thinking about my sister at the end of her life


I’m typing this on a plane as we board a flight to Philly. I’m leaving Seattle because a doctor told a family member that my big sister is likely to die today or tomorrow, and I’m hoping to see her one last time.

Let me tell you what my sister means to me.

One of my earliest memories–not my absolute earliest, but still–was of me trying to convince my parents that my sister and I were twins. I believe I understood on some level why that wasn’t really possible, but I knew that twins share a special bond, and why couldn’t we have that kind of closeness just because she was five years older?

I also remember going full court press on my parents to move me from the back bedroom to the middle one. For weeks I asked and asked until they finally gave in, humping all my furniture, clothes and toys to my new bedroom.

Then, to the horror of my tiny, barely post-toddler brain, they moved all of my sister’s stuff into the back room. Turned out, we were swapping rooms.

How did my family miss the whole and entire point of the move, which was that I wanted to share a room with my twin?

I also drove her nuts over Saturday morning cartoons, pulling that pyrrhic victory bullshit that middle kids turn to when they want to win a fight through the long slog of making everyone miserable until they just give up. That shit felt so good, until my own younger siblings started to do it to me.

As we got older, she got me into Steve Martin before he really broke out. She also made me a fan of the 70’s prog-rock band Yes. Now, there’s nothing cool about

Yes logo

but to me they were cool because she liked them.

And she is the person who made me love science fiction and fantasy. That in itself is huge, because it’s a huge part of my life, and I have her to thank for it. And I’m pretty sure she’s the only member of the family to read my books.

That’s who she is to me. Obviously, she’s so much more than that–both to the other people who know and love her, and to herself–but I’m flying across the country so that I can hold her hand one last time and think about her.

We are, all of us, impermanent. But the effect we have on others can outlast us, so be sure to pass on love and kindness to the people who need it. It’s important.

But maybe keep your terrible prog-rock music to yourself.

[Update] She passed before I could see her again.