The Best I Could Give

So...we are "celebrating" the first Christmas without my sister, who died of liver failure this summer.

I really can't believe the words I just typed.  I am still so stupefied.

...man, that is REALLY a good word for grief!  Stupefied:  What happened?!  What happened?!  How can this have happened?!  How can this be real?!

Grief is trying to bring back order from the chaos that remains in the wake of the hurricane that was her life and death.  It is overwhelming and confusing and hard.  It is very, very hard.

While she was dying, I became oddly obsessed with her feet.  I don't know what it was about her feet.  Perhaps it was just that everyone wanted to be up by her face, and her feet were out of the way.  I could stay there and be close and not feel like I was hogging up the last moments of her.

I had this image in my mind of a lady at the feet of Jesus. (It was probably a Mary.) She was weeping. She knew His death was imminent, and she poured out her heart upon him.  She anointed his feet with her tears, wiping them with her draping, dark hair.

I knelt at Kerri's feet.  I let my tears roll.  I watched her skin absorb each one.  I let my hair down anyway.  I looked at her toes.  The chipping, yellow paint made me sad.

We had changed her attitude toward the potential of having to move into a nursing home with the promise of a pedicure.  She was supposed to go recuperate and prepare for a liver transplant.  I had put aside the horror of looking at nursing homes for my 45-year-old sister, and turned the horror into determination to make it THE BEST place possible.  She was most excited about the salon.

But now, here we were at her deathbed.  She would never go.  She would not recuperate.  She would not get a transplant.  She would not go to the salon, and I could not change this truth.  My tears fell more intensely.

Kerri had been less and less responsive over the last few days.  What had started out as minimal became non-existent.  "Kerri, can you squeeze my fingers?" Nothing.  "Kerri, can you wiggle your toes?" Nothing.  We struggled to accept the inevitable, as we watched her body struggle to breath, and I held her feet in my hands.

I held her feet in my hands, and then, I felt her point her toe.

She pointed her toe!

I thought it must be reflex, but I spoke back with a squeeze.  She pointed.  I squeezed. She pointed.  I squeezed.  And I knew this was not reflex.  This was communication.  This was MY big sister, comforting me in her death.  And this was me responding, "I love you" and "We are going to be okay."

I arranged one last pedicure.  My love came to me with purple polish from the gift shop, and he knelt for me...and he honored my sister...and he honored me...as he painted her toenails.  My throat tightened, but my heart swelled, and my tears fell more peacefully.

My sister loved high school.  She was pretty.  She was popular.  She was involved in everything.  Those were some of her best days.  I remember being dragged along to football games and band concerts and all kinds of places I'd rather not have gone.  It is interesting...her last moments were spent with some of those same people from the old days.

I can't imagine there has ever been a death experience anything like hers.  The room was full, and we were all talking...speaking, praying... messages of love, happy thoughts, encouragement, promises.  I was taken back to the old times, out on the football field.  As the home team was announced, the fans would form a tunnel and cheer the boys through as they ran onto the field.  I held that image in my mind, and I saw that WE were that tunnel.  Here we were, cheering and encouraging Kerri through from life into eternity.  A happy thought in the midst of our sorrow.

And that last breath.  We somehow knew, in rhythm, that this one was the last...so that we had the privilege to shout one last goodbye.  "Good-bye, sister.  Good-bye.  I love you!"

And the sorrow hit like a heavy weight on my chest. Yet, there was gratitude in the midst.  There is always gratitude in the midst of pain, for to those determined to hunt.  Even in Kerri's burial...gratitude...I had the privilege, once again, to honor her feet.

When we came to view her, I wondered...and I could not let her be buried with unanswered questions in my heart.  So, I opened the casket to look at her feet.  Had they changed her toes?  They had not.  However, we were disturbed that her feet were bare.  She would NOT have wanted her feet to be bare, and even though we knew it didn't really matter...it mattered.

So, I gave her the best final gift I could give.  My special hand-knit socks.  I had made them FINE.  Small stitches (like zero's...) of Cascade Heritage Silk in K.C. Royal's blue (her favorite team).  They were precious...some of my best work.

And I had the privilege of putting them on her feet...a precious, piece of me to go with her to the grave.  She is not alone.  I am not alone.  WE are not alone.  We are united in our hearts, in our love, in the people who remain who knew her and love her and love me.  We are united in a Kingdom that is beyond this desolate, barren world, and we are united in a King who gives hope to the hopeless and healing to the broken...and I am grateful to give Kerri the best I could give, from my needles and from my heart, as I let go a piece of it.

With love, to my sister...



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