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I always knew that my sister would go before me barring some accident or terrible illness, she is ten years older after all. I just never thought she would leave this way. I never thought she would forget my husband's name or the word "cigarette" even though she wants one now. She has even forgotten how to write.

Memory is such a powerful thing, it is amazing what she does remember. She gets the little details right but she messes it up somehow. She remembers how I ended up getting my little dog Joey, but she believes that she was there when she wasn't. I chock it up to her incredible imagination, she visualizes everything so vividly that sometimes she imaginations herself into situations she knows about but had no part of.

I look back into the past and there we are, mom in her finest and there is my Sis standing closer to Dad and me. Mom may have looked the part of a perfect wife and mother but trouble was brewing and nothing would stop what was inevitable. My parents were not happy.
My family photo mommesharondad001_zps9b693136.jpg
I had no idea what was going on, but my Sis was there and she loved me unconditionally from the start and her joy and attention made up for the fact that my parents were distant. I was her very own child in her mind then, a true living doll. Now it's for real in her mind, she thinks that I really was her baby.

My sister was strong, but even she had her limits and eventually she could take no more, Dad had left and Mom blamed everyone and soon Sis was married and pregnant and at age 17 she had twins,  a boy and a girl. Within four and a half years she had two more, two beautiful girls.

I spent as much time at her house as was possible. Mom was a working woman and along with my grandparents my Sis raised me. I remember her kids' first steps, each new baby's birth and I remember the things my sister taught me. Through her I learned how to be as close to "domestic" as I'm going to get.

My sister showed me the power of a mother's love through a terrible tragedy. Her third child Kathy was struck by a car, her skull crushed and her brain damaged. My sister spent every waking minute making sure her child got better, the lengths she went to and the price she paid are a whole other diary but Kathy thrived and became a wife, mother, and a highly paid civil servant working on logistics for the government.

My Sis was an out and proud liberal and gave me my love for politics. She taught me how not to be racist in a culture that was by default. Through her I learned the real Cassius Clay and his struggles to become Mohamed Ali and why. I identified with him, he was like me.

My sister was the strongest person I have ever known. When I was 16 she and mom had a terrible fight and mom told me I had to choose between them, I guess you know how that turned out. My Sis took me in and she didn't have it easy with another mouth to feed a teenager! but she did it. And I believe I am who I am because of her.

Her marriage fell apart and shortly after the divorce she lost one of the twins, the boy. He was a young man by then and damaged his brain stem in a car crash, Sis made the decision to turn off the machines. My sister suffered the horrible loss of a child, yet she kept going.

A few years later she met the man that she would love for the rest of her life, Stan. She had already scandalized our little Mormon town by first marrying an Italian Catholic, now she went and married a black truck driver from St. Louis! My sister didn't allow for foolishness when her heart was involved she just followed it.

They were such a perfect fit. I loved my bro in law, he quickly became one of my best friends, no one was immune to his exuberant personality. He was larger than life in every way and our families melted together, his kids and hers are my surviving nieces and nephews. They had been married for around 20 years when he went in for a knee replacement and had the first of the many strokes that would eventually take his life. My Sis fought every minute of every day to keep him comfortable. Another horrible loss and this one weakened her.

It was when Kathy died in her early 50s of cancer that my sister broke. No one should lose a child let alone two. Her grief was terrible and it changed her so much that we didn't see the dementia when it first began to steal her memories. She was so distracted by pain we missed the clues.

Now, her memories come and go. She is frightened much of the time and anxiety is a constant companion. She is terrified her TV will go off and she keeps the remotes covered so that lightning doesn't hit them. She hides in her house because she knows that she is not what she was and is embarrassed. The strongest person in the world is weak now and she is leaving us day by day.

I can't believe it. I can't bear it. It isn't fair or right, it just is.

Originally posted to high uintas on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 07:19 AM PDT.

Also republished by CareGiving Kos and The Grieving Room.

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