Tuesday, February 2, 2016

57, 3, 15

57 years.
3 months.
15 days.

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.

20 comments:

  1. Oh Phyl honey! I am so very sorry for your loss. I can only imagine how hard this has been for you, and still is. Just a big hug from me.

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    1. Thank you so much. Big hug in return.

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  2. Oh Phyl. I'm so very sorry. I wish there were words that could ease your pain. Hopefully knowing you have such a huge support system all over the world is of some comfort, even if it doesn't ease the pain. Sending lots of love & hugs your way.

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    1. Thank you. And I am grateful for the hugs, near and far. It really does help.

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  3. I wish o could say more than merely I am so, so sorry, but there are no other words.

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    1. I know, but those words do mean a lot. Thank you.

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  4. That is such a beautiful post, Phyl. I'm so sorry for your loss. I shall pray that the quilts will help you through the grieving process as you mourn and celebrate your sister.

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    1. Thank you so much. I'm finding that sewing is very therapeutic right now. I'm grateful I'll always have that memory of her.

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    2. Oh Phyl Thank you for writing about your sister! I can not write anything to make thing better just know I care and am so sorry

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    3. Thank you, Marguerite. It means a lot to know you and others care. Truly.

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  5. Phyl. I think that no matter what we do or what we want in life, our emotions and memories are a part of ourselves and we can't just pretend it's not there. I applaud you could talk about this and that it is helping you process things. I can imagine how difficult it is and like Willaful said, unfair, for bad things to happen to good people. Nothing I'll say will change things, but I hope, I'll pray for you that your emotions and memories will warm your heart and that everything your sister was to you won't ever disappear.
    I wish I could help you more.
    Hugs.

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    1. Thank you, Sonia. I agree with everything you said. And I appreciate your prayers very much. Hugs to you too.

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  6. Oh Phyl, I'm so sorry to hear this. What a trying time for you and your family. I can only imagine - as she was fighting and you were going in for your own surgery...

    What a lovely blog post though and tribute to the relationship you had with your sister. I'm deeply sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thank you so much, Wendy. I appreciate it more than I can say.

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  7. I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your feelings with us. You're very brave, I cannot be so open in the Internet. I hope everything goes better for you in the future and that you will always remember your sister not as somebody who has died, but as somebody who has shared wonderful moments with you -not everybody is so lucky in their lives- and she will always be in your heart.

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    1. Bona, thank you so very much for those kind words. I like the way you put it--to remember her as someone who shared wonderful moments with me. I will do that. Thank you.

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  8. Phyl, I just found this. (I've been restricting my computer use lately because I was online too much.) I'm so sorry for your pain. I'm so grateful that you were able to share this bit of your sister with us so that we could know her, too, a little bit. I'm glad that you have some tangible things, things you can hold in your hand, to help you remember good times - or to laugh at her and wonder what on earth she was thinking when she started some project, because those shaking-my-head moments are healing, too. Holding you in my heart, and sending you warm hugs.

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    1. Thank you so much, Marilyn. It's easier to talk about her now and I'm grateful to be surrounded by the many tangible reminders of her. Thank you, too, for the hugs. I'm sending some right back to you. Take care of yourself. I'm so glad to hear from you.

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