How I’m Celebrating This National Sibling Day

Illustration by Ashley Doyle

The words “I’m one of six” roles off my tongue and suddenly my heart is in my throat. This statement has been a part of my whole life. Being from a big family is at the very core of my being. Since last July though I have been questioning this statement. Are you still considered one of six children if one of your siblings has recently passed away from hereditary Metastatic Breast and Colon cancer?

My answer? Absolutely.

I will always have five siblings and that is why this year being the first National Sibling Day without Cathy I will celebrate my highly coveted role as a baby sister and how my siblings influence has carved me into the person I am today. This will not be an easy day but in each step and each celebration I understand more and more about living with grief.

During this whole messy process of grieving I enjoyed an enlightening conversation with my Social Worker at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie. She said that “my relationship with my big sister did not end when she passed, but it has been on hold while I figure out what our relationship looks like now.” This single statement has been a turning point in my grieving process. I realized that step by step I would rediscover how to celebrate our bond and our history together.

At the end of the summer I came across a beautiful symbolic way to bring Cathy into my everyday. It started one afternoon when my brother and his daughter were over for a swim. This get together was the first time my brother and I had a moment to breathe since the Celebration of Life. With all our children having a great time it seemed fitting that a perfect and beautiful monarch butterfly would surround us for over an hour clinging and circling each one of us. I decided in that moment to take it as a sign of my sisters’ presence. I know logically that this is unrealistic, but it made me happy and brought back a connection to Cathy that I craved and knew in my soul I needed. What a gift to be able to feel comforted by each butterfly I see and to converse with her (in my mind). I talk to that butterfly as if it’s my big sis coming in for a visit. I tell her what her kooky and crazy things her beloved nieces are up to, I tell her I miss her dearly and I ask her to continue looking over our family.

It still seems silly to me, but this one little symbol has made me stop, breathe and remember her every time one flies by or if I see one pictured anywhere. So, on this National Sibling Day I am going to celebrate all the times we had together and to honour our connection and my still broken heart. Most of all, I am going to try to surround my siblings with the remaining pieces of my heart because although we all grieve in our own ways, we share the same pain from the loss of our big sister. Laura Rice

Laura Rice is a member of Rethink’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Advisory Board. She is a wife and mother of 3 young girls, as well as a Freelance Graphic Designer from Collingwood, Ontario. While navigating life after Triple Negative Breast Cancer treatment, Laura found purpose through supporting those diagnosed with cancer as well as those who like herself carry a genetic mutation that predisposes them to developing cancer. Laura currently volunteers for the Canadian Cancer Society as a Peer to Peer support facilitator and Co Run Director for the Blue Mountain/Collingwood CIBC Run for the Cure.

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