148 days

How many days since the 18th of July 2022? Google says it is 148.

Today is the day I finally accept, with my mind, that my sister is dead.

Many times people describe dreams with events happening haphazardly, unlikely people making an appearance, and no concession to time and space. The current President could appear in your dream, but somehow you are a six year old child looking for a desk to sit at on your first day of school. And the sky is raining fire. Sometimes I have more rational dreams, with events and characters that are quite realistic.

But in the case of my sister’s death, it is like I am trapped in the first type of dream, wild and nonsensical. I have to force my mind to accept the unacceptable but for my heart; that one has refused. When I try, it threatens to burst.  

A few weeks after she was gone, I found myself alone for once, in a hotel room where I was working a gig. I did not have to put on a brave face for my children, who I had left at home.

“Let me try to cry,” I decided.

The sound that came out frightened me, I thought the hotel staff might come banging at my door to find out who was trying to murder a terrified animal.

I swallowed my tears. And then it came, a terrible headache that forced me to lie down. My left arm throbbed with pain too. I took deep belly breaths.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

I prayed the Psalm over and over until I had calmed down enough to take a shower and sleep. 

This is a dream and it is a nightmare.

Twenty something years ago, my brother sombrely drove our mum, my sister, my baby and I to our uncle’s house for Christmas lunch. We had buried Daddy that week. 

“I will not be here next Christmas,” Mummy quietly declared.

We said nothing. What was there to say?

The next year, I watched the fireworks on TV, showing countries in different time zones welcoming the new millennium.  Mummy had stayed in the old one.

And now, Google Photos is trying to get me into the festive spirit, bringing up pictures from last year’s holiday season. My sister’s last one.

I see the photo where the children are called to cut the cake at my aunt’s place. Lots of cousins and other relatives full of Christmas lunch. My sister counts herself as one of the babies, and proceeds to cut the cake with the little ones. She was the baby of our family and for 43 years, had considered her position set in stone. Our parents had always indulged her and when they were gone, so did my brother and I.

She was the life of the party. She came up with all sorts of reasons to party. She made sure even homebodies like me made it to the party. Born with sickle cell disease, she was a warrior who refused to let the condition with its pain and sudden crises spoil the party.

As we take a night time drive through town and admire the buildings decorated with lights, my daughters suddenly ask the question that happens to be on my mind as well.

“What type of Christmas will it be without auntie?”

What type of life will it be without her? I am yet to cry. My head hurts all the time and the ache in my left arm has spread to my leg. Sometimes, when I just want to send her a text about baby daddy issues, or forward a home décor website with her favourite colour scheme, the right side of my body begins to hurt as well. I want to hear her laugh so bad. Her laughter was usually aimed at me and I loved it because it allowed me to laugh at myself. To relax a bit from being so responsible and uptight.

My sister Stella died. And I have to accept it. Somehow.


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