William-Aldophe Bougereau, 1901

I haven’t written for a couple of days because I was out of town attending a “Celebration of Life.” One of my oldest and best friends lost her sister suddenly on the 12th. Her sister had  just celebrated her 60th birthday.

My friend was eight years younger than her sister but since their mother died young, they had a closer bond than usual. To say that my friend is devastated is an understatement. She thought they had many more years together. Now there is only my friend and her sister’s daughter left in the family. It’s a lonely feeling, I know.

I lost my parents 15 and 13 years ago, which made me the matriarch of the family (as well as an orphan). The only person I have left of our original family is my sister. I don’t know what I’d do if my sister died. Losing a parent is hard, but at least I shared it with my sister. Except for my parents, she’s the one who has known me the longest. We’ve shared a lot, but mostly it’s been a comfort just to know that she’s there.

We fought a lot when we were younger, but we were inseparable as children. Now I’m lucky if I see her once every two or three months, even though we live less than 40 minutes from one another. But we always know that we can pick up the phone and hear each other’s voice. My friend doesn’t have that luxury anymore.

When my father was dying, he told us that one thing he hoped would come out of his death is that my sister and I would grow closer. It didn’t really happen that way. We both turned handled our grief differently and even when we both went through divorces a few years later, we didn’t turn to each other for support. I can’t say that my sister is my best friend. I can’t even say that she knows me that well, or I her. We have totally opposite personalities. She lights up a party and I sit in the corner, observing. She’s always on the go and I take it easy. She does most of the talking, I do most of the listening. She’s always had strong opinions; I keep mine to myself. She’s willing to fight for what she believes in; I’ll do anything to avoid confrontation.

I’ve always admired her and been proud to be her sister. But I’ve also been envious of her for as long as I can remember. In the past year or so, that envy has been coming out in my dreams. In these dreams, I’m always convinced that my parents love her more and the amount of rage I feel about that is overwhelming—and astonishing. I know that envy is part of what I feel toward my sister, but I always figured it was buried deep inside me. It may be, but it seems that my subconscious is bent on dredging it up.

I have a theory about this. I’m 58 years old and my sister is 56.  Dying is something we can’t help but think about at least once in a while. Actually, I think there’s an undercurrent of desperation in the plans that we make for the rest of our lives. We know our time is getting shorter. And we know that some day one of us will die first and leave the other alone. What kind of feelings will we have at the end of our lives? Will we feel satisfied that we did all we could to be close? Or will we be left with regrets and recriminations?

I think my psyche is trying to get my house in order. I don’t necessarily feel that I need to confess my negative feelings to my sister (although I might ask her to read this post). What I really want is that I can lay these feelings to rest and be free to concentrate on all that I have to celebrate about my relationship with my sister. I want her to know how much I love her–and have always loved her. How much it means to me that she’s in the world.

I don’t want to wait until she’s gone to say these things at her funeral or to leave this life not having let her know how I feel. (Actually, I tend to think that I’ll go first; she”ll outlast me out of sheer stubbornness.)  I want to spend the time we have left in this life to return to the closeness we had in our youth. (Keeping in mind that we fought as much as we played together—after all, maybe that’s part of being close.)

My friend is going to have a long road ahead of her as she tries to deal with the loss of her sister. I’ll be here for her as much as I can. But I will never replace her sister. No one can.