“Loss and Remembrance”
“As in sunset, we are reminded of what came before. The whole day culminating in the setting of the sun. There is peace in this reflection; the beauty and joy of what, essentially, is an ending, reminds us that there is immense joy in pausing to consider all that came before, and the promise that there is a tomorrow.” – Ed Lehming
On January 11, 2023 I said goodbye to my sister Carrie. After a long battle with cancer, she is finally at peace.
I’ve had conflicting emotions on her passing and it has taken me some time to consider these emotions and try to put them to words, without rambling on. On one hand, I know she is at peace and her pain has ended, on the other hand, on the day of her passing, I was on vacation with my family in Cozumel, enjoying beautiful sunshine and making memories.
The sunset image above was made on the day she died. So much like Carrie’s life, slowly fading away and leaving me with beautiful memories and a sense of peace. I had been given the news of her passing earlier that day. On that same evening, I sat on the beach, imagining Carrie sitting beside me, listening to the waves lapping on the shore, the warm sun on our faces, and fully enjoying this moment together, in silence, one final time.
I was able to spend a few days with her in late November, knowing there was no happy ending or miracle to be found. We spent some wonderful days together, recalling shared memories; all the good times we experienced together. Fortunately, during this time, the symptoms of her combined lung and brain cancer did not adversely affect her and we laughed and cried together about the paths our lives had taken.
My mind constantly returns to the exact moment when she called me to let me know she had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. I was on a hike in the forest when my phone rang and was happy to catch up her in this peaceful place. The news hit me hard, I was simply expecting an idle chat, as we have been in the habit of doing from time to time, catching up on each other’s day to day routine. For her, what began as what she assumed were digestive problems, escalated to something far more severe. Despite this devastating news, she remained positive and intended to take it one day at a time.
She also saved my life, by insisting that I get a colonoscopy, since this type of cancer can be hereditary. Sure enough, a pre-cancerous polyp was discovered and successfully removed.
The tumour was successfully removed but had already metastasized to her lungs. Next came several rounds of chemotherapy, which made her feel terrible, but she persevered, always expecting a positive outcome. After many treatments, things never really got better.
Knowing there was no turning back, I went visit her in November, not quite knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a great visit for both of us, sharing memories of family times, the time we first met (I was adopted and did not meet her till we were both in our 30’s), discovering all our similar interests and simply building a relationship.
I clearly recall my time with Carrie and other family members, whale watching in Cabo San Lucas a few years back. To be able to share our love of nature and the water while witnessing the humpback whales breaching will always be my fondest memory of my sister. There was such a shared joy in sharing this moment that I can’t find words to define it other than sacred.
When we parted, with many hugs and tears, we both agreed that this was not the time for goodbyes, partly because we did not want to confront that inevitable truth. Rather, we parted with, “Till we see each other again.” Somehow, the thought of that wonderful day made the parting a bit easier for both of us.
I’m sure that I will continue processing my emotions. I feel a deep sense of loss but also joy that I was able to spend even a few years with this precious soul. Her smile, her laugh, and sense of humour will forever be part of me. Carrie and I simply ‘connected’. We shared many of our more personal experiences, found our similarities, and differences, but never questioned our bond.
My dearest Carrie, I will always hold you in my heart, taken far to soon, travelled paths that would have made many of us quit, but loved by all who knew you. Finally, the time has come to say goodbye. I love you, and will continue to love you in my memories, for as long as I am given. Until we meet again, I will see your bright smile in the sunset, hear your laughter in the rustle of the leaves, and feel the warmth of your love in the gentle summer breezes.
Your Brother Bear,
Rest in Peace
Dec 1, 1966 – Jan 11, 2023