November to Remember
In September I wrote about saying goodbye to Serena Williams and to summer. Little did I know I’d be saying goodbye to my sister, Maxine, who died of pancreatic cancer on October 7th.
Of course, we knew the odds weren’t great— only 8% survival rate for that cancer, but gone so soon after a mid-July diagnosis? Since her epic funeral on October 22 with over 400 people in attendance, November has been for us “remembrance day” every day.
Growing up in Jamaica there was a nursery rhyme to remind us of hurricane season: June too soon. July stand by. August it must. September remember. October all over.
The hurricane that blew into our lives with her illness and death, I fear will not be over soon. There is no hurrying grief, I’m reminded, not as the therapist, but as the client. No way around grief but through it.
Grief is raw, real, and so present every moment, attached to you like own your skin. It’s utterly exhausting emotionally and physically. Many days I wake up feeling nauseous at the thought of her death and the finality of it. She’s gone! My mom said, “It’s like she disappeared.” Some days I forget, and I want to call her, to laugh with her, to ask her to bake the cake only she can make, to start planning Christmas with her…
Instead, I remind myself to tell my husband and children, “I love you.” To connect with family and friends I’ve been meaning to call or text. To clean out closets, cabinets, and dusty drawers—do the Swedish “death purge” thing. Do what I’ve been meaning to do, including write. I remind myself of all this and more because it has been a November to remember.
The poem below is in memory of my sister--a shining, smiling soul in all seasons, even in sickness.
Like a yellow leaf
freshly fallen on forest floor
she lands lightly
gathered in with gold
beauty—an early autumn
after summer’s shortened days
and while we gaze at what’s gone
she’s skipped winter’s
for her eternal spring,
forever vernal is she
shining in all her seasons.