“I just feel like… there’s no time left. Like I am out of time… don’t you ever feel like that?” My older sister stood before me, crying and anxious.
Ohmygod. She even cries beautifully.
That was my first thought. The next was to wonder what the hell she was even talking about. Her life had always been perfect.
My sister was 38, a former cheerleader, model, and beauty pageant winner. She was married to her high school sweetheart with whom she had three wonderful kids. She had a successful career and was still so breathtakingly beautiful that other women would often try to emulate her style.
What do YOU have to cry about? Seriously. Ugh.
I hugged her to me, unsure what to say next because honestly, she was weirding me out. I didn’t know where her uncomfortable emotional deluge was coming from, but I wanted it to end. I was eleven years her junior. The little sister. Why is it suddenly my job to help her while she loses her shit for no apparent reason?
I proceeded to tell her she was silly to feel the way she did. I discounted her sense of dread by blaming her feelings on stress and/or hormones. I tried to get her “back to normal” as soon as possible with my cheery, empty encouragement.
Less than one year later, I received a call from my panicked mother saying my sister had collapsed at home while getting ready for work.
My sister had died of a brain aneurysm.
She was 39 years old.
Perhaps my sister knew, by way of some premonition, that her time was nearing an end. I will never know what was on her mind.
If I could have one more day with her, I would choose to return to when she told me she felt there was no time left. I would take her to get one of those fancy coffees she adored and I would just would sit with her and listen.
I would listen for as long as she’d speak.
"Let me cook for you."
She smiles, sitting back in the oversized recliner. I hand her a box of More cigarettes and cheap Bic lighter. "Sorry, I don't really have an ashtray. You'll have to use one of these bowls." It's a Fiesta, dark blue. It belonged to her back when she lived in Savannah. I babble a little as I continue. "Mores are hard to find now. Hell," I pause, making eye contact through her large framed glasses, "I mean, heck, uh...well, my Walmart doesn't even sell smokes anymore, but I never picked up the habit, myself."
"It's ok, sugar." She grins, and she says shugah instead of sugar and it's a voice and accent I've not heard in forty years. I get a lump in my throat.
Pressure builds behind my eyes, and I turn away before I lose the reins on my emotion. I busy myself with tenderizing cubesteak before dredging it in flour.
I feel her watching me in the kitchen. It's not an uncomfortable silence, but I don't particularly like the smell of the tobacco. It isn't unpleasant, per se, because it's tied to early childhood memory. Other than the nostalgia, though, it isn't great. I try my best to ignore it, getting lost in the prep. I decide to ask, since it's the elephant in the room.
"Where have you been?" I look up from the stainless steel bowl filled with flour and beef.
She sighs, flicks ashes into the empty bowl. She reaches over and takes a sip of instant tea from the Coke tumbler that looks like stained glass. It's Lipton, because I couldn't find Nestea. The cup wasn't hers, but it is one that looks just like what she used to use. I bought it on eBay a few years ago because it reminded of her. I say none of these things, waiting for her to answer me.
She clears her throat and looks up at me. "I can't talk about that, baby. Just know it's a good place."
"Like in that tv show with Kristen Bell?" I half-joke.
"I don't know who that is."
Of course she doesn't.
"So there aren't movies where you've been? No television?"
She smiles sadly. "I can't talk about that, baby. Tell me about you."
We have decades to catch up on in just a few hours. I fill her in as best I can. I try to describe the influence she's had on me.
I try to describe the impact her absence has had on me.
I'm not sure I do a great job, but she finishes her cigarette and gives me a hug. I try not to get flour on her gingham shirt.
For a moment, all I smell is her Worth perfume. All I feel is the warmth from her arms. The world falls away and my grandmother stands with me in my kitchen, and I feel like I'm an eight year old again.
I don't particularly like feeling like a kid again, but I do like the feeling of my whole world being filled with the love and tenderness of a grandparent.
"Let me help you in here," she says, tenderly.
I feel a little like she doesn't trust my skills, but I welcome her. Together, we laugh and work and clean as we go.
"You still love corn and peas?" she teases me, stirring.
"Yes ma'am, but I don't fry much." I lay the cuts of cubesteak in bubbling grease.
"I know this used to be your favorite meal. I hope you have French's."
"It's the only worcestershire I buy," I laugh.
The meal is prepared and plated and we sit at the table. I had to clean it off; it's been nothing more than a catch-all for years. I usually take my meals on the couch, watching television. She tells me stories from her youth that I've never heard; featured prominently are tales of she and her sister back when they taught school together just out of college.
She asks me about my education and job, and I tell her about the things I've done and the degrees I studied.
Her eyes mist and a single tear forms. She tells me how proud she is to hear about me finishing college and making a career.
I'm forced to admit that her career and mine share some parallels, and I have to name the influence for what it is.
I ask her how much longer we have, and she just smiles sadly.
"Not enough, sugar."
She holds my hand, and her grip is strong and sure. I remember the last time I held it, the sounds and smells of the hospital. I remember the strength of her grip then, how she put on a good show of being fine. How I thought, somehow, that she'd be home in a few days after some treatment.
"I was a dumb kid," I blurt out.
She laughs at me. "No, you were just a kid. My job was to protect you."
"But you left me," I couldn't help but cry. Tears explode, and I'm a wreck.
She wraps me in those strong arms again, and decades of grief flow.
"I'm proud of you," she says. "You did a fine job." I almost think she's talking about the meal, but I look at her and I think she means something completely different.
"How are you here?" I have to know.
She reaches up and wipes away my tears. "Oh, baby. This is a dream, but that doesn't make it any less real."
I wake with a start, content.
I swear I can almost smell Worth perfume and More cigarettes when I sleepy-stumble into the kitchen.
My heart skips a beat when I notice ashes in her old blue Fiesta bowl.
A DAY MORE
Just one more day, I wish I had with you if then I knew what I know now...that you'd be gone...
I wouldn't have it any other way but to spend as much time as is allowed me...permitted Us to do all the things we could possibly fit in a single 24 hour day.
Lie down in the comfort of your lap, rest my head on your shoulder to sleep, or softly smile as I read aloud a book while in your arms or we two, look up at the stars in the evening sky as we talk about our dreams.
Wishing for Tomorrow
The old grandfather clock in the corner of the dimly lit room chimed softly, its melancholic chime echoing through the empty house. Anne sat cross-legged on the threadbare carpet, her fingers tracing the intricate patterns of the rug as tears welled up in her eyes. The room was filled with the hushed whispers of nostalgia and the heavy weight of grief that seemed to hang in the air.
Just a week had passed since her grandfather's death, but the void he left behind felt like an eternity. She missed the way he used to sit in his worn-out armchair by the fireplace, reading her stories of adventures in far-off lands. She missed his hearty laughter and the smell of his pipe tobacco that lingered long after he'd gone outside to tend to his beloved garden.
As Anne settled into her bed that night, exhaustion weighed heavy on her, but her heart was still heavy with longing. She closed her eyes, her thoughts once again drifting toward the impossible wish she held deep within her.
As she fell into a restless slumber, her dream began to weave a tapestry of memories and wishes. In her dream, Anne found herself back in the cozy house where she grew up, the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the air. The familiar creak of the front porch steps heralded his arrival, and there, standing at the doorway, was her grandfather.
Tears of joy welled up in Anne's eyes as she rushed into his outstretched arms. He hugged her tightly, just like he used to, and his voice was warm and reassuring as he whispered, "I'm here, my dear Anne. We have one more day together."
In this dreamlike day, they did everything Anne had ever wanted. They wandered through the woods, the sun dappling through the leaves as her grandfather shared stories of his youth. They tended to the garden, the scent of roses filling the air, and her grandfather's laughter rang out as they tossed soil and shared secrets.
Time seemed to stand still as they sat on the porch, watching the world go by. Her grandfather's wisdom flowed freely, and Anne hung on to every word, cherishing this last opportunity to learn from him.
But even in the dream, Anne could feel the day slipping away, like grains of sand through her fingers. As the sun dipped below the horizon, her grandfather took her hand, his eyes filled with love and pride. "It's time for me to go, my dear," he said gently.
Anne clung to him, tears streaming down her face. "Please, Grandpa, don't leave me again. Just one more minute."
He smiled sadly and kissed her forehead. "I'll always be with you, Anne. In your heart and your memories."
And then, just as quickly as the dream had begun, Anne woke up, her room bathed in the soft light of dawn. Her cheeks were wet with tears, and she knew that her one more day with her grandfather had been nothing more than a dream, a beautiful but fleeting illusion.
She sat up in bed, her heart heavy but filled with a newfound sense of purpose. With clasped hands, she whispered a prayer to the heavens, "Dear God, please protect my family and all the people I love. Watch over them, keep them safe, and grant us more time together."
As the sun continued its ascent in the sky, Anne knew that life would go on, but her love for her grandfather and her yearning for one more day with him would forever be a part of her. And with every new day, she would honor his memory by cherishing the time she had with her loved ones, praying for their safety, and hoping for more moments of togetherness in the days to come.
When I was about sixteen years old, my Dad took my sisters and I on a Sunday trip around B&Q (a hardware store in England) and we chatted about theme parks. I followed in his footsteps in that I was a little thrill-seeker just like him. We said we wanted to visit Alton Towers, a theme park about three hours away from my home (which to me, quite untraveled, was a fair distance). We said we would go the next year.
To me he would live forever, he was the strongest person in the world. To him, the back brace to hold his spine in place squeezed a little too tightly for future rollercoaster adventures, but he was as enthusiastic as me all the same. If we could have one more day together, we'd splash out on those pricey queue-skipping tickets and ride Nemesis and Oblivion, and drift along the Congo River Rapids. Then we'd have pizza and donuts, and get keyrings made of our terrible ride photos.
If I just had one more day.
I wouldn't be able to live with myself, knowing you'd be gone the next.
Knowing of your impending doom,
I would place myself on the sword with you.
We were supposed to stay alive together.
We were supposed to live for each other.
If you came back today,
I would scream at you.
I would ask all the questions you wouldn't want to be asked,
you shedding tears and begging for my forgiveness.
I would embrace you. I wouldn't be able to get my tears to stop.
I would hold you, so close.
I would send all my love through me into you,
give you my love,
my very own life.
I would give it all for you to be here,
to see your smile again. To laugh with you. To talk about trees and singing and life.
To ask each other the questions no one wants to ask.
If you came back for one more day,
I wouldn't be able to go on.
I couldn't live, knowing you wouldn't be here.
I had to grow so much since you left, I'm not, nor ever will, be the same.
All because of you.
If only I had one more day to spend with you-
I don't know what exactly I'd do,
but I know I'd do anything you asked me to do.
I would run away with you forever,
if it meant you wouldn't walk away.
And if I had one more day to be by your side,
I'd never leave it, even for a second.
My eyes would be glued to you,
same with my arms- you'd never be able to leave.
And if I had one more day to tell you what you meant to me,
I'd write you poem after poem,
because you could never resist me when I did.
You kept them folded up in your wallet,
and now, I wonder, if you kept them.
But nonetheless, I'd write you so many,
your pockets would overflow
with the love I never anticipated an ending for.
And if I could love you for just one more day,
without being clingy,
or holding onto hope for too long,
I would put every single thought into you.
I would manifest my love for you into everything I said and did.
I would reassure you when you didn't ask for it,
I would get down on my hands and knees and pray to the Lord
that you never leave.
But most of all,
I'd hold onto you so tight,
that you could never let go,
or even want to.