I remember hearing that my sister had been killed in a car accident...
I was 18, it was 1984, and I was working in Banff all summer as a chambermaid and evening desk clerk. One morning as we were getting ready for work (all us chambermaids lived in the same house), my boss, Ralph, came to the door. This was highly unusual; he NEVER came over to the house, especially not in the morning. One of my roommates came and said, "Ralph wants to talk to you, Paula". I think we all thought that I was going to get fired, though I couldn't for the life of me think of what I had done to deserve being fired.
Ralph looked so uncomfortable, I knew something terrible had happened. "Paula, your father called the hotel this morning. Your sister and her husband were killed in a car accident." He chose his words so carefully...
I started crying immediately, uncontrollably. "Which sister?"
Ralph looked like he was going to be sick. "I'm sorry, I don't know. Your father is coming to pick you up so you can be with your family. Your job is safe here, don't worry about us at all."
I stumbled to my room and grabbed my photo album and began looking at the pictures of my older sisters. Kathy and Jim or Carol and Bill? Kathy or Carol? Which sister was dead? I sat there crying for hours. It takes a long time to drive from Vauxhall to Banff, it takes hours and hours. As my dad drove to get me, I sat there crying over my photo album, not daring to pick which sister I'd rather live without. I had never felt so alone in all my life.
When Dad arrived, he smothered me in a tearful hug before I could say anything. I pulled away. "Dad, Ralph didn't know...which sister of mine is dead?"
"It was Carol. Carol and Bill."
It felt a little better to know who I was grieving for. Those three or four hours where I knew I had experienced a loss but didn't know who was gone were very strange. Very strange. I wouldn't wish that on anybody.
If anyone chooses to comment, you don't have to tell me how sorry you are or anything. Carol was 28 when she died...she would have been 50 on May 20th. I miss her still, but life goes on, doesn't it? I passed the 28 year mark, and I almost felt guilty for outliving Carol. It felt like uncharted territory, being older than my oldest sister. I realize that these are illogical thing to feel, but when emotions are involved, logic often takes a coffee break. Grieving is a strange, strange cloak, and once you've been given it to wear, it is always a part of your wardrobe, and on some days, you take it out and try it on just to see if it still fits...it usually does. It's the one piece of clothing I don't think you ever outgrow.