last touches

A friend of mine posted an article on the power of touch.

Everything reminds me of my sister right now, and that's no exception.  But let me start with the day.

Since I've been back in Houston, very few of the friends that I had when I was here have surfaced in my life.  There are a couple of people I love like family, and consider them family, who have come to see me before and after the events of April, and few else.  Today, I was blessed enough to touch base with an old friend.

Like I said, very few people have made any efforts to say, "Hey...stop right there.  I want to see you."  Now, I know that life gets pretty hectic and I'm sure that a lot of them are just busy.  Face it, we grow up, we build careers or have kids, and really, the time left over we are either spending it with our spouses or trying to find spouses.  And those that aren't doing either of those things, are just trying to find themselves.

Anyway, I laughed all morning and got a small token of affection that will go on my wall.  But it makes me realize a lot of things with people that we take for granted.

But to back up, today I was spending time out and about with my husband.  Other than the scheduled visit, we really were just kind of wandering around.  I went into an antique shop I haunt on occasion, and I don't generally drag my husband.  But we were out there and I happened upon a very nice sugar pot with a lid.  Which...of course, reminded me of the fact that Saturday, we are going to spread some of my sister's ashes at the Riverwalk, and I need something to carry it in.

I wouldn't call my religious beliefs conventional.  I'm wandering around this store (the husband broke off to go to about other business for a moment), and I'm talking very quietly under my breath.  I'm asking my sister to help me find something to carry her remains in, because I don't think that carting her around in a ziploc bag is very dignified.  Shortly after, my husband comes trailing along behind me, wandering in my quiet wake through jutting tables littered with antiques, used items, and just plain 'ole junk.

I pause momentarily, looking around.  I see tins that have Spiderman and Star Wars on them.  While my sister loved both, I mulled this is probably not quite appropriate...but I felt compelled to the little hall with these items.  Shaking it off, I made a lap through the booths and came back.  My husband was standing in that spot.  He asks, "What are you looking for?"

So somehow, I wind up explaining about needing urns.  And I tell him that I'm nuts, because I just randomly talk to my sister as if she's there, right beside me.  Maybe I have blown a gasket, but I swear sometimes she really is just hanging out.  And for some reason I had felt compelled to stop in the spot he was standing in.  Then I explained the little tin boxes, and the appropriateness of them because of the fact she loved both Spiderman and Star Wars...but I couldn't see carrying her in a tin lunchbox.

My husband kind of smirked and said, "Look behind you."

On the shelf were two little yellow urns, a matched set, which was fairly inexpensive.  I picked them up, amazed.

"I felt like I needed to stop here too.  When you're doing that kind of thing, you should tell me."

People talk enough to themselves, if someone hears me, they think I'm crazy enough as it is.  Telling people I'm having a one-sided conversation with my dead sister is sure to raise some eyebrows.

But there they were, a mellow yellow color (something she might have picked, but I would never....), side by side and ready to be taken to the counter.  So now I have something to cart her to San Antonio in...

However, back to the article.

One of the most wonderful experiences I had with my sister in her final days was just sitting next to her.  She was watching TV and I'd just gotten off work.  I came over to her, gave her a hug, rubbed my hands across her head and sat in the chair next to her, just rubbing her arm and leg.

"Why are you rubbing me?" she breathed quietly.

"Because I love you," I answered simply.  "I know you're sick, and people don't like touching or being around sick people a lot.  You've been sick for a long time, so it's probably been a long time since anyone's just touched you.....do you want me to stop?"

"No," she said.  "No, it's okay.  Thank you."

And I sat there, rubbing her arm and her leg for a while, just watching TV with her.

That was a precious moment.  That was also the turning point.  I think at that point, she realized exactly how sick she was, because she asked me that night to call for my stepmother and dad to come soon.  I don't know what made her decide it, but once she fixed on it, it was decided.  I called, and with wrangling, the call was Thursday and my father arrived Sunday.  Monday, while I was at work, my sister was admitted into the hospice.  Understating, it was a hard time.

So after acquiring these urns, for the very first time, I unscrewed the box containing my sister's remains in the idea that I was going to put them in the urns, or at the very least, put the divided bags into the urns.

I didn't realize how heavy the remains would be.  The only texture I can compare it to is if you had dealt with pearlite, or perhaps gravel that was made of crushed shell.  I had expected fine powder ash, not this other material that I pulled from the box.

Like a physical blow, standing there with these bags in my hands, it comes to me: this is the last physical remnants of my sister, whom I loved.  This is the last traces of my sister on the earth, other than bric-a-brac and photos that will lose their meanings and their names.  The room lurched a bit, so I laid the bags back down.  I'll try again maybe Friday night.  I know it has to be done, but it is a hard process.  One that I think I must do in parts, both figuratively and literally.

But for all the hardship and heartache, I am blessed, I truly believe.  My sister and stepbrother both came into this world, surrounded by the friends and family that loved them most.  Everyone was there to greet them into life.  And when they made their passage beyond the veil, they were surrounded by friends and family who loved them, said their goodbyes, and prayed for easy passage.  Not everyone is lucky enough to say goodbye.  Or to be able to say the things they feel they need.  But in the end, when you get to it, nothing really matters except the most basic, base feelings.

"I love you.  I'm gonna miss you.  I will think of you always."

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