by Jeannie Seeley-Smith

It was just two years and seven months ago to this day that my sister Kathy lost our fight with her insidious cancer. A fight we thought till the very last week we would win. Over the 14 months of her illness she never suffered, and for that, her adoring husband and our families are grateful. 

Us – On Kathy’s Windy Lake Michigan Beach    –   Holland, Michigan   –   Our Favorite Place

Kathy, my twin, and I always thought that if one of us were alive, well then, so was the other.  So we never really feared losing each other. That thought was unbearable. We just settled into our belief that we came into this world together, which is the same way we would go out: Together.  This belief was forged early on when we took an oath – sealed by a pinky swear at age 9 – after we lost our mother suddenly to cancer. We swore that on the same day, sleeping in the same bed, we would die together.   We did not think this to be much of a hardship for God. After all, our grandmother and great grandmother both lived to be over 100.  So why not us? 

As we grew and aged we shared in everything. We loved the same people, had the same thoughts, the same humor, loved the same places, environments, hobbies, the same sports, the same foods, liked the same clothes, the same movies, read the same books, with one exception. She was a history teacher and loved reading text books. To sum it up, we just loved living our lives together. Though geographically apart, we never felt it. And, even though we both had loving husbands, children, and in later years, to our delight, grandchildren; nothing could ever take the place of “us.” 

One of our favorite places – besides walking her beach – was a cozy restaurant where we could linger together for hours.  We both would eye the exact same table as we entered. It had to be the one outside or next to the window, and hopefully, far enough away from others so we could share our deepest thoughts.  Childhood habits were hard to let go of. I can see us now saying goodbye. We would always put the back of our hands up to our eyes pretending to hold back tears, as young children do, while the other drove away.  The silly image made us smile. I do that same gesture now as I leave her gravesite. 

Kathy was an intellectual at age 5, desiring quiet places to read and reflect. I was more of the extrovert and often spoke for both of us.  She was the better golfer, tennis and bridge player, student, and, though more introverted, early on in college she had a very strong voice for social justice. I loved to hear her debate. I just sat back and watched because her opponents didn’t have a chance. 

We brought out the very best in each other. The not so good part of that is, it made us a bit lazy on self-improvement; for instance, if I didn’t have a certain attribute (pragmatism, patience, and understanding) she did, so I didn’t have to work on them.  I too balanced her deficits as I was not a procrastinator, was pro-acted and was always making a plan. So together we made up a fairly imposing “ONE.”  When Kathy “left,” I could not come to grips with who I was. To this day I struggle with the feeling that half of me is simply . . .  gone. 

It must have been some form of divine intervention that led me to write a grief gift book eight months before Kathy’s diagnosis. Because what I learned in this writing is that our body’s natural state is to heal – and as long as the body can it will wage that battle.  Sobs will swell, grief and sorrow will grip us, memories rush forward to be reckoned with, guilt surges forward like waves, and acceptance will not let up on its relentless pounding. All those conditions will haunt us over and over until we purge them; let them in, release them, and deal with them.

 Our body’s natural state is to heal.  So it is with our spirit.  Take comfort.  

“Nine Friends in time of loss” by Jeannie Seeley-Smith