Sunday, November 15, 2009

Siblings

Beve and I went to Seattle today to visit his sister in the Bailey Boushay House, a hospice facility in a beautiful little neighborhood in Seattle.  In the morning, while I listened--rather disinterestedly--to her husband and one of his Boeing colleagues talk about Boeing economics, I watched Beve across the room stroking his sister's sparcely haired skull, whispering quietly to her.  It made me think about siblings and how they know the stories, they share the history, they've lived through the same things.

Later, after a wonderful lunch visit with some of our favorite people, friends we love deeply and no longer get to see often enough, a lunch that lasted two hours, and could have gone on for another two weeks, we went back to G-J's room, where soft music was playing and the lights were low.  After the nurses finished moving her (carefully turning her head so that her left ear was in the hole they'd creatively carved in her pillow to stop sores for increasing), we sat beside her talking to each other, and sometimes to her.  The day grew dark, closing in on night through the incessant rain, and we sat there, just being with her this last great day we will probably see her breathe.  At times she opened her eyes or moved her left hand, but though a thump of hope pounded in my chest, those eyes were blank, her mouth in a sharp frown I'd never seen on that laughing, cheerful face.  Finally, Beve suggested we read some scripture to her, then pray with her. 

We chose Psalm 139, a psalm about the presence of God from beginning to end of a life.  The presence of Him in the best of moments, and when the darkness covers like a cloak.  When Beve read the words, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb..." I began to tear up, thinking of the womb that had carried both the woman lying in the bed and the man reading beside it.  Their mother, who waits for her daughter in heaven.  "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be," the Psalmist said.  True for G-J, and true for Beve and me as well.

One of the sweetest sounds in my life is listening to my Beve pray.  I am always blessed by it, comforted and strengthened by it.  But today, when he began to pray for his sister, the tears that had swelled, spilled, and before he'd finished a full sentence, I was sobbing.  His peaceful, compassionate love for his big sister, his hand stroking hers.  At one point as he prayed, her hand swung into the air and he grabbed it, and I imagined that same hand holding her baby brother's as they walked to school 48 years ago in Springfield, Oregon.  I imagined that hand in that boxing glove I mentioned ten days ago, pummeling him, and clapping for her brothers as they sweated on a basketball court.  Throwing rocks into lakes on family vacations, squeezed between two of those giants in the back seat of the family wagon truckster.  That hand that looks a whole lot like her dad's, and a lot like Beve's himself.

Then I thought of how my siblings and I share the same kind of history.  How I'd be feeling if it was one of them lying in that bed.  Before spouses, children, friends, were our siblings.  So as I watched my Beve with his beautiful sister, I thought of  my sisters, my brothers, and the fullness they bring to my life.  And I thought of the hole already is in the middle of Beve's family without his sister.  G-J has been the heart of her family, the rubber band that keeps them together.  That hole never goes away.  It's a mistake to think otherwise.  And the worst thing we can do is pretend that hole doesn't exist.  Better to do something with it--maybe a reflecting pool, perhaps.  Allow ourselves to live with the hole.  That's what we have to do with G-J.  Live with the hole.  But see ourselves in its reflection.  See God in it.

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