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Why 16 years?

16 years ago, my sister Karen was giving birth to her son Timothy (Christmas Day).  That was to be the last Christmas my family spent together.

My mother had spent years complaining that none of her children had provided her with grandchildren..  She was most annoyed at this state of affairs..  She had all 4 of us by the time she was 23..  And here we were – my sister 29, my brother 28, myself 25 and my younger brother 24 all with no offspring! 

Something must have been in the air in 1992 because my sister, my older brother’s wife and myself found ourselves pregnant all within 7 weeks of each other..  How wonderful it was when we all found out..  We were all ecstatic and so happy..  When I look back, it was such a magical time, the last time I was truly carefree..  We were blissfully unaware that all our lives were going to irreversably change in a very short time..

I was about 5 months pregnant when I found out my sister had cancer..  To hear those words: “Your sister has cancer” – those words have the ability to transport you into a soap opera.  To a totally unreal place, where nothing feels the same anymore.. Where nothing holds any meaning anymore – even though you are carrying another human being inside you.

They wanted to operate straight away – she wanted to wait until her baby could cope with the anaesthetic – so she waited until the second trimester..  She had the operation and it was a success!  They had got it all!  I can’t begin to describe the joy and relief we felt knowing that it was over – they had cured her..  She still had radiotherapy to go – but they had cut out all the cancer.  She was going to be alright.  We could go back to the land of the living.  No more hospital visits.. No more seeing her in pain.. The scars were there as a reminder – she had lost all sense of taste and had only half a tongue left, so in a way, she needed to learn how to talk again. But, they were small prices to pay.  She was alive!  

My brother’s wife was the first to deliver a beautiful boy – Jake.  Two weeks later, my darling daughter was born – Shannon.  Five weeks later on Christmas Day – Timothy was born.  Once again, we were lulled into a false sense of security.  We all laughed and shared our stories of our new babies, all getting used to getting up so many times during the night.. We relied on each other – we imagined what our lives were going to look like with our children growing up together – how close they would all be.  We marvelled at how wonderful life could be..

Timothy was 5 weeks old when we found out that Karen now had lung cancer..

Our entire worlds were turned upside down again..  Back to the soap opera – to the feeling that this was all happening in a parallel universe somehow..  That surely this couldn’t be happening at all!

She wanted constant positive reinforcement around her.  We were able to provide that – as noone wanted to admit that the worst could occur.  We never talked about what would happen if it did.  It just wasn’t on our radar.  She was going to be ok.. The doctors were going to tell us that they’d cured her again..

Then, my dream.. About a week before she started chemo, I had a dream.  Karen & I were walking in the hospital grounds, she was apologising to me.  She told me that she couldn’t go on – she had made the decision to leave this life – she couldn’t deal with the pain anymore.  I listened and accepted what she was saying.  When I awoke, I knew the dream was real.  I knew our souls had met and I knew what was going to happen.  That week was one of the hardest I have experienced.  To know that she had made the decision at a soul level, and yet she had no idea on the physical plane.  So, I continued to be as supportive as I could.  I told noone of my dream.

The day after she started chemo – she died.  She was just 30, Timothy only 11 weeks old.

After that, my family went their seperate ways, my younger brother flew to Perth, found his love, married her and had 4 children (1 girl, who was named after our sister, died when she was three months old).  My older brother moved to Brisbane with his wife and son.

This has been the first Christmas since that time that everyone has been able to afford to make the trip at the one time.  I’m extraordinarily grateful that they did.

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