That's how old my sister was when she died on December 30, 2015.
Char spent four and a half years in a tug of war with cancer. For a while there she seemed to be in total control. But that insidious disease came back and this time would not let up. Here's the kicker. She had uterine cancer, just like me. Only hers was Stage 4 when they found it. Mine barely qualified as Stage 1. Life is often unfair, but that seemed the cruelest irony of all. As I wept that she was dying, she wept because I was not.
It's taken me a long time to process this and to be willing to talk openly about it. Some of you reading this have been very open with your own struggles with health, grief, death, and dying. I've wanted to be, but I think I needed for the worst of it to be over first. Every time I tried to write about it, I'd sit paralyzed at the keyboard. I just wasn't ready I guess.
Char decided to suspend further treatment last August. It was making her worse, not better. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs, liver, and kidneys. I think that's when I began to pull back from social media, especially after my own surgery in October. Since I couldn't bring myself to talk about it, it was better to be silent, although there were occasional exceptions. I was still reading, so the monthly TBR post cost me little. I would check in on Twitter at least once a day, maybe make a comment, but I stopped scrolling through to see what I might be missing. I was sewing a lot as well, although I barely actually finished anything. As your mind does when you're grieving, I kept skipping from project to project.
There's a lot I could tell you about her, but I'll limit myself to this: She and I shared a special bond over the last 15 years because we both loved to make quilts. We talked endlessly about them and our time together was frequently filled with sewing. She was an extremely accomplished sewist-- she made beautifully tailored clothes and home dec items. When I first started quilting, long before she did, she had this idea that quilting was only done by hand because that's the way I was doing it. One day I took her to a quilt show to show her differently and she was instantly hooked. Within just a few years of that she was teaching quilting and winning awards. For me quilting was a hobby, for her it was becoming a second profession. In 2007 she published a book about machine quilting. She was about to start another book when she received her cancer diagnosis.
In the months leading up to her death Char began to give away many of her possessions. She had an extensive fabric stash, several sewing machines, countless tools, patterns, etc. She had dozens of projects in various stages of completion. She made me take much of this home with me. She was adamant that I complete a couple of specific quilts and keep them. The rest she told me to finish or not, she didn't have it in her to care anymore.
In the years to come I hope to finish many of the things she started, besides working on my own projects. When I pull fabric from my stash some of it will have been hers. For the rest of my life my quilting will have a piece of her in it. I knew my sister was talented, but I'm also learning just how driven she was and how many ideas she had for the future. I found notes, sketches, and half-started projects in the boxes she gave me. Many of these were things she continued to work on even as she fought her cancer. We had dreamed of traveling together in our retirement, going to quilt shows or camping out west. I hope I still get to do those things, but it won't be the same.
I believe in Heaven and I believe she is there. She may be in a far better world than this one, but I sure wish she were still here. Thanks for reading.
Char & I at our nephew's wedding in September.