Only by dealing with our emotions will we ever truly heal from any heartbreak or pain.
There is no explanation for a life cut that short. I won’t lie and say it’s part of a plan I’m not privy to. The only thing I can say for sure is that where he went has to be so much better than what he went through here during his short, pain filled existence.
Hold your loved ones tight. We never know when a moment will be the last.
I know this was a depressing article so if you would like to laugh now, here is a link to my latest Medium article about being a Golddigger!
Picking on people comes naturally to me. My father was the king of humor, pranks, and shenanigans. Nobody was spared. I grew up never knowing if anything he said was to be taken seriously and respected or if I was in danger of mortal embarrassment.
Injuries were also known to happen as a result of his pranks. I, myself, was traumatized a few times and I know I was not alone. Yet, despite the pranks that failed, his humor has been the theme of his memory since his death. I have not heard many, if any, anecdotes that did not center around some joke he played on someone.
In his memory, I would like to put these pranks in writing. At least the ones that caused the most laughter and/or trauma. Has a dent in the world was not huge to all, but it was to me.
This prank was not only done by him, but was and is used widely in the south. In particular, it is used on city people or people that aren’t familiar with hunting or wildlife.
He would invite and hype up some new recruit to go snipe hunting. They would wake up at 6 am and dress up all in camouflage. Outfitted with black paint all over their face and twigs in their hair, they would all tote a canvas or burlap bag and a stick into the darkness. Dad would drop the newbie off at “his tree” with some convoluted instructions on how to trap and kill said snipe. Seeing as how snipe doesn’t exist, the newbie would be left by the tree for hours while the rest went back to bed.
This was widely considered to be the unofficial initiation into our family for a long time.
For as long as I can remember, my father worked at funeral homes. He would collect the dead during all hours, prepare cadavers, set up funerals, and many other things that go into the business of death.
As a child, I would have to go with him in the middle of the night often to collect the bodies. At first, I was terrified and he played upon that a great deal. But, he taught me invaluable advice which was not to be scared of the dead. It’s the living that hurt you.
The staff at the funeral home were very professional and were good at what they did. They were caring towards the bereaved and respectful at all times. When the home was empty and free of any services though, they brought the morale from depressing to fun in a variety of ways.
At my father’s funeral, the staff told stories about the number of new employees they had lost due to my father hiding in the storage trays, for the dead, during the new employee’s tour of the new workplace. When said employee got close, the tour guide would pull out the tray that my father was hiding in and my father would jump up and scare the ever loving shit out of them. It was priceless, but also traumatic.
That phrase, priceless, but traumatic, explains my father and my childhood to a tee.
In today’s times, this would have landed my father in jail, but the eighties were a different time with different rules. He loved to hoist me up onto the roof of my grandmother’s mobile home. After encouraging me to carefully look around, he would disappear. I would be stuck on the roof from minutes to, what felt like, hours.
Personally, I didn’t enjoy this as much as he did.
One of his other pranks got him in trouble with my grandmother. I was around seven years old and taking a bubble bath in her garden tub which was the epitome of luxury back then. My dad came in to check on me and pulls a turtle out from behind his back. I was terrified of turtles because my dad liked to talk about snapping turtles very frequently. He said that if you were bitten by one, you had to wait for lightning before you could get it off.
Of course, in my child’s mind, I immediately was imagining how tough my life would be with a turtle dangling from my finger for months on end.
So as any terrified child would do I jumped out of the tub and immediately fell and smashed a hole in the sheet rock with my elbow. Which caused my grandmother to get mad at him because ruining her house is taking it too far. Apparently my sanity was fair game.
It’s been 12 years since his death and I miss his sense of humor more than anything no matter how traumatic it may have been at the time. I have inherited his ability to take life with a grain of salt. He and I both use humor and you to get through anything that life throws our way.
I look forward to seeing him again one day and I take comfort in knowing that my sister is up there in heaven with him now keeping him company. And, no, I don’t have any doubts that he made it there.
Some of these might explain my weirdness. My mom is not off the hook for that though, as she was also a factor in my personality.
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