My beloved sister died three years ago.
There are days when I can accept that. That she is gone from this earth. That she died. And that before her death she suffered with a confusing mental illness that eventually killed her, seeping the life from her brain over the course of two years. I witnessed her illness, and eventually, her death.
Don’t get me wrong– three years later there are still many, many days when I rage against it. When I scream to the heavens, “WHY? Why my Cait? Why us?” There are days when the tears don’t end, days when I’m certain the path of those tears will forever be deep creases across my face. There are still days when I’m thinking of her, like any other day when she was among the living, and I smile. Then, too quickly, comes the shudder of remembering she is gone. There is still a jolt, still a disbelief deep inside. Such a thing cannot be true.
But today I write about that strange and mysterious place inside of me that moves toward acceptance, mostly, I think, because I am left with no other choice. Life goes on. And Caity has died. This is real. I saw it happen. I witnessed her unfolding illness. I, along with my family, didn’t leave her side for the two and a half weeks her body caught up with her brain, carrying her into the Place beyond life. I kissed her with a million kisses, bathed her deteriorating body, anointed her again and again with an oil I had made myself. I said goodbye so many times, prayed so many prayers, and watched as the last breath left her body.
As hard as that was, midwifing her towards death, seeing death in her, touching death as her spirit left– has helped me to heal, to understand on some level that will always be beyond intellectual understanding.
The thing, though, that’s still so hard to accept is that I couldn’t help her. In the past, I could help her with everything. So why, this time, the time it mattered the most, why couldn’t I help her?
This is the great mystery I must sit with. My own limitations, my own inability to make a difference, my inability to save her, to heal her, to change the course of events in the life of such a beloved being, my sister, heart of my heart.
All I can find is that somehow, I wasn’t meant to. That somehow, if I could, I would have got in the way.
And I don’t mean this in a surface level, cutesy, “Oh, God has a plan” or, “everything has a purpose.” Blah. It’s so much more complicated than that.
What I mean is that on some level, in a way we probably won’t ever understand until we are all where Caity is, there was a soul contract made and fulfilled. In some way, Caity chose, with God, deep within her soul, to live this way, to suffer this way, to die this way and to rise this way. Twenty-three years is what she got, and what we got with her. I don’t get it. I couldn’t change it.
So I am called, I think, to my true purpose in this world. I now know beyond a doubt it is not my job to fix, to change, to cure, to alter the course of destiny. This is beyond my capability. What I can do, what I did for her and what I think I am called to do for others—is witness. I can hold. I can make it a little easier. I can reassure and caress and bless. I can sanctify and hold up to God. I can stand witness to the reality as it is, infused with the presence of God. I can insist that God is there, in our midst, in the pain, in the dying. I can get out of the way.
Because, if I could have stopped the dying, I would have. But then, I also would have stopped the rising.
And Caity has risen. This I know beyond a doubt, and not in my mind or intellectual knowing, but with that deeper, soul understanding. I know it in a visceral way, in my gut, in my heart, and in my tangible experience. She is risen, she is here, now.
My family experiences this again and again with our “Caity sightings.” We experienced it again on the anniversary of Caity’s death, lying on the beach in Cancun, when a chunky rainbow appeared on that brilliantly sunny day.
Mostly, though, we experience it, I believe, in who we are becoming, how we are living. WWCD, my sister Meghan always says. What would Caity do? She would have fun, she would smile, she would talk to that stranger. She would light up a room with her presence. Mostly, though, she would love. So what more can we do, day by day, then lean into Love?
She has risen. WE are her rising.