Terminally Ill Child Sibling: A Personal Story
Growing up with a terminally ill child requires patientce. This is my story of coping with a sister who had a fatal birth defect that affected her heart and her lungs.
I was always being told to "act your age!". How was I supposed to do that? I never really knew how to act my age. My sister suffered from a terminal condition that would eventually lead to her death. This created situations that forced me to mature beyond my years.
Children from homes where there is a family member with a terminal condition learn early in life to express their emotions only when it was appropriate. I could not cry or sulk in the corner when things were tough. I did what the situation called for and did it without complaint. When I was twelve years old, my sister had heart failure on Christmas Eve and was rushed to hospital. My father had been awake for nearly twenty-four hours and my mother was at the hospital with my sister. I realized that none of the presents had been wrapped. I could not let Christmas be ruined. Instead of pouting, or waking my father, I stayed up until 3:00 in the morning wrapping all of the presents, including my own. I played Santa Claus for my Brother and cooked Christmas Breakfast in the morning. Christmas was saved. I could never let emotional outbursts happen, not about the medical situation. There never seemed time to act my age. This emotional maturity, however, was the least of the lessons to be learned by me in the passing years.
As a child, money was always tight. The medical bills were huge and money was spent only on necessities. I started working summers when I was fourteen years old. I started working full time when I was sixteen and by the age of seventeen I was fully responsible for my own person. I lived on my own, paid my own bills, and took care of all of my own needs. I learned to handle money responsible at a time when others my age could act irresponsibly with their money. Thus, there was never a chance to act my age. The emotional maturity and financial responsibility that learned by the age of eighteen was no the end; one more lesson remained.
When I was barely nineteen, the call I had dreaded all of my life arrived. My sister had passed away. Until this point in my life, I still thought like a child. I still got caught up in the nonsense that is youth. I drank and I partied. I got into arguments with my friends over silly matters, but when I was faced with the reality that my sister had died, these things no longer mattered. Life was to short to waste. I had to focus on my future. I moved home, took a flexible job, and re-enrolled in college. With on phone call, all of my priorities changed. I could no longer act my age.
I don't know if anyone ever truly acts their age. Situations in my own life have shown me that we all face things that will bring maturity faster than we expect it. "Act your age" if you know how to.