We all claim to understand how short life is. We say we know that anything can happen. In the blink of an eye our whole life can change. We can lose someone we love…
We know this. But we still don’t really believe it could ever happen to us. How could it?
I am so lucky; I have never experienced real loss of someone I love. I’ve grieved deaths, and lost people I care about. But the handful of people that I truly need, are still with me. Even the thought of losing them is enough to make me crumble. Just the idea of it is too awful to imagine.
I did have one moment that I thought I might have lost one of those people. The feelings I went through at that time are indescribable. It was the most awful and terrifying moment of my entire life. No pain I had ever felt, or have felt since has come close to what I felt at that moment. But relief then followed it. I was lucky.
My sister, CC, had been in a car accident. She had only just left the house. It barely felt like ten minutes had passed since she said bye, and was out the door.
The house phone rang.
I heard my mum answer it. I heard her voice change. I heard the fear. I instinctively went to her and asked what was wrong. She told me CC had been in a car accident. I asked her who called, and she told me it was a woman. That was enough for me. CC hadn’t called, which meant it was bad. My mum and step dad ran out the door, and I stayed at home with my youngest sister, K, who was very young at the time. She was in her bed for school, watching a movie, oblivious to what was going on.
I walked to the dining room. I tried to stay calm. But I kept hearing my mum’s voice. I kept seeing her face. Her fear.
People say that you imagine the worst when these things happen. But I didn’t have to imagine anything. There was no thought process. It was the not knowing. I couldn’t imagine the worst. But in my heart I knew what had happened, I knew it was bad. It was the worst.
I tried to stay calm. I told myself not to react, not to think, until I knew what had happened. Right now I knew nothing. I needed to wait. Stay calm.
Then I heard a giggle. It was K’s sweet giggle. She was laughing at her movie. And then I crumbled. I couldn’t breath! It wasn’t about what I was losing. It was about her. How would we tell her? How do we tell her, her sister is gone?
I lost my ability to stay rational. I couldn’t breath. My sister was gone. What would I do without her? How could I be without her? I called my mum, over and over. They had been gone for what seemed like forever, and there was still no answer. I couldn’t breath. Tears flowed down my face as I tried to catch my breath. My sister was gone! I called CN. She told me to get outside. She told me to breath. She told me that CC was fine. She told me exactly what I needed to hear.
The call eventually came from my step dad. He told me that CC was alive. She was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. He was going to come get me, and our neighbor was going to come stay with K. I was so relieved that she was alive; I didn’t even ask what was wrong with her. Why was she going to the hospital? Then began a new worry.
I will never forget the moment I saw CC in that hospital bed. She smiled at me. In all of her pain, she smiled at me. She wanted to reassure me she was ok. I knew what she was doing. She had been worried about me.
She had been in a car wreck and was in a terrible mess. But she had been worried about me! She knew how scared I’d be.
I’ll never forget that awful day. Or how I felt. But I was lucky, because I also remember the relief. I still have my sister. She’s still here. I am left with the memory of that day, not the memory of my sister. I still have her. I was lucky.
Some aren’t so lucky. Some people lose the people they love. It is in an instant just as ours was. But it is final.
I couldn’t imagine what life would be like right now if what had happened that day had been final. I can’t bare the thought of life without my sister. I need her. If I go a week or two with very little communicating with my sister, I miss her. I feel lonely and sad, and I need to speak to her. After we talk, I feel better: like a weight has been lifted. We talk and share, we giggle and play. We laugh at things that no one would understand or find funny. We understand each other. We trust each other. We would do anything for each other. I am so blessed to have her in my life. And so thankful that what happened that day wasn’t final.
My heart breaks for people that lose their loved ones. That handful of people that we need, we don’t ever expect will be taken away. Because even though we know it happens. We never believe it will happen to us.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand why these things happen. Why the worst can happen to the best of people. No one deserves that kind of pain. No one deserves that pain to be final. Everyone deserves the relief. I couldn’t imagine what would have happened if that relief had never come. I don’t know how people get through these things and remain strong. I don’t know if I would have had that strength.