The Value of Forgetting

How a single conversation can change everything and nothing at the same time.

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In June my sister was diagnosed with brain cancer. Within a few weeks, she was blind and now she’s on hospice. Although she’s only three years older, Ann was fiercely protective of me when we were little. We shared a chaotic and sometimes frightening background, but Ann was always there to shield me from danger. I often felt that she was the family lightning rod. While she was busy taking the heat, I was doing my best to put out the fire.

We were opposites and over the years we became distant. Every time we tried to reconnect, it felt as though we were treading on fragile ground. Over the past 10 years, we’ve made an effort to reach out to each other, but we’ve never made it back to where we started.

After her diagnosis, I went to see Ann each week. During our visits, she wanted to keep things light so we talked about old times and funny memories. I wanted to find a way back to us, but I was too afraid to create an opening. Over time, her pain became so unbearable that she couldn’t speak. It had been weeks since we had spoken.

And then something happened. Last Thursday, my brother-in-law called and said that Ann wanted to talk. At first, her voice was faint and she was groggy, but as time progressed, she became more coherent and conversational. At one point she said, “I didn’t remember if we were close.” She didn’t remember that we were fire and water. She forgot that we had grown distant. So, I said, “Oh yes. We’ve always been close.” I went on to tell her what a wonderful sister she was to me and I shared every memory I had of her love and devotion.

It didn’t just feel like the walls came down, it felt like they had never been built. It was a gift. We got a do-over and now all that remains is love. Everything else is forgotten.

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