We are heading into winter in the Southern Hemisphere at present and my sister died just before the huge tulip tree in my backyard began to shed its leaves. When I was writing the eulogy I wanted to say at the funeral it occurred to me that is was so appropriate that she, who loved life and nature so deeply was taken in the last month of Autumn when green leaves were turning gold and red.
In death there was so much love as her four sons were reunited with my mother, brother, sister and I after may years of estrangement. It was poignant and special that we were able to shed and share tears, as well as times of laughter, to learn more about the dark years where the boys were taken across he ocean by their father, abandoned, forced to fend for themselves (the older two) and struggled each with their particular destiny in the rich fabric of the woven family fate.
I have learned so much more throughout this time about our family, who we are, how we react. The pain and longings we carried and at times buried deep (most especially me). People keep expressing sadness and sorrow at my sister’s loss and yet even hours before her death on some level I could not help but feel feelings of happiness, hope, peace, release. Of course these are not the only feelings I feel and felt. My sister loved Neil Diamond and I cried this afternoon listening to two particularly pertinent tracks. ” I Am I Said”. And “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”,
The first song speaks to me of my sister’s particular struggle to live as an individual in a family where her fight for expression was not always recognised and in which, as the second child, she often found herself in the shadow of a much more “successful” older brother. I put that word in inverted commas because despite the fact my sister suffered a cerebral bleed at age 34 and could never fully recovery her physical potency, she was never the less a massively creative and intelligent human being who had so much to offer. She excelled at craft and cooking, she was beautiful and bright, and strong willed and at times a bit self destructive in her hunger for life and relationship. I guess you could call ours a family of low emotional nurturance. It seems to be a theme that has dogged all of us in different ways. Still my sister fought to be herself, to gain respect as a disabled person, to be seen and recognised despite her disability.
The second song brought the following realisation. In later years my sisters bulk grew with each month, probably a legacy of the drugs she was on to control her so called bi polar moods. Sometimes when I took her out on my own pushing her up hill in the wheelchair to which she was bound became a very difficult. She was my sister but she was heavy and at times I must confess I felt angry at having to push this weight and then be laughed at when the chair began to careen out of control. I wasn’t responsible for my sister but still, in the absence of other family, especially my father who we lost over 30 years ago a lot of the responsibility did fall to me. And yet in another way I was willing to bear that heaviness as the price of being in relationship with her. I could not, would not abandon her as some of the family did.
If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
Yesterday, beginning to clean out her room at the care home, I came across a cache of letters written by my mother to my sister over 40 years ago, My sister was a sun sign Capricorn with a strong placement of Mars conjunct Saturn in Cancer, the amount of hoarding of letters, photos, cards, cuttings was prolific. My mother was apt to dismiss it as “junk” but despite the enormity of the task we were faced with I didn’t want to rush to throw anything out. Somehow the role of family archivist has fallen to me. I have the Saturn Moon conjunction with Mars and that speaks to me of some kind of task or burden with I might take on in the family especially around the maternal genetic line to which my sister had a very strong connection. I want to find a way to speak about her story and the story of our family so that there is a written history of things that transpired. My sister longed to tell her story but she lacked the means and support of writing that story. Sadly I wasn’t enough help to her in that in the time of her living, I too was working on my own story which although interconnected with hers also had other tangents and threads.
I was inspired to this blog to day by reading another around the cycle of seasons, In reading it the image of my huge backyard tulip tree shedding leaves came to me and the thought that as a leaf on that tree my sister had fallen.. the residue of her life now becoming the compost that would fuel in some deeply unconscious way the flowing and fruiting of subsequent generations. Will her story and life now fall into the dark or can I through this dark phase of the cycle of death and endings use it for a new purpose and shed some light on it.
Her death has been a reminder to me in this autumnal time of how precious the gift of life and relationship is, even at times when I have wanted to run so far away due to the pain of it. In facing this death I am learning to embrace life, to front up to the challenging and difficult tasks which bear a deeply rich and poignant fruit. As Sun opposes Saturn it sheds it light on the multi-generational legacy of my Saturn Mars Moon in the sixth and through this craft of weaving and feeling the tangled truth threads sewn throughout my own being I am growing in consciousness and light. And in the ongoing acceptance that this dark phase is both a precursor and a necessary phase of the process which eventually results in light and growth, I will allow myself to be turned with the turning cycle of the seasons like rich compost in order to bear fruit through this writing of the unfolding journey that is life living its story onward as my sister’s death and realisations around our interconnected lives releases me to new ways of living, expressing and relating.