Returning to my blog after some years away, I am publishing a personal post on the death of my sister, a bridge over my recent silence.
This is a blog about mysteries, about murder mysteries, and so, in its way, about death. The great mystery writer, Dorothy L.Sayers, as we all know, gave up writing murder mysteries at the time of the second world war, disturbed at the thought of entertaining through murder when the world was absorbed in killing on a massive scale. I have always felt some uneasiness myself with the use of murder for entertainment, and yet I have often read murder mysteries for my own amusement (though I have never been actually amused by horror), and I have even written murder mysteries myself.
But in the last few years I have been dealing with death in my own family, not murder certainly: My only sister died slowly of a rare lung disease, and I found it impossible during this time either to write or read for pleasure the literature of murder. I am emerging from this time, and I will go back to thinking again analytically about murder mysteries, if only because they are such a major feature of the reading, TV and movie entertainment of our times. One can surely ask oneself why this is and I am going again to take up this question.
But first, I am going to take up the question of my sister’s death. When people are dying of “natural causes” we do not talk about murder of course. But dying of “natural causes” rarely seems natural to the people who are going through it, and I have lived in the last couple of years with questions of how the individual deals with “natural dying,” and how society deals with the dying individual. Here is my story of how I experienced my sister’s last years, when I was traveling back and forth between New York City and a nursing home in Caerleon, South Wales.
A Book that Explains Everything
In memory of my sister, Marjorie, who died on February 23 a year ago. She didn’t live to see spring last year. The photograph was taken in her own last spring.
What a powerful personal story! Thank you for sharing it. People who haven’t gone through it find it hard to understand what it’s like to see a loved one through a final illness like that, especially a rare one. I wish you peace and continued healing. Your sister was lucky to have you in her life.
Thank you very much, Margot. It’s nice to be back in touch again. Hope to keep it up!
Dorothy, What a hard piece of writing (describing such a difficult part of living) this must have been for you. It is awfully hard for anyone to feel they have done all they could for a loved one who is dying. The terrible fatigue you describe, the pain, the regret, all of it, so human. Thank you for sharing these memories. My guess is that they may help someone who is going through something similar one day–or who has already done so. I do feel sure that your sister would want you to stop feeling bad about what you didn’t manage to do for her. Because you did so much. So much! ❤
Thank you, Janet, as always. I hope to get back into the blogging community again.
Dorothy, this story touched me deeply. I know you well enough to know that you still carry the weight of your guilt, but I also know that the logistics involved in going to Curro’s that night would have presented even more problems or loss of dignity for your sister, and could have resulted in your own injury. You did the best you could, and you love her. That is worth so much! My heart goes with your sister in her new disease-free existence (which I believe she has now), and my love goes with you here.
This is devastatingly beautiful. Thank you.
I just re-read this post, amd was moved once again by its beauty and candor. Your description of the pain, helplessness, and anger you felt, while facing your sister’s decline and ultimate death are very familiar to me, because I had a similar experience, while trying to care for a very dear friend, as she was approaching death in hospice. For three weeks and in a foreign country, I dissolved her apartment by day and spent evenings sitting at her bedside. I will never forget the pain and anguish of those days: trying to keep her company, console her, and follow her instructions, as to her final wishes. Please don’t blame yourself for not taking your sister to Curro’s or finding the book she wanted. You did the best you could at the time. In hindsight, it’s always easy to see the possibilities that generally allude us at the time. You were tired, because you were grieving the slow and painful death of someone you loved deeply. The brutal honesty of this self-examination shows that concern and love.
Thank you for sharing, and I hope that it has helped you to deal with your loss,
Thank you, Beverly, for writing this. It does help to know that it strikes a cord in your own experience.