The room was still and quiet. My sister was dozing again, or maybe just closing her eyes against me so she could think. I felt the tears spill out and their tracks down my cheeks. I felt them drop silently off my face and wet my neck. I turned my head towards the window and the view which was no longer spectacular.
I hadn’t cried.
I hadn’t cried when I’d arrived and seen my sister, gaunt and stretched, three days out from yet another major surgery.
I hadn’t cried at her voice, weak and soft, as she told me the latest health news and then said let’s not talk about it anymore now.
I hadn’t cried when the oncologist came to see her. I didn’t know how rarely he visited these days, that now other specialists and surgeons trekked to her bedside and inside her body. I didn’t feel the alarm that she must have felt. We were introduced, I stepped out of the room.
I hadn’t cried while I waited outside.
I hadn’t cried when the oncologist came out the door and instead of leaving, asked me into the room.
I hadn’t cried when he suggested I sit in that nice comfy chair there, although a bolt of terror ripped through me as I did what I was told.
I hadn’t cried as he told me what he had just told my sister, that the cancer was back, that it was everywhere, that there was nothing they could do, that she only had few weeks left. I felt the blows as if I were laying on the ground in some television show and my head was being kicked again and again and again.
I hadn’t cried when my sister said no, she didn’t want me to hold her hand and the oncologist said to her ahh, you’re the tough one, she’s the softie, before he left us.
I hadn’t cried as I sat there listening to my sister’s first thoughts, random thoughts, questions, as she lay there trying to absorb the news. Dozing, waking, talking. Her telling me she would wait for her husband to come after work as usual and not ring him. Me saying I was staying, I wouldn’t leave her.
I hadn’t cried when I stepped outside while nurses did the wound dressings and began inexplicably to photograph the view from a small waiting area. I hadn’t cried when a woman came up to me and offered to take a photo for me so I could be in it.
I hadn’t cried when the nurses said they were so sorry to my sister and later, in the hallway, to me, offering hugs. When they asked me if there was anything I needed and I asked for a cup of tea.
I hadn’t cried when my sister woke, pointed a finger at me and said, don’t you dare put my birth date in the death notice.
I hadn’t cried when the questions began to crash around in my brain. What does a few weeks even mean? Why had they kept saying the cancer was gone and now it was suddenly everywhere? Where was everywhere anyway? How could this be happening to us, to my beautiful baby sister?
I hadn’t cried when I thought of her family, each of them going about their day unaware of the tsunami that was heading towards them. My brother-in-law, my niece, my nephew. At work, at school, doing normal for the last time. I had almost forgotten to breathe, but I hadn’t cried.
But now, tears were falling. Streaming, soaking.
I heard a noise behind me and when I turned and looked, my sister was pushing a box of tissues towards me.