May 2010 my older sister Yoli passed after enduring a year and a half infested with cancer cells. Losing her tore a piece of my heart for we beat as one at times. We had our differences of course and we sometimes didn’t see or speak to each other for weeks. There are days she appears to me in so many ways, a picture of her appears, or a note she wrote me, and I smile at the thought of her. She will always be my big sister and have a special place in my heart.
I was born and raised in Miami by two Cuban, first generation, parents. We lived in a middle class home and we were groomed to the belief that education was the key to life’s happiness which then led to money, stability, and a family. My older brother is 6 years older and my sister almost 3 years older than me. We loved each other, however, due to the age differences we rarely spent time together unless there were family activities.
College after high school was an expected path after high school. So, first my brother went which was exciting because that meant I could move into his room and finally have my own room after 12 years living with my sister. Then Yoli went off to college and I was on my own with my parents. Which meant they caught me more often misbehaving. Not good! Finally, it was my turn. Off to college myself. I left to Saint Augustine and lasted 3 months. I then returned home with my tail between my legs. By January I was back at school but this time community college which I excelled in.
During this time Yoli and I became close and I would visit her in Atlanta where she was finishing college and France during her year abroad. I truly believe that distance and maturity in both of us helped our relationship blossom. Our relationship will be another blog for it deserves its own space.
In 2009 Yoli was diagnosed with cancer which originated in her lungs yet was not from smoking tobacco. She chose to heal herself naturally and sought to discover the root cause of her illness. She battled the cancer for a year and a half. However, the cancer won and by the time she was taken to the hospital in April the cancer had spread all over her body. The doctors said she had weeks to live and therefore my parents suggested it was time for her to return home, to their condo on Key Biscayne. I was in my 1st year of graduate school in the midst of completing a dual masters of social work and public health. As soon as I could I packed enough clothes for a month and headed to Miami from New Mexico.
Once there I stayed with her every night in the hospital for a few days until it was time to transport her to my parents’ house. Then a hospice program was instilled in the room we would continue to share as there were only two bedrooms in their condo. Regardless I would have volunteered to stay with her so she wouldn’t be alone.
On May 21 she transitioned in the morning while sleeping as everyone was out of the room for a moment. She left without a word and without fuss. Now, almost 4 years later I would continue to sleep in the same room she passed away in whenever I would pass through Miami while visiting our parents. I felt close to her while laying in the twin bed opposite of where she would have slept and sometimes I could still see her there.
Finally, the time has come when my parents decided it was time to leave their large condo of 3200 square feet and downsize to 1500 square feet as they are getting older and wanted a smaller space with less fuss. However, leaving was bittersweet as they had lived there for 15 years and saw many life transitions.
Our last night in the apartment I laid in the twin bed and wept as I said goodbye to the last physical place Yoli rested her head. I know she will always remain in my heart yet leaving our room was the last step in saying farewell as I continue to heal from her loss. My parents, especially my mom, is also sad to have left yet she acknowledges it is also healing to leave and she hopes to continue creating other memories in their new home.