"Oh, she died. Your sister died today." Realizing that he wasn't able to tell me more, I left my number and hung up, thinking, this is going to hurt. We haven't spoken in quite awhile, our last exchanges via email. Her last message to me full of anger, criticism, righteous indignation. Although other family members have sent vaguely worded recriminations in the last year, and I knew she had been ill, I didn't find out how serious things were until about a month ago. A mutual acquaintance mentioned her to me, not knowing that we're sisters. Another family member when pressed, reluctantly admitted that said sister had requested that her state of health be kept from me. After struggling with all the implications and consequences I could imagine, whether from action or inaction, I sent her a card. No response, don't know if she received it. I've continued to hope that she appreciated my respect for her wishes.
When we were kids, we were the two siblings closest in age. I can't recall exactly when we became so close, but by the time we were 11 and 13, she was my confidante, my most trusted adviser, the one person who knew me better than anyone else. We swore oaths of things we'd remember forever, that we'd never change, that we'd always tell each other everything. I'm not sure when it changed, or how it changed so much, but over the years, that bright shining connection vanished.
Over the last 20 years, communication became difficult, misunderstandings abounded, damage was done to trust, and after experiencing a barrage of hostility, I limited all my interactions with family to two members, far away.
Not really sure where I'm going with this; there are so many thoughts about my sister; about the insurmountable misunderstandings; and all those churning emotions that only family members can elicit. Although any death is sad for those left behind, I am feeling more relief than anything else. Relief because of the most important thing - she's no longer in pain.