We both knew this was our last goodbye. It was sweet in a way I can’t describe-decades of shared history-united in a common faith of what was to come.

It has been a year and I have an even greater respect for Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and a greater understanding of her book On Death and Dying.  In it, she explains five stages of grief.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

These are at the foundation of hospice care today. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ greatest desire in publishing her research was that we would more easily approach the subject of death and dying, and in so doing, create an end-of-life experience that provided peace and dignity for the patient and the family.

At the Mayo Clinic when our brother was given his diagnosis of stage 4 Mesotheleoma, it felt like a scene from a movie. Not really a denial but that it simply couldn’t be happening.  At the same time the prognosis six to nine months to live was even more jarring.  Again, I felt like I was floating above the scene – as an observer, not a participant.  It would surely be too painful to take all that in.  While I know I experienced all of these emotions, not necessarily in order, it was in my final visit with my brother that I found peace and acceptance.

It has been a year.  I took a sabbatical.  Is it a form of denial to stop doing the things you love because you lost a loved one and your heart is broken?  I couldn’t send Christmas cards, because among all the chatter and happy news about family, there was the undeniable and breathtaking reality that JD was gone. We were blessed with the birth of a sweet baby granddaughter BUT JD died. I couldn’t find room in my heart and head for both things to coexist. Calling you “sister” was always in the back of my mind, but when I would start to write a blog article for Call Me Sister about something fun or frivolous, between the lines of what I wrote was always the refrain BUT my brother died….

Our family has always been closed and we strive to maintain that unity. We were told by JD’s oldest son that all of us would need to stand up to meet the challenge that he and his siblings would look to us to fill the void in their lives that we collectively would stand in his father’s stead as the head of the family.  So it was bittersweet when we gathered for our mother’s 90th birthday recently.  I felt the shift in my heart. We had all been through our own battle with grief each at different stages on any given day.  But JD’s legacy was alive and well in his children and grandchildren.  And in us his siblings.

I so wish I could attribute the following verses to the author, but that greatest of writers “Anonymous” will get the credit for this inspiring piece on grief.  It speaks perfectly to my year long journey since my brother’s passing.

I had my own notion of grief.

I thought it was the sad time

That followed the death of someone you love.

And you had to push through it

To get to the other side.

But I’m learning that there is no other side.

There is no pushing through.

But rather,

There is absorption

Adjustment

Acceptance.

And grief is not something you complete,

But rather, you endure.

Grief is not a task to finish

And move on.

But an element of yourself-

And alteration of your being.

A new way seeing

A new definition of self.

So, Sisters, what will hold the next year hold for all of us?   I look forward to living it and sharing it with you.