We were on a plane, the sun was shining through the windows. I sat next to her as we looked out high above the clouds. We talked about the magnificence of it all. She told me how she pictured heaven, like this, like the view we had now above the clouds with deep blue sky and a bright sunny haze. Everything at peace, endless peace.
Three months earlier, she had started having trouble walking. Her balance was off; she wasn’t quite right. The doctors told our parents she had six months. There was a tumor growing in her brain near the brain stem. When our parents told us the facts, I pictured the brain stem like a flower. The stem had an illness and soon the beautiful flower would no longer bloom. SHE would not blossom into the wonderful woman I just knew she could become.
Her blonde pigtails were her trademark. But soon, they would have to cut those in preparation for the brain surgery. Soon, she would no longer even look like herself. I was scared but I was trying to be brave for her. We were on our way. She had a dream. Her dream was to go to Disneyland. That is where we were headed.
Disneyland, a land where adults and kids alike could pretend inside the walls, that they were little and protected forever. Pretend that there was no such thing as sickness or pain or suffering. Dream big and live happily ever after. For a while, we could escape. We would escape for one whole week and we had the time of our lives. We laughed together, told stories together, dreamed together and planned. We planned for a future, a way distant future. We planned every last detail. Her wedding, her first baby and her baby’s baby. We planned it all.
Getting back was hard. We had to face reality again. We were back to where it was all happening. We could no longer escape. Back to the sterile hospital and scary procedures. Back to the sounds of the medical equipment and back to no guarantees.
We still had each other and we fought, not with each other, but with the cancer. We fought through the brain surgery, through our parents’ fears and their tears. We reassured each other; we’d always be there for each other.
When hospice came and helped her; I laid beside her not knowing if she could hear me. How peaceful she looked lying there, with her head on the pillow. So innocent as I watched her chest rise and fall with each deep breathe. And, then, I began to tell of our dreams. I told the stories we had told each other in Disney when we had escaped for that one precious week.
I described for her, in intimate detail, the story of her wedding. I told her about her baby and how happy she was the day her baby was born. I told about the growing years and of her grandchildren. Through each day and night, I pieced together her future for her and spent countless hours lying next to her as she lay still, not knowing if she could even hear my words.
And, one morning, as she lay, taking deep gasping breaths, I held her hand and told her I loved her. I told her how much she would be missed but that she was free to go away from the pain and up into that big blue sky with endless clouds and endless possibilities. She had done her job here on earth. And as she left me, I kissed her gently and told her what a wonderful sister she had been and how I couldn’t have imagined life without her.