blue eyes pierce spring sky
join me on the river boat–
making our way home
* * * * *
Easter Morning 1949, sixty-five years ago today, Diane was born–Sister #3 with brilliant, piercing blue eyes. On February 13, 2006, Diane died after living with ALS for ten years.
The haiku was inspired by a dream I had in November 2009. From my journal:
I’m at a gathering of people. My husband is also there. Suddenly I catch sight of Diane! She’s looking alive, moving on her own (though a bit slowly), and is—as far as I can tell—acting independently of any nurses or family caretakers.
At first I see her as though I’ve just discovered one of my sisters who happens to be at this gathering, too. I’m thrilled, and want to go talk to her and take in some recreational activities with her.
A bit later I realize she ‘shouldn’t’ be here! She’s gone. She died of ALS. So why did I see her?
Crowds are milling around, pressing in very tightly, making it difficult to get to the spot where I can see and talk with her. I don’t know whether she’s seen me yet. There’s an optional boat ride later to tour the river. It seems to be the river we grew up on in Savannah.
I decide to get Diane and ride with her in the boat. We can talk and catch up and see old familiar places from a different perspective. Her presence is a gift—something that will be gone when this event comes to an end.
I’m excited and happy, eager to hear what she might say to me. I haven’t heard her voice or been able to relate to her as a fully functioning sister for years. I also don’t know how long her present embodiment will last. I wake up longing to be with her on the riverboat.
One of my tasks during therapy was to connect with each of my three sisters. We hadn’t been in close touch with each other for years. “I’m doing personal work with a therapist. Would you be willing to talk privately with me, one on one, about this work?”
Diane, Sister #3, agreed right away to talk with me. We had multiple long-distance conversations. Diane listened, confirmed, added her memories and made astute, sometimes sad observations. Then, in 1993, she flew from Texas to Georgia to witness a meeting with my parents. Diane sat on one side of me; my husband sat on the other. Silent witnesses while I broke a decades-long silence about my father’s harsh punishment.
The meeting was long and difficult. I knew it would be costly for me. It was also costly for Diane. Yet she never regretted it, as tough as it was for her to sit there silently, in sisterly solidarity.
Three years later Diane received a diagnosis of ALS. For the next 10 years she showed us all how to live and how to die with grace and dignity–without for one moment pretending everything was fine, just fine. Diane knew how to tell the truth. Even when she couldn’t speak a word.
Haiku written 11 April 2014
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 April 2014