by Laura

We write a ton here about women’s issues, feminism, changing the world; last week was hard week for me, but for a reason closer to home. My sister lost her best friend of 30 years to cancer. Now don’t think this is cautionary tale and I’ll hope this isn’t too maudlin. What I discovered in the first week of mourning for T is that my sister, who I’m getting to know as person, not just a sister, has a wicked sense of humor and we are both laughter through tears kind of people.

The T I knew was beautiful, striking, thin, and blond. The woman you hate just because. I remember her from the 80s, big hair, heavy blue eyeliner, sneaking out with my parent’s house with my sister, causing mayhem only teenagers can. She blossomed as a flight attendant and traveled the world. She came back home when diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She won that battle. It came back 3 years later as lung cancer and literally robbed her of her breath. She was on life support and they had a family meeting about what to do next. T had four (4) brothers that I knew of: 1 younger who shared the same parents and three (3) older who shared the same mom. She didn’t survive ten (10) minutes without assistance.

My sister basically live texted the event to me and it was crushing for both of us. The next day, however…

My sister texted to check on “them” and relayed bits to me. T’s husband and brother had to share a bed (no idea why). They stacked pillows between them so as not to touch each other and had to make room for the dogs. They sent selfies of themselves snuggling.

Later that day, another text: family argument about the obituary (more on that later).

The next day: T’s mom is MIA and the brother was picking out flowers. He said the pink ones. HA HA HA. T’s mom reappeared to complain she should have been the one to do that, so back they go to the florist. My sister and T’s sister-in-law have a task: pick out the dress. My sister asked about foundations, etc. The funeral director says ‘We take care of that’. What does that mean?! You are buried braless and commando? Are things taped?!

I went ‘home’ for the visitation. I held my sister’s hand as we walked up to casket. I commented on the lovely dress. I asked my sister if T had lost her hair again to which she responded affirmatively. She also pointed out T’s wig was crooked and would I cover her so she could straighten it? Um… Then we faced the gathering crowd.

My sister knew all the family so I asked who was who and who that was, etc. Well there are the four (4) brothers from her mother and there are the five (5) siblings from her father. WHAT?! Yes, that was the obituary argument. Turns out one of the brother’s murdered the father but we don’t speak of that. WHAT?! But there is it the youngest brother (allegedly says my sister). There is the husband’s sociopath of a mother and the lady with the plastic face is the husband’s stepmother. Oh, here comes my sister’s ex-boyfriend (like 25 years ago ex) and his sourpuss faced wife.

People were clogging the aisle to speak to T’s husband. Several flight attendants were there and crying. My sister wanted them to do the two-finger pointing thing to show the exits and move along ‘thank you for flying’.

T’s sister-in-law ran out of nice things to say to others and came and joined us. T and this one came to my wedding so I told her we were family and to speak freely. She mentioned finding toilet paper in her own bra and not remembering how it got there. My sister laughed and I left to return home because of another engagement I couldn’t get out of.

I followed up after the funeral the next day. Yes, it went okay. My parents were there but didn’t sit with my sister as she was with the family. There were three (3) women behind my dad gossiping about my sister. My father didn’t know who they were and forget to get a good look at them! I told my sister to get some sleep.

My sister is coping; she is writing a long winded letter to T about everything. She went to the cemetery and noted T has a good view, a little pond nearby, and a bench so she can go sit and visit. She will keep talking to T as long as she can. My sister has a ‘to-do’ list of what to plan before you die: a dress, flip flops, bra and panties (just in case), who is and is not allowed to be in the obituary.

Writing and talking is how she is coping. Me too. This is too long and terribly rambling, but that is how my week felt. But my point today is death is sad and heart wrenching, but if you allow some Steal Magnolias moments, it makes it tolerable. Thank you flying today.

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