A letter to my sister

As I walked through the door of your house today and saw you lying peacefully in your coffin, I could not take it. There have been many funerals that I have been to over the years, and some that of close relatives as well, but nothing has hit me as hard as it has been to be at your funeral. It felt as if you were just sleeping and that you would get up any moment and the past week would turn out to be a nightmare that never was. That you would continue being the big sister to all of us.

Our parents are elderly and they have been losing many memories of their lives. However, to this date, they are able to clearly recount stories from your childhood. Even if they are less able to remember that of the rest of their children. I grew up understanding that you were/ are very special to them as their first-born and because of your leadership personality since you were a toddler, you grew up giving them direction and advice on many aspects. And, especially more so in their elderly years. As I see them crying over not being able to see you or hear you anymore or having you advicing/ bossing them, I wish you could have realized the key role you had in their lives.

For me, personally, you have always looked out for me and been there for me, in my times of need and I especially remember the days you looked after me, when I recovered from my accident. You always treated me as the little sister who needed your care. So much so that I did not realize the support and care you needed, in your time of need. I regret that I did not take more time to be with you, especially in the past year, when you grappled with your frustrations over having lost your leg and adjusting to a shift in life from being the key decision-maker in the family and at your school to having to become dependent on others for your basic needs. While you chose to see that as being a burden for others, you didn’t realize how much your family loved you and wanted to support you to face your challenges.

You were lucky to have met the love of your life and to have experienced a blissful marriage with your life partner, over the last 24 years, and to have his family embrace you as a core family member. When we, your own siblings, were not able to be with you to look after you in the aftermath of your surgery last year, your husband and his sisters were there for you each day that followed till the day you took your last breath. I wish you had been able to realize the deep love your husband has for you, even in the pain you were going through this past year, and how much devastated he is now that you are no longer with him.

The students and teachers at your school are in shock and I understand your students will be speaking at the testimony service tomorrow morning. They have said that you were the backbone of their school. I always knew from my teen years that you were an exceptional teacher. During the time when I had had to shift countries and schools, and my grades dropped drastically, I remember one evening when Appa had been scolding me over my Maths grade and insisted that I could not have my dinner till I solved a problem that he had set me. You had just finished your A/Ls and was at home on a break and you couldn’t bear to see me crying and bravely challenged my father that you would take over responsibility for my Math grades over the summer holidays. That summer, not only did you help me catch up with my Maths but also ignited the love for numbers and mathematics in me so much so that I became the top student in Maths for my remaining school years. I have always told Amma that you were the best teacher that I have ever had. So, I was happy when you finally decided to teach. It felt the perfect vocation for you and your students bear testimony to that. Even after your teaching career and your career as a Vice Principal of your school was disrupted due to your health last year, I was hopeful when you started returning to work on a part time basis a few months ago, after having been fitted with an artificial leg. We could feel a positive shift in you.

So, it was unsettling when you were re-admitted to the hospital five days after your birthday, and we found that your sugar levels were at very high levels not only because of your flu but also the possibility that you may have stopped taking your medication a few months ago on your faith in divine healing. Especially as you never shared this with anyone. I can’t imagine how you were able to be so positive, so cheerful, so full of plans for everyone while you must have been experiencing a gradual decline in your health and were in pain. All I know is when I visited you at the ICU last week, I felt differently to how I had felt last year. Last year, I simply prayed for you to come out of ICU and be brought back to us healthy. That was a non-negotiable ask and prayer. This time, I felt your pain and realized your frustration and I sensed that you did not want to be at the hospital even though you were unconscious the whole time. Even though I felt some anger initially that you did not realize how much you meant to us and were not using your strong willpower to fight for your precious life. However, this time, I had prayed for God to do what was best for you. And you breathed your last yesterday.

When I think that I will not be seeing you again, talking to you about Amma or Appa, and especially when I see Amma suffering because she can’t see or hear your voice again and that this pain will never go away till her last breath, it breaks my heart. However, I also feel that you are in a better place. You seem to be at peace. In the past, whenever a close relative has passed, we have always been able to sense their presence for at least a few days. With you, I don’t sense you here. I hope that as per your belief that Jesus would take you with him, that you are there in heaven and in peace. And even if I may not have said these words in recent years to you, and it is too late to say them now, I want to say that I love you and am grateful to God that I was born your little sister in this life and the years we have had together.