Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

The Last Time

by Antonia Albany

The last time I was at Christine's house we argued, which was nothing new. We spent our entire lives fighting as two passionate and opinionated sisters born three years apart. Siblings bickering as youngsters is one thing, but as we grew older our acrimonious relationship was unattractive, and people around us were uncomfortable when we clashed.

We loved each other, not only as sisters but as confidants and allies who'd been raised in a verbally and emotionally abusive household. It was Christine who was there for me when I struggled with breast cancer. It was Christine who would always tell me if I had too much eyeliner on or if the outfit I wore looked too ‘70's. Her honesty cut into me, but I ultimately appreciated it.

The last time Christine was coherent I stroked her hand while her sons and I sat around her bed in a hospital room filled with sunshine, tulips, angel dolls, and food and reading material she'd never touch. We spoke of love and caring and old times as she struggled to stay coherent long enough to feel the impact of our words without succumbing to the pain. Within hours she would be shrouded in an impenetrable bunting of morphine, Ativan and Xanax.

The last time I said goodnight to Christine, leaning close and whispering, "You've done everything you could for everyone else. We will be okay. Use your remaining strength for the next part of your journey. We love you and we let you go." Her breathing paused.

That was the last time. She died at 7 a.m. the next morning, just four short weeks after having been diagnosed with lung cancer. I felt like the door closed and the sun had been extinguished.

Antonia Albany writes from Santa Rosa, CA.

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