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Grief and Loss: Waves and Waves of Pain



I picked up the phone and it was my baby sister, Patty. I love to get calls from family, to catch up on each other's lives and see what's new. Not this time. My sister called with news of her visit to the doctors. She had been experiencing some health issues. She said I have to tell you something. The doctor said I have gallbladder cancer. My heart sank, my mind went blank, and my words failed. After a moment of silence I said through streaming tears, "I'm sorry, I don't know what to say." I don't know what to say was all I could muster. My sister, in her sweetness responded, "I know."


What could I say. I mean, even if I was there, I could do nothing, but I was miles away in another state. What could I do for her from another part of the world? She was able to hear the words I could not speak. She said it was a rare cancer and was only given a year and a half to live; two years at the most. We sat in silence and cried. A difficult battle awaited her and our family. Our lives would be forever changed.


I remember calling her more regularly. Hearing her voice brought me joy. I so wished I could be with her physically, but I know that our phone calls meant a lot to her. It had only been the year before that she had visited us in San Diego. She and my niece, Hayley, came to our son's graduation. Conversations and laughter filled our home as we celebrated this wonderful occasion. But, this year began a different journey that brought waves and waves of pain.


There were times I called my sister, but there was no answer. I had to leave a message. Her cancer treatments drained her. It was time we lost out on, but we did the best we could to hear each other's voice. I prayed she would hear my voice messages and receive the love I so desperately wanted her to feel in our physical absence. I know she did.


It was about a year and a half later when my parents called to let us know they were moving my sister and niece to live with them. My initial reaction was, this was something I could do. I could help the family pack up my sister's house and move her and Hayley to my parent's home. My husband and I booked a flight right away. We were excited to see Patty and the family, though the shock that awaited me was not what I was prepared for.