Stop and Take the Call
This is the second post in a series this week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!
Other posts in this series:
On Life After Her Death
Dear Jocelyn (Six Months Later)
Shortly before she was intubated, my sister Jocelyn called---Facetimed, actually--- from the hospital in Switzerland. Switzerland because it held hope for beating The Cancer; the hospital because her body had been fighting to breathe and was losing the battle. I was shopping at Target.
She was in good spirits, smiling at me in her gentle way through my cell phone screen, face to face through that little rectangle. My little family and I were wandering aisles together, shopping for nothing important: a case for my iPad, a few household items we needed. It was mostly just an outing together, the kids clothed in hopeful pajamas that suggested they fall asleep on the short drive home.
I almost answered just to ask if I could call her back when we got home. I was trying to choose an iPad case alongside an increasingly restless crew of a husband and three little kids; it wasn't really an ideal situation for a good chat. But there was something that compelled me to answer and not rush through it. She was calling from Switzerland after all: the time difference, calling from the hospital, having been a while since we'd chatted...could have been those things that stayed my first inclination. Although the fear of her dying wasn't deep and cold and real yet---I was still pretty confident she'd be okay after the antibiotics, the anti-fungals, the hospital things ---she was still calling from the hospital and it surprised me, just enough to jar me out of my own practical thoughts and hear the voice from elsewhere saying, "you need to take this call."
I shudder now, to think how close I came to not seeing her and talking with her then, how close I came to brushing it off until later when it was more convenient and appropriate for a chat, the kind of chat I thought we should be having, the kind I wanted to have with my sick sister and her faithful husband. I thank God that I did answer, that I could joke about the hospital equipment she was wearing to help her breathe being a great-looking necklace, that I could make her smile. I'm so grateful I got to take her shopping for iPad covers with me, showing her the ones I was thinking of. She liked one, but I picked the other because we were like that: my style a little wilder, hers more reserved. We started chatting about movies and shows they'd been watching to kill time, but she starting coughing and having trouble and had to go. At some point in the conversation, I remember feeling the need to tell her something---anything---tender. I don't remember what it was, probably something like "you've got this" or "you're doing so good, keep fighting" or "hang in there," but I do remember that I said something, fumbling a bit to communicate what was in my heart in just a few words. But I do remember something said in earnest warmth, and witnessing that it made it through that screen, across the ocean, to her sitting upright in her Swiss hotel room...her small nod, smile, kind eyes glowing.
Our conversation wasn't long, maybe five, seven minutes. It wasn't really unusual that I stayed with the call and said heart-felt things, but they were actions made significant because it would be the last conversation we had here in this life. They had to put her under to intubate her soon after that, an "under" she would never recover from. Years of fighting cancer had left her body too weak to fend off the infections that eventually claimed her life two weeks later.
And now, when the experience comes to mind, it reminds me of the importance of stopping to just take the call. To just take the time, take the deep breath, stop the whirlwind and look and pay attention to what's important.
To just stop and take the call.