I learned that my sister was dying amidst an array of family conflicts that led to my severely restricting communication with both of my parents. My general rule with my dad was that I would speak with him only about my sister. With my mom, the boundary was different. But similar.
We had worried about my sister's wellbeing for so many years, but somehow I never expected cancer. I couldn't lean on my parents for support when I learned, and my husband was unresponsive to the news, so I sought out other forms of solace, instead. For me, I find solace in books. In writing. And in purposeful creation.
The cancer was stage four and in her colon. I quickly learned that the demographic for this cancer was over 50; an average of almost 70, in fact; not mid- to late-30s. I also quickly confirmed that cancer was among the list of diseases known to lead to early death in people with severe and persistent mental illness. I didn't know my sister's "other" diagnosis at the time. I knew what it might be, though. I knew it had been torturing her for over a decade, and there was little I could do about it. I don't do helpless. I do persistence.
I've always known I have the power to raise awareness about what her condition is and is not. Diagnosis be damned.
I've always known that treating her the way she was treated put her at risk. Good intentions be damned.
I've always known that I'm not allowed to freely share my knowledge. Secrets be damned.
So how would I speak? First in a journal, where secrets are recorded.
A couple of months after learning that my sister had cancer, I bought the journal whose beautifully embossed red leather now graces the cover of this memoir. It felt so soft to my touch. A thin leather strap snugged securely around the journal when it lay at rest. And lay at rest it did for nearly another month.
You see, I wasn't sure how I was going to make use of this little red package of pages. Nor the other packages of pages that also accompanied me home from my little shopping spree that day. I just knew it felt good to think about writing. About personal things.
I contemplated what to write, as I felt the soft leather. I contemplated further, as I secured and released the thin leather strap - snugging securely around the package of pages and releasing easily with no key to lock secrets away. Feeling its texture. And weight. ...waiting for my inspiration...which came in the form of a shooting star.
I was sitting at home in my office, surrounded by my comforts: books, photos, a map that reminds me of my son, and the life that is green before it withers and dies. I have no green thumb of my own. My husband cared for our green loved ones, and so I knew that the withers were a reflection of life cycles, rather than poor care. One of the plants produces flowers that look like sweet little shooting stars that wither and fall when spent. As I contemplated my little red journal, pondering how to begin, I placed a shooting start just inside its front cover so it would read, "This journal belongs to...a shooting star."
My sister was a shooting star. She had so much potential. So much life. Cut so short by the shears of this ungrateful world (let the melodrama begin). This journal belongs to her.