“Today is the 28th?” I questioned astonished.
“Yeah, tomorrow is the 29th. Our half birthday!” She smiled at me and I smiled back, but my heart was not in it. She noticed. “What’s the matter?” I sighed, not really wanting to tell her, but knowing I wasn’t that good at poker faces, I gave in.
“It’s my sisters birthday.”
She looked at me with a smile “what? I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“I don’t. I had a sister.” I said it in such a matter-of-fact manner that I alarmed myself.
Her smile suddenly turned to realization. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” She turned away embarrassed and speechless. I felt terrible for having said anything, so I changed the subject quickly.
I don’t want to go into details, but my sister did not live for a very long time. It was only about a week, and her passing was expected even before she was born. She had multiple birth defects. The doctors had recommended an abortion, but my mother said no. There were chances. And even if there weren’t she wanted to love that little girl until she was gone. I was too little to remember too much. I remember the hospital. I remember singing to my sister a few times. I don’t remember her passing. I don’t remember the memorial service. My brother Paul remembers quite a bit. Once when we went to visits the town my sister was born in for a day trip he told me that it was the town that babies go to die. That really struck me as a child.
It feels strange to mourn the loss of someone you never knew. Even selfish. My parents know how to mourn properly about it because they carried her through it all and then loved her as she left us. I didn’t know her as intimately as my mother did. I didn’t understand it. What I mourn, and perhaps selfishly, is who she could have been. Without her broken body, birth defects, and brain damage, who would she have been? Would we have fought a lot? Would we have shared clothes and hobbies together? Would I have had a change to understand the love that only sister can have? I always wonder. I will always wonder.
I have two brothers, whom it love to death, and sometimes want to punch in the face. I wouldn’t trade them for anything though. They are my friends in a kind of strained, all growing up trying to be come ourselves kind of way, but we wouldn’t change anything about one another. All the fights and spats are small in comparison to our friendship, and I suppose losing one of our own helped in that.
Cherish who you have. You never know when you might lose them.