Today, July 7, 2011 would have been my sister's 44th birthday had cancer not taken her from us on January 31, 2006. Fifth year anniversary.
So, happy birthday, sis!
She was given the official diagnosis on her birthday in 2005. Quite a gift. She called me while I was at work and told me. I went into my bosses office and cried. On October 22, Smarty Pants was born, my daughter that would never know her aunt. In December, I forget the day, she called as I was driving into work and told me she was going to die, and that the doctor wanted to see us so that he could explain. And now she is gone...
Look at the time, from diagnosis to death. Six and a half months. That is what liver cancer does to you. It kills you, quickly and terribly.
Heidi's birthday is the only day that I make an extra effort to take her flowers, and remember her life and short time here. I say extra effort because I remember her every day. I don't want to do anything on the day she died. Memorial Day has become like Valentine's Day, so I focus on her birthday. It was the day she was welcomed to the the world, and unlike her life, that can't be taken away. Plus, it's on her birthday that we did a great thing as siblings, we got each other cards that made fun of each other. Goddamn I miss those cards. I still give her one.
Every year I get up in the morning, go and buy flowers and pick out a card. I go to the cemetery and clean up the markers of Heidi and my grandparents (right next door). I cut, arrange and water flowers for both markers. I do this alone, with my memories — great, good and bad — that fade in and out as I go about my work. I don't want company. I want it that way.
It's a little thing, but it's all I have. Considering our age spread of seven years, she was gone and married and having kids by the time I was old enough to really start enjoying her company as an equal adult. As we grew older our relationship matured and she wasn't just my big sister anymore, she was my friend. One of my best friends. I talked to her about things I couldn't with my parents, or anyone else. It's a hole that has never been filled. If I need help or to vent about certain things, I just don't get it, and it stays with me. Probably good reason #76 to see a psychologist. Even though we were siblings for 32 years, I really only got to know her well for about 17 of those. And that just wasn't enough time. I wish I knew her better. I wish... But who knew? Of all the things that just, well, fucking suck about her death, two things stand out: she left behind two daughters that I don't get to spend enough time with, and a niece who she'll never be able to spoil.
This year, I had trouble picking out a card. And that troubles me. Maybe it shouldn't. Maybe it shouldn't. But I barely had it in me. I settled on one, but it wasn't funny. It was respectful. And sort of funny. But not disparaging. I know that I am not getting any less comically ruthless as I get older. I think I am worse than ever, actually. I just carry it like a concealed weapon instead of on my hip like a gunslinger. I have no answer. Maybe it was just today. Maybe it will be worse next year.
I'll close by reminding you, gentle readers, to love your life. Appreciate and get to know those you love and who love you so that there are no regrets if they are taken unexpectedly. Take nothing for granted, appreciate your family and siblings, even though they may be a pain in the ass sometimes — or all the time. Trust me on this one, I know what I am talking about.
And give a little something to cancer research today. Livestrong, American Cancer Society, Cancer Sucks! or whatever. Find a marathon, century ride or something where the proceeds go to cancer research. DO SOMETHING! I know pink ribbons are all the rage right now and believe me, I like breasts probably a little more than the next person, but cancer is cancer and I don't believe in pigeon holing funds for one type of research. But if saving boobs are where you want your money and time to go, then do it. Cure breast cancer and then move on to the next type. The shit kills people more indiscriminately than al quaeda, and there's a great chance of it getting me someday. There's your PSA for the day. Take care of yourselves.