When I started this blog in 2011, it was because my sorrow was so much, overflowing, that I needed an outlet. I started the blog for myself. After I poured my heart out on my blog posts, a year had gone by since she passed. As time went on and life returned, I did not have the same urgency to write. But today, actually just now, I realized I might have started the blog for myself but I needed to keep writing for her daughter. As intimately as I knew my sister, memories do fade or they do not come up by command as easily as before. I need to write down everything I remember of my sister so I could tell her daughter, Ashley, about her mother when she is ready.
Just now, I was lying on the couch because of another tummy ache (an old problem I have. My sister, Angela knows about it ). As I lied there looking up at the ceiling, my eyes drifted to the crown molding and whom flashed through my mind? you, Angela, it was you. I thought about how when we first showed you this new house we were moving into before the birth of my first child, you spotted the crown moldings and could not contain your excitement. You loved everything about houses, you loved looking at houses and everything to do with houses. You were so thrilled to see the crown moldings, that you were pretty much skipping and kept saying “oh, look, the crown moldings are all over the house, not just the dining room, or the living room, but the kitchen and the front foyer too!” You were so excited. That was what I loved about you. Your enthusiasm was so innocent and pure. Your enthusiasm was contagious. Your smiles were exuberant and your exclamations, all your oohs and ahs, infectious.
I remember how much you loved making a house neat and beautiful. Ever since you were young, you would put away things constantly. Our house was not the neatest and no one in our family really cared about that, but not you. You would put things away but then would sometimes forget where you left them! We used to get soooo mad when we couldn’t find our things. We would mutter “oh, Angela must have put that away again.” and yelled for her “Angela, where did you put my things?”. You would come and either told us where or sheepishly said “I think it is …..”
I remember one year, for your birthday when you were in high school, I bought a bowl for you. Yes, a very odd present but not really, if you knew Angela. It is a fancy bowl, a single fancy bowl. Yes, you would have preferred a whole set once you had your own family but for now, a single fancy bowl is sufficient. From a single fancy bowl, I could guess what you would like in your kitchen cupboards and cabinets when you have your own family.
You were just starting all that but then this brain cancer thing cut it all off, all your plans for house decorations, for silverware, for picture frames, for hardwood, all those dreams of building your home, all cut off.
So Ashley, I hope one day you can read this blog and know more about your mom. Maybe you will be like her and loves making your house cozy and beautiful.
It’s been three years since you left us. I went to the mausoleum to see you the other day. It was freezing cold, the day after the March snow storm. We had to park the car somewhere else because our usual parking spot was blocked with snow.
I prayed for you, chanted sutra for you and asked you to come to my dreams to let me know how you are doing.
I dreamt of you the other day. We were both visiting parents in Taiwan and were at home, our childhood home and we suddenly realized that we should not be spending our precious vacation time at home, that we should go outside and taste all the yummy food that we used to love in Taiwan.
I remember the first year after you passed, you were your sick self in my dreams, swollen from drugs and vacant in your facial expressions. But as time goes on, you are back to your normal self in my dreams, the cheerful, smiley beautiful sister of mine.
Your daughter Ashley came over for play the other day. She is becoming bigger now and I can carry an almost adult like conversation with her. I asked her about her school, about her favourite colours and what she does at home after school. Did you know that she likes to pick her own outfit, already, only 4 years old? Did you know yes, like most girls, her favourite colour is pink? Did you know that she likes wearing jewellery already? Did you know, that although she looks more like your husband, her bubbly, cheerful and social personality is more like you?
It’s been three years but I still think of you everyday. Life goes on but you live forever in my heart. Kevin`s friend`s wife`s is dying from brain cancer too, the same type you had, I think. I sometimes go through events leading up to you““r diagnosis and all the operations you had during that one year after diagnosis, as if searching for some clues. I do not know why it seems so important that I remember exactly when each operation was and when you got diagnosed and when your visitation and funeral was. But anyway, I wrote all those things done, all the dates, not long after you passed.
I miss your smiles the most and you calling me “second sister“. I miss all the times that we could have, should have together. When I discover a new restaurant, I think to myself, “oh, Angela would love this place.
I didn’t finish the post but for no reason today (almost a year after) thought to pick it up and continue.
Happy New Year, my sister.
Ashley came over this holiday. I gave her a necklace and a bracelet for her Christmas presents. I thought about how many wonderful things you would have gotten from me had you were still around. All the great presents my students gave me. Remember the first year I started teaching? I could not contain my joy when I received all those awesome gifts and I passed so many on to you. Ashley still does not look like you. Still waiting for you to see you in her. She is showing more interest in you and I make a point of talking about you when she comes to visit. She is also asking more questions than before.
Holiday time is the hardest because it is a reminder that our whole family can never get together again, the whole point of the Christmas season. At least not for a while. I am sure when I pass, you will be there greeting me.
I cried many times this holiday when I thought of you. Driving to school, listening to the music you loved and reading books that reminded me of losing you.
Please visit me in my dreams again. I have not seen you for so long, not even in my dreams. I miss those dreams.
Happy New Year. My dear sister.
I am reading a book about someone that lost her sister too, to a car accident. She also wrote a goodbye letter to her sister just like what I did and she also believed she will see her again, in heaven.
You were with me when I read the book.
Love, your sister.
You have left us for two years now. March 12, 2011, the day you died. I remember this was how our uncle comforted mom.
You passed away just one day after the tsunami in Japan where thousands or is it millions of people got washed away into the sea. So uncle said,” just think of Angela as one of the tsunami victims.” I don’t think that is much comfort at all. On the contrary, I think it is a very inconsiderate thing to say, as if he is making light of your death. I know he meant well though.
Two years you have left us and I still dream about you so often. I will go through weeks that I dream of you pretty much everyday or every other day and then weeks that I don’t dream of you at all.
A few days after visiting you at the mausoleum the last time, which was around Chinese New Year, I had a dream about you. One of the good ones. In the dream, both of us were wearing the traditional Chinese dress. You were wearing a black and dark blue one and had your hair done up in two tiny buns on the side of your head. Someone was doing up the buttons on the dress for you and I said to you ” Angela, you look so pretty!”, and you smiled your big, beautiful, sunny smile that everyone who knew you loved. And then I knew that you are okay, wherever you are, you are happy and you are okay.
I remember about a month before you were diagnosed, my right eye lid began to jerk involuntarily for quite long at a time, about 10 minutes at a time, every day for many times a day and I was beginning to get concerned. It was not one of those weak jerks. They were jerks that you could feel when you put your finger on the eyelid. This went on for a whole month, I would say and I actually called the family doctor and was advised to see him if this continued. And then soon after that, the jerks stopped but the a few days or was it weeks after, we learned of your dire diagnosis.
Before this, I was very skeptical of the folk belief in China and Taiwan, that if a female’s right eye lid jerks, then it is bad news. For men, it would the left eye lid. But since then, I have come to give this mystic belief more thoughts than ever before.
Did you know that last summer, my right eye lid began jerking again, which in the past, I would simply dismiss as another strange way the body works. But after what happened to you, I started to wonder if anything bad was going to happen again. I believe the intensity and frequency and how long the jerks last co-relate with the severity of the incidents that will befall. Now last summer, the jerks were milder, not as strong and lasted for only about one day. But then you know what happened the next day? or a few days after? I tripped and fell on the way upstairs while holding a glass bottle of Jason’s milk and the glass shattered and cut the palm of my hand quite badly, bad enough that I had to go to emergency to get stitches. I can’t remember how many stitches. I just remember that it was 3am when I finally a doctor was available to sew me up and the doctor told me before he gave me the anesthetics that I can shout and swear (did he say I could swear or did I imagine that?) but I had to stay absolutely still. The shot was the most painful shot I got, because it was right on my palm. Of course not as bad as childbirth but I digress. Anyway I remember thinking as I was getting the shot, which felt like forever but was probably just a few minutes, how brave you were. You went through three brain surgeries in one year. I remember just after the second surgery, you were reclining on the couch, resting and you told me how much the shot on your wrist hurt. You said it was soooooooo painful. So as the doctor was giving that shot, I was telling myself, if Angela can do it, so can I.
Ashley, your daughter, came over for a playdate just this past weekend. She is doing well and getting to be such a big girl. She loves dancing and says she wants to be a ballerina. She is a smart girl but doesn’t look like you at all which is a petty. I try to find traces of you in her but hard as I try, I can’t see it. I hope someday I will see you in her.
Our big sister planted a tree to remember you as March 12 is tree planting day in Taiwan. I hope you have received the tree.
We love you very much and think of you everyday. You are still alive in our thoughts, memories and words, our conversations. I am also keeping you alive by wearing your clothes. I wear the pajama pants you left behind, the winter jacket I got you because it was such a good deal and I gave it to you as a surprise even though there was no special occasion, I wear the dress that you bought from Taiwan at your honeymoon trip. I wore your boots but they wore out so quickly and only outlived you by about an year.
I have quite a fashion sense now and a style of my own. You would have loved my style. I wish you could see my new wardrobe with all the new items I got since you passed away. Remember we used to show each other every new buy we got?
It is very nice catching up with you. I know you are doing well wherever you are and I still maintain that we will see each other some day, next life.
Oh,,, one thing you left behind, yes, the unpleasant “side effect” of your death is my insecurity. I can’t shake off the fear that something awful may happen to me or my loved ones, my boys, parents and husband. I have to restrain myself from going into this abysmal of fear of the unknown and the fear of the terribly impossible, which was what happened to you, the terribly impossible made possible.
But well… it is something I am not going to fight off but something I am going to coach myself through. Yes, life is full of the unpredictable, unfortunately both good and bad. I just have to live everyday to the fullest and be prepared for whatever is to come. Certainly easier said than done but nevertheless, something that I have to strive for.
Our happiness is very real and yet very fragile. It can be shattered any minute. A car accident, an illness….etc. anything but we just have to pray for the best and let the rest go.
Love you forever, my sis.
Please visit me in my dream anytime you like and tell me anything you like in my dream. We shall meet again.
Your loving and loyal sister.
I continue to have dreams about my sister. A lot of them actually. The dreams sadly are reflecting the reality, the reality of her absence. I can’t remember the details of my dreams, but they all end with her absence.
In a recent dream about her, my sister and I were waiting to get on the airplane. We were both cheerful and excited about the trip. At the last minute, something came up, and she just had to take care of it first. So she decided to leave me in a hurry to go on the plane alone. So I boarded alone. I remember it was a very empty plane.
Another one was at home, I was talking to my husband’s family and I blurted out my sister name, twice, calling her name out loud. Everyone was looking at me weirdly, not saying anything and I started crying, running up the stairs for escape and yelled out on the way ” well, I have been thinking about her and I can’t help it!”, then I woke up, my mouth wide open in a gape of agony, tears streaming down my cheeks. That also happens a lot. The tears touching my cheeks and the sniffling would wake me up from my dreams.
So you see, the dreams are really not much relief from reality. They just confirm her absence.
It is a Sunday morning. I am lying awake in the wee hours of the morning. My son had waken me up when he got up to go to the washroom and now I can’t sleep. I lay awake listening to the sound of the rain outside. I like the sound of the rain, its rhythm and beat. Today the rain sounds soothing. I hear the rain and I see my sister and I, little girls, no more than ten, walking together, one of her arms looping around my arm. We are walking together in the rain, under an umbrella. I am holding the umbrella. We are chatting and smiling, half skipping, half walking in the rain.
My sister and I. When we were growing up, my sister and I loved walking in the rain. When mom sent us outside for some quick chores, like taking out the garbage when it was raining, we would grab an umbrella, quickly dropping the trash on the curb and started our walk down the street. The street in front of our house when we were growing up had a dead end. There was usually hardly any traffic and the neighbourhood kids would play on the street. My sister and I would walk together in the rain, under the umbrella. We loved listening to the rain coming down on the umbrella, the pitter patter of the rain. We also loved the puddles of course. Together under the umbrella, we felt like we were the only two people in the world, safe under the umbrella. We would walk to the end of the street, and then back home again, back to reality.
The dead end has since gone. Now it is a busy street with heavier traffic and last time I went back home, I did not hear any kids playing.
Lying awake at dawn, trying to get back to sleep. My sister creeps into my thoughts again. It is often in the quiet of early morning and late night, when there is no distraction, that she comes to me.
The holiday season is especially hard for those who’s lost a loved one. This is the time that you feel their absence more keenly, painfully and acutely than ever. You see their absence around the Christmas tree, around the dinner table when the whole family gathers round, the clinking of glasses that is missing one “cheers!”.
The holiday season is no longer pure joy, it now has a tinge of bitterness.
I still dream about my sister all the time. In my dreams, she always ends up rejecting us in someway. She is either leaving us or dying. I guess this is my way to process the fact of her death, through the many of her deaths that I have to face in my dreams.
On some level, I still cannot believe she is gone. I don’t know if ever I will truly comprehend what has happened.
Buddhists say that death is part of life so there is nothing to mourn about what death comes. It makes sense to me but it is still hard to accept death.
Death is terrible in its finality. There is no negotiating, no second chances and no hope. When you die, you die. There is no ands, ifs or buts. It is final in every sense.
When someone dear to you dies, you start to find some comfort in other people’s sad stories. It sounds morbid but it is true. You feel better when you read stories about a certain young person who died from a car accident, about people who died from all those horrible shootings, from people who also died from cancer. Not that you actually feel good about their losses, you just feel better because you are not the only one that has lost a dear one.
I remember telling my parents about a recent Yale graduate who died from a car accident, a mere 22 year old. Yes, younger than my sister, and yes, her death was sudden while at least, we had time to adjust, to prepare, and yes, her terrible tragic death does bring some comfort to us, because someone had it worse.
Losing someone truly dear to you is hard. There is no end to mourning. You soon realize it is going to stay with you for life, this feeling of loss.