Sibling Column – October 2021

Sep 29, 2021 | Sibling Column

From Katharine Heaton
The other night I spent a moment with my sister in a dream and it bothered me more than anything. She’d never want me to be upset by her presence, but the thing is I haven’t seen her in over 2 years – at all. In this dream she was healthy because I recall thinking to myself, “wow, she’s healthy and she has all her hair”.
One thing I lived for since I was little was to make her laugh, and it took hardly any effort to make her laugh in general, but especially at me. I still always wanted to perfect it though, find new ways, new cynical/dark phrases or new dance moves to surprise her with just to hear the sound of her laugh. On the phone, in person, even over text she would crack up at me.  I even chose this photo to share with my column because she’d laugh so hard at it and say “remember that picture where you’re like holding me?!”  Back to the dream, I can’t remember what I did, but it was the way I was saying something and she was just laughing so hard at me and it felt so good! That was it – in a flash it was over, and I woke up feeling sick to my stomach. So many reasons ran through me, but mostly because it hit me that I have not seen or felt that feeling in over 2 years. Many people thought it was great that she “finally visited me,” but as grievers we often hear comments we don’t align with. In my life now I have the ability to find new versions of ‘happy,’ and I certainly still have my quirky way of making things funny, but as I said before – I lived to hear Maureen laugh with me, at me, and I have not felt that. It shocked me when I woke up.
Someone in my brain tumor group recently asked us when was the last time we felt happy, and I said without even thinking July 27, 2017 – the day before Maureen had a seizure at the gym 3000mi away. He said ‘yea my life ended on _____ date and then my new life began’. That date was when his wife was diagnosed, and we all just knew what he meant.  I know the COPE family may have the same view of life ‘before and after’.
I say the day before she was diagnosed rather than the day she died because, putting it mildly, brain cancer wreaks havoc on everything anyone ever once knew as normal.  Maureen was never sick a day in her life, and in the blink of an eye, it immediately began to take everything away from her that she could once do. Throughout her illness though, her laugh thankfully still remained and I could feel happy. Losing this feeling from this amazing person is in itself the greatest loss.