This is Janine, our Nee-Nee.
My bright, quick, beautiful almost-sister died yesterday, suddenly and leaving an enormous wake in her passing.
I have known Nee-nee since the day of my birth and every sunburned, secret moment of my childhood, every desperate stupid moment of my adolescence and every thoughtful decent moment of my adulthood has Janine in it. My mother considered Neen to be her eldest child, my siblings and I counted her among our own.
I know that when this happens in a family, when a person is ripped from them with no warning or explanation, there are things that we all say. My Mum told me to sit down and to write this, and I started to say all of those things. That Janine was too young and that she had a good life and that she lived fully and that she was exceptional in every possible way and …. I could feel the cliché coming, all the things that every family feels and says when this unthinkable thing happens. Everyone knows that everybody always says them, but the loss of our Nee-nee is so painful that finding myself writing and saying these same ordinary things makes me want to scream. To stand on the street and scream in the rain and to rage out No. That this death, this time for this family it is not the same, this is not the same loss as other losses. That she was the best and the brightest and the most beautiful and she was too young and that I cannot bear for this loss to be ordinary….it can not be ordinary ….
and yet I know that it still is ordinary loss. That our grief is not worse or more or bigger…Last night Ian said that there are 20 000 families in Pakistan who would like to stand with us in the street and scream their own personal, unique loss and grief into the night rain and he is very right. This is the same, the same as every human loss, every heartbreaking unbearable, ordinary loss that adds up to a whole person who is gone now.
I started marking it down then. I started to write down the simple wee things that set her apart. A fraction of the million tiny things we have lost that added up to an extraordinary woman.
Nee-nee fed cheerios to the walrus sculpture in my mums living room when she was four. She couldn’t stand for him not to have a supper. Neen had an imaginary friend named JJ that she called on the phone every day when she was little. When my grandmother died my brother ran down the street and into Neen’s closet. It was Nee-nee who smoked secret cigarettes with me in the bathroom at my grandfathers wake. It was Neen who told me that I had to tell my mum when I failed french, and Neen who told me that I would be a good mum when I was expecting my first. Janine loved pussywillows. Janine bought Amanda skates. When Hank was born Nee-nee told Erin that “sleep was for pussies.” Janine was 40 in May. I never had a cross word with her and am blessed that there is not a moment I wish I could have back.
Nee-nee knew every secret that I ever had.
Nee-nee was beautiful.
Nee-nee read the blog and was a member of Knitters without borders – but she did not knit.
Nee-nee danced at family parties. (We are a dancing family. Few understand this.)
Janine was so good and whole and important a person that it has taken me hours to write her name in the past tense and it is going to take us forever to figure out what the shape the world is if Janine is not in it. If you are the sort, please take a few moments today to think of those who are feeling an extraordinary loss today, particularly Janine’s husband Stephen, her sister Julie, her mother Carol, and my own mum – Janine’s other-mother, Bonnie.
Obviously there will be some changes made to the tour schedule and Rhinebeck while I take this time with my family. My deepest apologies for any inconvenience.