“I don't want to do it again” I shouted to my startled sister. I slowly moved towards the window and looked out on the yard and beyond to several trees standing in a group. A harsh March wind blew the freshly budding trees back and forth violently. The chill of the north wind could be felt inside through my thick lounging hoodie, pulled close covering my balding head. “I don't want to take another dose or have them burn me with radiation. It doesn’t work and it won't heal me.” My sister frowned, pleading in her soft eyes. She moved closer, holding my arm to guide me back to my chair.
I sat down and rocked myself back and forth waiting for my sister to speak. She sighed and walked in circles in the stark gray hospital room. The sound of equipment went on and on. It was deafening to me. I closed my eyes and covered my ears. She tried to speak again but nothing came out, standing before me staring into my face with hopelessness. My heart sank with sadness and empathy for her.
“Just give it one more try. You could still get over this and live. Don't you want to go home to your family and friends who are waiting for you? Come on now, get yourself back in bed and let them give you one more dose.” Her words fell on stubborn ears. I would not give her words the benefit of being accepted. “No!” I pulled my feet into the chair and rocked back and forth. The rocking was soothing. As soon as she stopped speaking, I would be tranquil again.
My sister squatted beside me. Looking so sadly into my face. “Please, do it for me. You are the last of my siblings. I wish you would stay so that we can grow old together.”
“ I love you, too. But no. No more.” I sat on the edge of the chair seeking the directions of the fierce winds that were swaying the trees. Wishing I was already as free as the wind in the trees.
A nurse came into the room, an aide at her side. I thought they acted as if they were the hospital police, and became got angry just seeing them standing there expecting me to give in to them just because they wore uniforms. I did not care if the pope came with a following of ten thousand bishops I would not take another dose nor take another burning shot of radiation. They were killing me. I just wanted one more day to live and then I would go to rest forever without their help or hurt.
My sister waved the offenders away, telling them to give me more time. The nurse left but the aide stayed smiling down at me. “How do you feel today?” She asked lovingly. Standing too close to me, but not daring to touch me. I wanted to scream at her. Leave me and let me spend more time with my sister. She is truly going to be alone once I leave. But she could find us when she came to visit us in the land of promise, the place we were going when we leave here. Since she did not get a response from me, the aide quietly left the room.
My sister wiped her eyes. Put the tissue in her sweater pocket. She looked to see if I had seen her wiping away tears. I was beginning to feel depressed. How would I feel if she were leaving me? It hurts either way. I was the one leaving her.
I looked into the wide mirror on the wall just inside my room. I saw a frail haggard woman bent at the waist, gray and black skin on her face and hands. She looked so lost and tired. And ugly! I wanted to hug her gently and lay her dead body back into the grave she had escaped from. But it was only my reflection.
My sister was being selfish. She had always wanted things to go her way. If she wanted me to stay it was for her sake, not mine. I remember taking her lashings when she had broken the rules. Or doing her chores after school, while she hid under the bed talking on the phone. Completing her homework while she slept with a complaint of menstrual cramps.
I loved her terrifically. My baby sister was a free spirit visiting various countries and living in dreadful cities that I would never attempt to visit. Adventurous and daring, loving and living on the edge, never missing a thing. Ever since we were children her life had been full of excitement.
She taught me things we should not have known, forbidden things. She told more lies than lucifer himself and would stand up to overthrow his entire kingdom if anyone threatened my safety. That was her position. She was magical, too. Intrigued our new church minister, married and mystified him until she ran off and married a Peace Corps officer from Nigeria. Her escapades were endless.
She rushed to be at my side from the very beginning of this dreaded disease that claim women's lives hourly. “You do not deserve this. If anyone does, it is I who should be fighting for her life, not you!” Fiery coals of fire, I felt them, were her tears as they streamed from her eyes onto my cheek. We both wept bitterly. I did not feel it was fair either. No one should have to leave their loved ones this way.
Many lovely gifts and flowers were brought to me daily, filling my cold grey room with no more warmth than the chill of the winter wind blowing outside. Gifts from her, were not my sister, just things. Her presence brought warmth and comfort. A sister's Love.
I was tired. I am tired. I am ready to leave this horrible grim life and be free. No more treatments. I chose hospice. I can go home. Problem solved.
My sister knew I would not take any more doses and treatments.
She was robbing herself of contentment, knowing in her soul I would not relent. Convinced with that knowledge, she prepared to spend another night with me, her oldest remaining sibling.
The sun was setting quickly. I reached out to hold her hand. We sat silently looking out the west window. She pulled the cot closer to where we were sitting. “Can I lay down beside you? She sounded like the little sister I remembered talking me into doing something she wanted. I let her lay beside me on her cot.
I will not sleep tonight. I will see my sister in the morning light as she leaves to make my final arrangements. But tonight, I will watch over her.
My sister awakened to find me smiling down into her face. “You need to get some rest. We are leaving in the morning so that we can welcome hospice at your home”.
Wanting to see my dear sister’s face till the end, I had watched her sleep. Remembering her beauty and feistiness in her childhood. I did not want to leave her while she was asleep.
She helped me nestle comfortably into my bed beneath the covers, layering on piles of blankets. I knew the time to leave her had finally come. I was tired of here and ready to go. She sat in the rocking chair near my bed. Held my skinny fragile hand, dropping hot tears onto the back of it.
“You can go when you are ready. I love you so…” the tears choked her words. The wind had ceased its turbulence outside the window, a still unfamiliar silence in the room. Peace.
“I love you, Kiddo,” I whispered, then closed my eyes in sleep.