My family is of German descent but Sue and I were Irish twins. I am tall; at 6 feet she was taller with perfect posture thanks to scoliosis and a Harrington rod. She had braces, twice I think, and we both ended up with crooked teeth. She was studious and earned "A's". I didn't study. She was popular and outgoing. I was shy. Seriously.
We both played instruments, a requirement that came with being our father's offspring. She played the trumpet, I played flute, piccolo and sax. We both loved creating with our hands, read voraciously and loved the great outdoors, a requirement that came with being our mother's offspring. Plants of any variety are a weakness for all of us that were in my Gram's circle of influence, green thumbs the lot of us. Sue had kids and worked and never moved far from home after a stint on the east coast earning her Master's degree. I had a bunch of kids and moved all over the country and have homeschooled for forever. She took regular vacations and had a maid and went for massages and had lunches weekly with girlfriends. I garden and read and homeschool and call job interviews vacations. I look like Mom, she was the spitting image of Dad's Aunt Carrie. In college we'd have to pull out our driver's licenses to prove that we were sisters, but people always commented that we walked the same and had the same mannerisms. We were a lot alike and totally different.
It's been a year since we received the phone call from my Dad, saying that Katie called and Sue had died. Viking Man and I had gone to Monday prayer at church. It was his idea, spur of the moment and he whisked me away in the middle of dinner. The prayer team was praying with someone else when we got the call, in the hallway of the church.
How is it that siblings anchor one to the world? A simple bond and one often taken for granted. We grow up and look at each other as adults and wonder how on earth did we all grow up in the same family? We have different lives, values, places of residence, hopes, dreams and families. And still I felt like a rope anchoring me to dry land was cut when I picked up the phone and heard Dad say that Sue was gone. In so many words like he told me that Mom had died. Poor Dad; having a child die before you is one of the great injustices of life.
She'd tried to call on Sunday afternoon, calling to check on me because of the fire. But I'd turned my phone off because we'd had tons and tons and tons of calls, wonderful people, calling to express care and concern and I was so exhausted and tired and worn out and emotionally drained from talking and listening and accepting people's concern and stuff and food and sympathy. Flower and Cub were pitiful and huddled in chairs and we spent the afternoon watching a stupid video together, being worn out and weary together under a blanket in the lounge at the retreat center we were staying at. Because of that I missed her last phone call. She tried to call me over and over again on the last day of her life and I missed each and every call. I tried to call her back on Monday morning, but she was already gone, never having heard back from me. I wasn't expecting her to go quite yet. We'd seen her just weeks before, on her birthday. She was wobbly from M.S., but not sick, not sickly, just her same old bossy, hard headed self.
I came undone that Monday. Within a four day period our house burned to the point of being totaled, my oldest daughter spent a night in an emergency room 5 states away having a blood clot around her heart monitored (fall-out from the swine flu she survived) and my oldest sister died. My husband sang me to sleep that night, stroking my hair and telling me that Sue was in the arms of Heaven, dancing with joy, wobbly no more.
I miss her being in this world, gone one year ago today. The world contained her when I made my entrance and I just expected that we'd be in it together- well, for a long time to come. She was my first friend and my oldest. And I miss knowing she's home, even if I'm not, knowing she'll call on my birthday, check on Gram each Sunday, keep track of everyone. But I have a hope. That we'll be reunited once again; this time our true selves. Until that day, I am consoled by knowing that she lived with courage and chose life and vibrancy and faithfulness over careful stagnancy.
Meet you on the other side, Sister Mine.