“kaisara”, two sisters linked forever


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kaisaraSara Brown
~for my sister 

My only sister passed away when I was 20 years old. To me it felt sudden, but it wasn’t really. She had cystic fibrosis; a genetic disease that interfered with her digestion, breathing and growth among many other complications. As a child I remember knowing she and I were fundamentally different in some way, but it never seemed to matter much.

As I grew older I came to realize that I would likely outlive her, but the reality of that thought never fully sunk in until I found myself on a 7am flight from Brussels to Chicago, interrupting my semester abroad in Europe. I booked the flight at the request of my parents who assured me I shouldn’t worry about my sister, but that I needed to come home just in case. I now realize that they said those things to prevent an emotional breakdown as I spent 9 hours alone traveling across continents and oceans.

The breakdown came only a few hours later after I landed in Chicago and drove directly to the hospital where my sister had been awaiting a double lung transplant for several months. Her doctors gathered my family in a conference room to tell us that she was too far gone to accept a transplant, and there was nothing else they could do to help her. The moment these words came out of the doctor’s mouth I lost control, sobbing and telling them it was too soon. By the end of the day she was gone.

For the next few weeks I wandered around in a depressed haze, sticking close to my parents through memorial service preparations and condolences. I felt as though I were missing a limb or internal organ; something vital had been torn away from me. My parents forced me to book a flight back to Belgium to finish my semester, telling me I had to get on with the process of life. They were right, but I couldn’t shake that feeling that I was no longer whole, and thus couldn’t complete even the most basic daily tasks like getting out of bed and eating.

A year later I was about a month away from my college graduation and contemplating how far I had come but also how much my sister had missed in my life. I committed then to the tattoo I had been thinking about getting even before her death: the word “kaisara”. It’s a combination of both our names, born from a mix-up my mom often committed when we were little and she was calling out to us. It became a bit of a family joke and we named our boat and toy horse barn after it, pronouncing it like the Doris Day song. The combination of two sisters lives on forever on my right wrist, where it’s worn like a piece of jewelry I can never and would never want to take off.

 

Copyright © behind-the-ink, Nancy Perlson