I dreamt you’d passed away.
When I woke up, I waited until my husband and children had left for work and school before checking your Facebook page, googling your name and calling up obituaries from your hometown newspaper.
I know you’re terminal; that the end is near. And that knowledge, ex-sister-in-law, brings me to tears.
Grief is a funny thing. I haven’t seen you in 30-some years. You were one of the casualties of your brother’s failed marriage. When I cut ties to him, I cut the threads linking me to his entire family.
Most of those snips were easy.
Not so much the ones linking me to you.
I don’t think you knew how much I looked up to you. You were vibrant and daring and brimming with life. I used to watch you when we went to the beach, rocking a bikini and stuffing loaded chili dogs in your mouth. I was draped in modest coverups, scared to death someone might judge my ample hips or tiny chest. You could care less.
I listened closely to your tales of corporate life — of traveling the country pitching new tech products; of playing in the big-boys’ club. How you navigated the maze of sexual politics as you climbed higher in your company. I tried to use your tales to help me navigate the jealousy your brother had over the salary differences in our marriage.
I listened to your stories of defying an abusive father; of escaping the scars that marred his other children. Of packing up and leaving your first marriage when it began mirroring the past.
And even though I didn’t seem to pay attention when you asked me if I was really, truly sure I wanted to marry your brother, I later took great comfort from your tacit permission to flee.
I’ve held all these memories in a deep well of consciousness. You were part of my past. A piece of my early adulthood mistake. No offense, but I’d come to a point where I rarely thought of you.
So imagine my surprise a year ago when I stumbled across your Facebook page. I could tell you’d been ill. And after discussing it with my husband, I sent you a message:
“I remember you with only the best — best — of thoughts and hope that life has treated you amazingly well,” I wrote.
A year and some months later, you responded.
“I JUST saw this!” you said. Then you proceeded to tell me of your illness: That you are terminal and don’t have long to live.
And I am so, so sad.
You, my lovely former sister-in-law, have always been the bright spot in one of my life’s biggest failures. It took me years to heal from my short-lived union with your brother. Even now, some memories are just scabbed. They bleed with too much picking.
I don’t regret leaving your family. I have a beautiful life now, filled with love and adventure. I live with a man who loves me and supports me and encourages me each day. Who has given me gorgeous children and who challenges me to be smarter, kinder and more courageous than I often think I can be.
But I do regret your loss in my life. I wonder what it would have been like to get older with you. To share in your story and watch the years carve you into who you are today.
So I send you love and prayers and blessed tidings through the keyboard. I wish you well on this next journey. I send you off with a kiss and a dream.
Farewell, my sister.