Forgive my imperfections with this post, it’s been an incredibly long day.
I feel weird sharing this with anyone because, ultimately, this act has nothing to do with anyone else. Not even my sister. But I don’t know, it’s me regardless.
I didn’t get to say bye to my sister. I didn’t want to say bye either. I had accepted that her life would be taken by cancer a long time ago and as the disease ran its course it became more and more obvious that there would be no going back. So when I went to see her last month, although I knew that would be the last time I would see her, I still didn’t want to say goodbye. I mean, how do you look someone in the eye, a family member even, and admit to them that there life is about to be over. I don’t care how accepting of the reality of the processes of life and death you embrace, there is a very real and understandable block to facing this reality. So I didn’t necessarily say goodbye to her.
And now she is gone. And that absence is incredibly real now. Despite her house being overwhelmed with friends and relatives, there was a hugely noticeable absence. Every time my family was together this weekend that absence filled the room. This is something we are going to have to deal with from here on out. Sure, it will get easier with time, but it will always be sad.
So today we conducted her funeral and the reality that I didn’t get to say goodbye to her began to hit me head on and I know, for my own comfort, that I have to do this at some point. Ultimately, as selfish as it sounds, this is for me and no one else. Not even Cari. I didn’t want to say goodbye to her when I saw her last and I’m ok with that. And now, well, now it would merely fall on deaf ears. But I need to do this regardless, because she was my older sister, and during the ceremony today I realized in what way will be most comforting to me.
I broke down today after the funeral. I have been doing good all week, but after I helped push her casket into the hearse and it began to drive away, I suddenly felt the urge to be alone. Of course, the entire congregation was standing behind us and I had to walk by most of them for some private space. I didn’t make it very far though. I found a doorway in a hallway and completely broke. It was good for me, I realize this, but it was/is rough. I was just incredibly sad and so many memories of my sister came crashing through the surface. She was, truly, an older sister and she very much looked at me as her younger brother. She looked out for me so much…I can’t even remember how many times she pulled her older sister card to get kids to stop picking on me or stealing my lunch money or all sorts of other esteem-crushing moments. But more than that, she always wanted to be a part of my accomplishments. She was so excited when my son was born. She was very interested in my writing. And, of course, we always shared the bond of running. And as much as she enjoyed hearing about my life I enjoyed having her to tell it to. I know, in some way or another, she was really proud of me.
She had always asked me when I was going to run a marathon, but I had never resolved to do it until a handful of months ago. As many as she has run, I was really looking forward to sharing my experience with her and having one more mirrored moment with her. I wanted to see her reaction when it was all said and done.
Cari was always my closest family ally, and when I was sitting on the floor breaking down, I began to realize how much we had shared in common, from our love of literature, to writing, to running, and I really began to understand how much of myself I just lost in her passing. And I never got to say goodbye.
So as contrived and predictable as it might sound, I know how I am going to say goodbye. She’s going to run the Chicago Marathon with me, maybe as a small gesture pinned to the back of my jersey. I think she would appreciate that and it feels most fitting to me, not as a gesture of sadness and despair, but instead a celebration of who she was and the many bonds we shared as brother and sister. She won’t know I’m going to do this and that is completely and fully ok with me, but she’ll be there one last time all the same.
Man I’m going to miss her.
9 miles in the Lake Elmo Nature Reserve. (I was going to write about the stunning beauty of my last two runs, but I no longer have the energy, regardless, if you ever make it to Minneapolis, please find your way to run there. You won’t regret it.)