A week or so before Jill passed, while she was in the hospital for the last time, Jill told me that she had seen our dad. Jill said she didn’t have time to talk with him, as a nurse came in soon after that. I knew then that Jill’s time was rapidly coming to an end.
When mom was ill during that last year, her parish priest told me that the veil which separates this world from the next thins as we approach our passing. Mom had talked of seeing the nuns who raised her and relatives who had passed. The priest went on to say that it is when the veil thins that people see those who have gone before.
I didn’t say anything to Jill at that time in the hospital, but it was only a day or two later that it was obvious that Jill knew that she was dying. Once Jill returned to the nursing home, after telling me that she was so glad to be back there, she didn’t communicate with me anymore. I talked with her, telling her that I loved her, prayed for her, but she stopped eating and drinking. Sometimes the nurses at the home could encourage her to eat or drink a little, but after a day or so, that stopped too. Then when I visited, I would tell Jill when dad comes for her, she should go with him – that it was okay.
A few days later Jill took that leap from this world into the next. What concerns me though is that the nurse, when we called him as we thought Jill had passed, said that Jill had a tear in her eye. I just hope it wasn’t because of me, that I hadn’t spent enough time with her, didn’t love her enough. I hope the tear was one of joy. I guess it is something I will have to wait to know.
The past two years have been difficult ones. I tried to give to Jill the time that she needed while still living the life that I was given with my husband, daughter and grandson. There are times, as I reflect on the past two years, when I wish that I had given my sister more time, but I didn’t. There were times when I was angry with Jill, with the way she lived her life and Jill’s response to my effort. I remember being hurt when Jill didn’t respond to me as I expected, when she didn’t return my phone calls or even answer her phone when I called. I had given Jill so much of my time, my concern and even my financial help, trying to reconcile our relationship, trying to be of help to her – why didn’t Jill respond as I needed her to respond? There were times when I pulled away from the relationship for short periods, thinking that Jill’s need would cause her to reach out to me, but it didn’t. I couldn’t help wondering as these two years continued if I was trying to help my sister because that is what I thought my parents would want me to do. And of course, my parents would want me to help Jill. But I wanted as well to believe that I struggled to help Jill because of my love for her. It is an important question and one for which I have no answer.
Watching my sister as her health deteriorated was very difficult especially as our relationship was a problem. I was appalled at how much Jill suffered and how little I could do to alleviate her suffering. I prayed daily for Jill and asked everyone I knew to pray for her as well. There were miraculous events which surrounded Jill’s continuing illness, events which I witnessed, events in which I had a part to play. Part of the difficulty I faced was that I was not Jill’s medical power of attorney. Her friend John served in that role until the last couple months of Jill’s life when in a fit of anger or despair, he gave that position to me. I changed the way that Jill’s health was managed from sending her to the emergency room each time she had a health scare to placing Jill on palliative care. Finally, when Jill stopped going to dialysis and after talking with her doctors and nursing staff and studying Catholic ethical decisions about end of life care, I placed Jill on hospice. A week later Jill passed from this life.
I am thankful that Jill returned to the faith of her youth. Several times I had called a priest and had Jill anointed over the last few years. I believe that my action was a help in Jill finding her way back to her faith. A week before Jill passed, she had been anointed once again and though I had asked for another anointing after Jill passed, the priest assured me that the previous anointing was done in a timely manner and no further anointing was necessary. Since Jill spent most of the time after the last anointing in a semi-conscious state, I believe that what the priest told me was correct. How can one sin if one is not conscious?