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.
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, 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.
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.