I went to see her and she was so pleased,

But immediately asked about you,

Let’s face it, I was a poor substitute,

Who made excuses on your behalf;

‘ Me and our Bet, we hate these places,

Hospitals,’ she said, ‘I’ve spent my life

Trying to stay away from them.’

I nodded,

She would have loved to see you.

Tired but laughing, flushed face,

Colour too high, too red, heart

Playing up – you weren’t to know,

None of us could

How bad things were,

I truly hope she too had no idea;

She was lovely; soft, sentimental,

Cried easily – your favourite sister,

You adored her – but you would not visit,

Could not, even for her, overcome that fear;

Told me later you wanted to remember her

As she was when you last met;

The irony –  you last met

At your brother’s funeral – so sad that day

But you both still laughed even in your loss

Kept each other going, made others smile.

I  knew and had always understood

You would do anything to avoid grief;

In my car driving to the service

I played Carols from Christchurch, exquisite

Christmas hymn, ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter’

And I heard you sob, desperate hot tears

As your anguished heart wept and broke, 

We all know what you’re like, we’d always known.

But – in truth she would have loved to see you,

In that hospital before Christmas,

Her favourite sister;

I saw the yearning in her eyes

For you to be there,

To chat and laugh, share her fears,

Beg for reassurance, joke, feel happy;

She’d been near to going home

Had a temporary setback,

But you could have plumped her pillows,

Held her hand, laughed, smiled, kissed goodnight;

You see that time was not about you,

Not about your fear, your dread

It was about Aunt Jean,

Your little sister, who wanted to see you

But never got the chance

Did not get the choice,

Not knowing, when I smiled byebye,

Before the week was out

That she would die.