My Sister is Gone Now

How blessed to have four handsome cousins present at my sister’s funeral.

by Neva Bodin

We were on a five day camping trip to the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota when I got the call that my sister was dying. We were still sleeping on the second morning of this going-to-be idyllic trip, consisting of just me and my husband, sandwich meat and bread, and eating out, when I got the call that she was probably not going to last more than a few minutes. And it was the first day it wasn’t supposed to rain, the sun was out, and we had a lengthy four-wheeling trip planned. Just the night before I had made the comment, “Isn’t this a wonderful vacation?”

So amidst the chaotic past two and a half weeks since that phone call, after which we rushed to pack up the camper, return home almost six hours away, drive 11 hours to my sister, (she has no other immediate family as she never married or had children), and after which my sister miraculously recovered from literally knocking on death’s door, (she was sitting up eating when I arrived at her bedside), then five days later again declined and eventually left us, I still have some memories of the two nights and one day we were at that campground. And I treasure them: eating two wonderful suppers out, visiting a museum on a rainy day, coffee in an old bank fashioned into a coffee house, a cool four-wheeler ride under cloudy skies that led us to an old gold mine, and eating those sandwiches.

A squirrel tried to retrieve a piece of cloth for its winter nest at the old gold mine

So life has been a roller coaster. Idyllic little vacation, cut short by a decision on whether to resuscitate (code in the medical field) my sister, a tense day and a half before I reached her bedside, an amazing recovery for an 86 year old, a five day decline during which I sat at her bedside during each day and the last two nights, and planning her funeral.

But God has placed an army of angels in the form of friends, family, and community around me. I do not say this lightly.

My friend Diane and I, a sister of the heart

My friend Diane, whom I stay with when visiting my sister, and who listened to my rambling about everything happening, was with me every minute I needed her presence, even staying the night with me beside my sister. Her two sons and their loved ones checked on my welfare and gave me their support constantly. Cousins in other states texted their love and concern.

Friends and family from far and near let me know they were thinking of and praying for me. A small circle of peace would settle over me, soft, like a descending cloud at times, I believe as a result.

It’s a small community and a friendly one; so many greeted me and offered condolences after my sister died without my having to spread the word. The hospital and nursing home staff, who have come to know me and my sister quite well, some of whom I worked with 30 years ago, were super supportive and attentive to me and my friend as we sat vigil. My husband and daughters couldn’t come until two days before the funeral. But they too supported me through phone calls.

My sister, fifteen years older, was the last of my family of origin to die.

An upside of my emotional roller coaster was the funeral celebration. Her friends, many of whom have become my friends, as well as my friends and relatives came. My friend from Nevada, cousins from Arizona and Florida, grade school classmates, a nursing school classmate, and the community, many whom I hadn’t seen in years, came to say goodbye to my sister, and give me strength through their caring. Many shared memories during the healing prayer service the night before the funeral. Having a chance to say goodbye to her and her earthly shell healed as well.

There is still much to do for my sister as we deal with her earthly treasures left behind. Many friends have offered to help in any way they can.

While life can be full of dark clouds, they are always pierced by shafts of sunlight, warming our hearts and showing a forward path, if we but open our eyes.

A spring fawn, later with its twin, visited our campground in SD

So I won’t give up my Pollyanna habit of thinking, and I’ll concentrate on the habit to “accentuate the positive, latch on to the affirmative, eliminate the negative, and don’t mess with mister-in-between,” as the song by Johnny Mercer says. And maybe our next little vacation will go as planned.

A Tom and his harem visited our camping spot in the Black Hills

21 thoughts on “My Sister is Gone Now

  1. Those days and hours are always so hard. Back in January 2015 went through the same with my dad, who was about your sister’s age. Prayers sent your way, Neva. Your sentence about sunrays piercing dark clouds made me think of the Psalms passage my sister and I had etched into our mom’s gravestone: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.


  2. Deep condolences to you and the extended family and friends. What a joy that she touched so many lives. Memories are so special, and yours sound so uplifting. Thank you for sharing this special memory with us. Doris


    1. Thanks Doris. She did touch many lives, having been a school teacher for many years as well as farming with my parents and being in many social organizations. It will take a while to adjust to the fact that she’s gone. But my in-laws, who are also my family, are so wonderful, and my cousins and friends are family too, so even though I lost the last sibling, (I had only two), I am surrounded by wonderful family yet.


  3. It’s when family live so far away that medical crises seem to be much more difficult to respond to. I’m sure your sister appreciated your being there, Neva. Best regards for the coming things you still have to organise.


    1. Thanks Nancy. She had a lot of “stuff”, some of which I have in storage and some not. So it is a daunting task ahead. And we lived 630 miles apart the past 19 years, so it was a bit difficult, but I got up there 3 times a year at least, and sat by her bedside at least yearly for the past four years, and arranged pizza parties twice a year in between when I visited. So we still maintained a close relationship.


  4. My dear friend, you know my deepest sympathies are with you; you have been in my heart and mind for the past few weeks. May you take the time to grieve and to rest and recover — you need and deserve the time!


    1. Thanks Gayle. It is very different as I remember at odd moments that she is no longer sitting in her chair, reading her paper, perhaps waiting for me to call, etc. And to know I am the only one left in my family of origin as far as siblings. However, I have cousins and friends who are like siblings so I am very blessed. I remind myself of that each time I feel that hole.


  5. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost s younger brother and it is very hard. It was good that she waited on you to get there. When my brother was dying, he pain got more intense, but he was holding on. We told my sister-in-law she needed to release him. As soon as she told him she’s miss him terribly, and how much she loved him, she told him she would be okay. Instantly he breathed in and never breathed back out. I’m so glad you have so many family and friends to give you comfort.


    1. There are so many stories of people who seem to have some say over their time of death, perhaps it’s the spirits power. I also have come to think that there’s an energy in the room as long as someone is present that keeps connected somehow, as many people leave this life as soon as everyone leaves the room, as my sister did. I am sorry about your brother too, it leaves a hole in our lives when we lose someone. Thanks for thinking of me.


    1. Thanks Sarah. Yes, family and loved ones of myself and my sister were there for me, and so helpful. I would have managed, but not nearly as well without everyone. It is a very diffifult time.


  6. Neva, I’m so sorry for your loss, but God must have paved the way for her going and even though you’ll miss her, I’m sure you had many good times together. I have had times when the best laid plans went awry, but even though they are interrupted, there’ll be more and being with your sister was what you were supposed to do. I’ll be praying for you as you move through getting her arrangements in order and the grief of her loss.


    1. Thanks Linda. There is so much more to a death than planning a funeral for sure. The emotions along with legal stuff, and just caring for personal things left behind all wrench the heart. I am so glad I got to spend a few days of quality time with her before she declined again.


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