August 12, 2005
I read once that grief never totally leaves you, it just changes into something you live with.

8 years ago, on August 12 1997, my cousin passed away. It is likely the single most life changing event I have ever experienced thus far. I try and move past it and to some degree I do, but she is always with me. She's just not close enough that I can see her.

When I tore my knee 7 weeks ago, my first reaction was to talk to her. I wanted so badly to pick up that phone and ask her what it was like when she had that operation. 2,850 days later, and I still have the urge to hear her voice.

Sadly, I can't even remember her voice. I try sometimes. I try to imagine her but it has faded.

This year, with my Mom's health deteriorating, and her Mom starting to show serious aging, the feeling of her loss seems greater somehow.

She and I weren't always close. We often argued, as those close as sisters will do. Most of our cousins are men, so the handful of girls in our family stick together. However, those last few years we were sisters in every way. We would talk on the phone late at night, write each other letters (she lived in another town) and argue about our family problems.

When she came down to visit her Mom that summer, she had a cold. It was something she was having trouble shaking, and the Saturday morning after she arrived, my Mom called to say she had been taken to the hospital with pneumonia. I arrived that day at the hospital to find her drained but looking not too bad. She was joking and jovial, as the doctors worked to remove the fluid building in her lungs.

It was a month before my trip to Europe, a place she had travelled a few times. Of course, she had been there in the late 60's, early 70's as a flower child. Her experience much different from what mine would be. Over the next few days, I would come from work straight to the hospital and sit on the edge of her bed, talking about her travels. She had seen such incredible things, as she'd traipsed through Great Britain, Europe, Northern Africa and Turkey.

While I was at work, she would write little notes of places she wanted me to see in a travel magazine I had left with her.

The following Saturday, she got up from her hospital bed to walk to the bathroom. Half way between, she suffered a massive stroke. The nurse called my Aunt to say she was being taken to ICU. My Mom, my Aunt and I were up there within 20 minutes. Looking back on that day, I know that's when we lost her.

What haunts me is the fear in her eyes that day. She was paralysed by the stroke, and unable to speak. Her eyes were wide as dinner plates and she looked terrified. For hours, we sat at her side trying to comfort her to no avail. That evening, she lapsed into a coma.

The next day, it was decided to transfer her to another hospital. A trauma center specializing in severe cases. But, it was too late. Her body had taken too much and she began shutting down. My Mom, Aunt and I sat with her. My Dad walked the halls of the hospital. Finally, on the Wednesday, in the wee hours of the morning, she let go.

At 47 years of age, she was gone. And my Aunt had lost her only child. I had lost my sister.

The day she left us, I went up to the roof garden at the hospital to get some fresh air. There were some beautiful wild flowers gone to seed. Somehow, it just seemed so fitting to see these seed pods and in my grief, I grabbed as many as I could. I kept those seeds until I had a place of my own and the first spring after moving into my home, I planted 3.

Not much thrives in my garden, but these did. They grew and multiplied and give me flowers all summer long. It's my little piece of her.

That notebook she filled with notes for me is still shut. I haven't been able to bring myself to read it. I will eventually be given her journals as well, as my Aunt wants me to make them into something readable. But she's not ready to part with them yet.

In some ways, 8 years seems so long and in other ways, it feels like it was yesterday.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer, who looks forward to a better Canada. I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
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Turning thirty and a half
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