A Memorable Interview


In the days following Christmas in 2000, I traveled from Montana to California to visit my older sister, who was dying from cancer.

Carol was no longer eating solid food; she had a bag that fed mocha-colored goo into her stomach. Oh, every once in awhile her longing to taste something would overcome her, and she’d eat something, all the while knowing that the consequences would be unpleasant. But her life was circumscribed to a recliner; her life closed in; her passing, imminent. Yet she was still her cheerful, almost ebullient self. We ran through some chitchat, catching up on our families and their activities. That took about an hour.

In the discomfort of a subsequent silence, we hit upon the idea of reviewing our times together. We spent the next few days sharing our shared lives.

What fun! Up from the depths came 4-H meetings, county fairs, and carding sheep; afternoons of lopping the heads off chickens and leading sheep from the neighbor’s alfalfa field back to their pen (and repairing the breach in the fence); friends from elementary school and their fates; foggy night Advent services and Christmas Eves. Joy from the long-ago lives that now seem so free (though we were our parents’ slaves then!), so open, so filled with potential!

And then there were the odd discordant notes that nevertheless fit in with the whole symphony. We remembered our parents and their roles differently. She knew them in their younger, smoking days, the days of their challenges and triumphs. I recalled them as a stable, unified source of security and authority. She remembered her elementary school, with its external fire escape that she would not — would not — descend; I only recalled it when she talked about it. She remembered our grandparents’ house — its canned goods, washer/ringer machine, and narrow staircase. I remembered the water pump in the back year, and a dead baby bat we found one humid evening.

On we went, through shared schools, shared vacations, shared life, and remembering and misremembering and enjoying every moment. It seems now to be the best gift we could have given each other. We parted in peace and resumed our journeys — mine to Montana, hers to the real Last Best Place.

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  1. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat

    James Hageman: We parted in peace, and resumed our journeys–mine to Montana, hers to the real Last Best Place

    What a beautiful memory and how lucky you were to have the chance to recall the moments of a shared life together.

    • #1
  2. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch

    Great post. Thought provoking.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member

    Good way to tie up loose ends. I haven’t even lived in the same state with my brothers for coming up on thirty years (on January 8th). We see each other occasionally, but it’s not like when we lived under the same roof. So much time has flowed around us since then.

    • #3
  4. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell

    Thanks for a very moving post.

    BTW, that photo looks like Denny Blain Grade School in Sunnyside, WA; where I grew up.

    • #4
  5. James Hageman Moderator
    James Hageman

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Thanks for a very moving post.

    BTW, that photo looks like Denny Blain Grade School in Sunnyside, WA; where I grew up.

    The picture is actually a repurposed school in Forsyth, Montana. The Monson-Sultana school in Sultana, California, has long gone to architecture heaven or hell. I’m guessing the latter.

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  6. RightAngles Member

    A beautiful way to see her out. My sister and I also have different memories of growing up, even though she’s only three years younger. I remember in one conversation I asked her if we’d even had the same parents because the people she was describing were not the parents I knew at all! My youngest sister, who came along when I was 8, actually kind of did have different parents. I was the oldest, so everything I did was uncharted waters for them. I wasn’t allowed to date in cars until I was 16. When my dates arrived, my father would show them his gun rack. Every boy in my school was afraid of him. It’s a miracle I even had dates. 

    But when Lori came along they were much more relaxed, I guess because we three older ones were still alive. So she’d just say “I’m going out now!” and they’d say “Bye!”  while barely looking up from the paper.

    • #6
  7. Arahant Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    I remember in one conversation I asked her if we’d even had the same parents because the people she was describing were not the parents I knew at all!

    No, you didn’t have the same parents. It was really something for my mother vs. her eldest sister who was 21 years older. Aunt M. had parents who were 25 and 20 when she was born. Very different people from my mother’s 46 and 41 year old parents.

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  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    It is a great blessing to have shared positive memories, a reminder that we choose to say or not say, do or not do, in the present will build up into a memory bank account.

    December’s theme is “Memories.” Sign up soon, before the days are all taken!

    • #8
  9. Stad Coolidge

    Nice.  Very nice and sweet . . .

    • #9
  10. iWe Coolidge

    Beautiful. Thank you.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Thank you, James. What a lovely good-bye you shared with her. And now with us.

    • #11

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