Sara Lukinson has written an extraordinary piece in today’s New York Times, about her relationship with her terminally ill sister and her role as caregiver while her sister is dying.
“What can I do?” I ask feebly. “Be patient,” she says. And I want to hide my inner impatience with shame. Because for decades, I’ve bristled at her edge-of-fear look, that hesitancy before taking a step. Only now it’s longer and deeper. Watching it seize her makes me feel I’m being sucked out of the sky. Her life had become a full-time managing of her disease, hiding the next turn in the road.
But until death is in the room, it’s easier than you’d think to revert to lifelong habits of instant annoyances, petty bickering.
A turn of her head, a certain faraway look, and I could forget she’s sick and get mad at her. I yelled at her not long ago over some important tax forms, I can’t remember anymore why. Horrible me.
Ms. Lukinson goes on to write:
Sitting with her I am calm and furious, loving and angry, knowing what a gift it is to have such a sister. Wretched to be forced, again, into the slavery of disease. Of having to serve it, and bow to it. I want to escape and be in the light of life. Then, I feel gutted and guilty for wanting to flee.
But here is how her essay concludes:
Now, as the breath of life ebbs away, I keep close to her side. She has never seemed braver or more beautiful to me. Still herself, still my sister.
Extraordinary. Both sisters.
Image: Jon Han, The New York Times