Sunday 6-23-13 – Donna and me.

Happy Sunday!

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward. ~ C.S.Lewis
A painful memory came up the other day, I don’t recall why it came up but it got me thinking about my relationship with my sister Donna who passed away in 2007.  I was recalling the day of Donna’s surgery for pancreatic cancer.  I was there for the surgery, saw her for a moment in recovery, and then left her to the care of the large NYC hospital.  She told us afterwards that she was not cared for properly by this hospital.  I have guilt associated with my actions so I have been trying to let the hurt come up from where I have been hiding it so I can forgive myself and not carry this heavy burden in my body.
When I am working on forgiveness I always use as a tool Maya Angelou’s wisdom “when you know better you do better.”  So this got me thinking about what Donna and I knew at that time.
What I knew was to be there for the surgery; this I had learned a few years earlier from my father’s illness, his brother came to the hospital to sit during the surgery.  What I knew of my relationship with Donna was that she was a strong, capable, independent woman who had never asked for help from me.
Thinking about it today, and how young adults all look to have mentors, Donna was my mentor.  She guided me in my enjoyment of the arts as I took on the same music, hobbies, and art interests that she had. She guided my intellectual development by sharing books with me and by our travels together to museums and gardens.  She guided my interest in English television and books as preparation to meet my englishman and marry him.  Enjoyment of his culture gave me not only the reward of his love but of being Donna approved.
What I didn’t know how to do was to LOVE boldly.  Throughout my life I have felt empathy and compassion but I have not had the self worth to act.  First, I wanted others to invite my love or help, I told my self I would be intruding, but I think deep down I was protecting my self from shame in case I was rejected.  Secondly, I didn’t LOVE my self enough to trust my intuition and just act on it.
What Donna didn’t know at the start of her 5 month struggle for life – how to be vulnerable.  She didn’t ask for help of me.  I understand why she didn’t show vulnerability as in her life she had been attacked several times.  It seems to me, from the little I know of these events, that they occurred when she had made herself vulnerable.
We both learned much over the next months of her illness.  I learned, as modeled by Barbara, to be a caregiver for my sister who was in need and on her own.  Reflecting on events of that time I recognize that we were growing.  An event that happened a couple months into Donna’s hospitalization was when she woke after being unconscious for several weeks.  She was unaware of the great care she was receiving at the NJ hospital she was in so she was afraid to be left alone over night.  I arranged for an aid to be with her.  Looking back I am proud of us both, Donna for asking for the help and me for taking action.  We were growing and learning together.
Donna was the eldest of 7 children.  She was the trail blazer, the city dweller, the world traveler, the intellectual.  She gave the rest of us courage to go out and achieve, in our more traditional family roles, as we could see how much she did on her own.  During her illness her siblings were there caring for her.  She expressed one day during her convalescing that she didn’t ever think we would be there for her.  It was a gift to be able to give something back to her.
When Donna passed over four of us were there to LOVE her and send her on her way.  It was so sad and so beautiful at the same time.
I don’t know if I have fully forgiven my self yet as I just feel pain in my heart as I type this.  My heart is like a cluttered closet, there is lightness and relief as each big item is cleared away but still there is uncertainty about what is buried below.  The difference for me today is that I know I can get through it all.
John 13:34  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (New American Standard Bible ©1995)

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