“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.” – C.S. Lewis
Almost everyone today has someone, or knows of someone, going through the experience of cancer or a life threatening illness. I am no different.
In 2009, my sister was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and my world turned upside down for a while.
When I was first told about the diagnosis, I went through a period of shock and disbelief, before anger and deep sadness took over. At the time, the question I asked was the same one many others have asked, “Why?”
Cancer is a word none of us want to hear.
But we do!
When my elder sister was diagnosed, I had only been back in Canada for 5 months, after an absence of 26 years. During that time, I had lived and worked overseas and visited my family for a month of more, every couple of years. I do not believe it was a coincidence that pulled me back to my homeland at this particular time.
For over a year I felt the pull but, resisted. I did not think I was ready to return but, the Divine had other plans.
After receiving the news, I travelled to the province where my sister lived. We had always been very close, and because of an age difference of 17 years, I often regarded her as a second mother.
My plan at the time was to stay for a month or two to give her and her family moral support.
Well, one month became two, two months became four, then the request. “Would you please stay with me?” my sister asked. How could I refuse?
It just so happened that my summer job had come to an end and I hadn’t yet found another position. This as well as several other considerations made my decision easy.
Yes, I would stay.
So began a two-year journey for my sister, my brother-in-law, their family, and myself. Over the next two years my brother-in-law and I became the primary caregivers; me during the day and him at night.
For me personally, it was a time of great compassion and self-awareness. For the first time in many, many years, I was completely focused on someone else instead of myself.
It was on this journey with my sister through the high and lows, the good and bad, and the happy and sad, that I had to reach into the depth of my soul. I can truly say this was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I often had to remind myself that God does not give us more than we can handle.
In the end, there was a silver lining hidden in this difficult journey.
It was only after my sister transitioned back to spirit that I saw the many gifts she had given me.
Gems from my sister:
1. Honour the fact, that this is their journey not yours.
This was very difficult for me because I all wanted to do was make her comfortable, ease the pain, and lessen the suffering. She taught me that there were somethings I could not do for her. They belonged to her journey not mine. I had to honour my beloved’s journey and step to the side.
2. It was not about me.
There were several times at the beginning of our journey together when I would get upset, angry, or sad. My sister would look at me and ask, “Why are you so upset? Are you upset for me or yourself? If you are upset for me, don’t be? If you are upset for yourself, look inside to see why?” There was a lot of wisdom in these questions. I discovered that my emotions were about me, and for me. For example , when I was sad it was for me. I did not want to let my sister go.
3. Let go of the outcome.
When you know your time is limited you look at each day differently. My sister and I laughed as much as we could. We found great hats and scarves for her. We went for car rides. Had pedi and manicures. Played with the grandkids. Had dinner for the family. We made each day count. We did not dwell on the outcome. What would be, would be! The journey we were sharing was more important than the destination.
4. Live Life Fully.
None of us knows when, or if, illness or tragedy will arrive. Nor do know when our time in this reality will end. Because of that, we should not wait to live. Why defer a dream? Why wait to do something special? Why wait to feel alive and vibrant? So many people wait for the right time or having enough money. For me living life fully means getting out my comfort zone and taking a few risks. What would it look like for you?
5. Don’t be afraid to love and express your love.
I feel so blessed that I had two years to show and express my love for my sister. So many others are not given that chance. The love I express now for my family and dear ones is so much deeper than it was before. Who is your sphere needs to hear you say, ‘I love you?’
6. We come into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing.
At the end of our earthly journey we leave as we came. We do not take our physical shell, our house, our clothes, our cars, our bank accounts, or our gadgets. We take nothing. I wonder why we spend so much time and energy gathering and protecting them. Could clutter be keeping you from enjoying your life?
7. In the end I learned that we are not our physical bodies, we are spirit.
Yes, it is true, we are spirit having a physical experience. The spirit of my sister lives on in my memories. Since she departed I have had many moments where I think, “She would have liked this.” I think she would like the fact that I am sharing this with you.
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I feel very honoured that my sister asked me to join her for this, her last journey. Through it all, there were two journeys, her’s and mine. Both profound!
Every trial that comes our way is an opportunity to grow and thrive. It is all in the way you look at it. You can either see it as a burden to endure or you can view it as an experience to discover new treasures within. It is all in our perception!
Do you grin and bear adversity, or do you look for the silver lining waiting to be uncovered?
Life is a journey comprising of experiences that are designed to help us grow. Live life to the fullest and with passion, enjoying what you find along the way.