Thursday, November 05, 2009

She Called Me Nanny

I have been on a journey. Yes, I spent a good portion of the summer on little trips around the Northwest, and had a fabulous getaway with the girls to Chicago, but this “road trip” that I have been on was not just a physical journey, but a spiritual one. This was the process of being with my sister as she bravely battled leukemia.

My sister Chris was about fifteen years older than me. One of those first people to see me when I came into this world. She babysat my brother and I often while we were young, being that extra set of kids that only a big sister (and brother-in-law) could love. Throughout childhood, even while I was in high school, we had talked on the telephone almost daily. I can't necessarily remember the content of our conversations, but it seemed to be about knowing we were just there, there for each other.

I left home twenty some years ago, as I was the family member who was “the one who moved away.” I didn't have much money, and back in those days, long distance telephone calls were an expense I couldn't afford as a college student. These situtations helped create some distance between my sister and myself, as did when I came home, and tried to decide with whom to spend my time, and like most college students, chose to hang out with friends instead of family.

120 miles can be just as far as 500, and so at times my relationship with my sister waxed and wained. I the tireless, travelling, extrovert, and her the introverted observer.

My sister began getting sick a few years ago. The symptoms lead to a diagnosis of a blood disorder, and then this July, a diagnosis of leukemia, and seemingly advanced at that. In June, I had an overwhelming “feeling” that the time with my sister was limited. I joined the extended family on a camping trip, and stole a few moments here and there with her.

While camping, in between campsite visits, and community meals, I caught her while she was resting in her trailer. I just parked myself right besides her, and chatted it up. I don't remember the content of the conversation, but this was one of our moments before she headed into battle.

I can't recall which day she called to tell me she had cancer. She didn't want to tell me. It wasn't long before she was in Good Sam, receiving chemotherapy treatments. I was sick when she first was at the hospital, and couldn't visit her right away, and was just about to run the Cascade Lakes Relay, the relay I'd been training for all summer. I had such a hard time training for and completing the relay, knowing the dichotomy between the pain she was going through, and how I was living my life to it's fullest, in a sad, but healthy body.

After the race, I headed to Portland for our annual family picnic. Christine rarely missed a family picnic, but was in a hospital bed instead.

The next couple of months I was able to spend a few nights in the hospital with my sister.

One of those first nights, I had my obligatory, “What do you think of Jesus?” type talk with her. She didn't have all the traditional Christian answers I may have been searching for. Christine was, less that traditional. Her answers gave me a peace of mind, knowing she had given up bitterness, and embraced love instead. This cancer had caused a softening, that made her more open to receive Love.

She fought this cancer with her whole being, until her last breath.

I will miss my big sister, the one who made a mobile with me when I was five, my first “homeschool” art project. The one who taught me that Ramen with peas and cheese was tasty. The sister who let me be a part of her family-so many camping trips, sleepovers, trips to the river, and “uptown.” The sister who did all my dishes at my fortieth birthday party.

I'll miss the sister who called me Nanny.


deanna said...

This rings musically in my ears. A song for your sister. I love the way you put it.

Bella Art Girl said...

Nan- I'm glad you wrote this chapter down - a very nice story - I probably will stop myself from calling you Nanny now that I know it was her name...bless you both