Evan’s Big Sister

Cana Sharee Hickman with two year old Oliver.

Cana is about three-and-a half-years-older than Evan and there is another brother in between. Their places in the family meant he played the “annoying little brother” role and she the “not amused” big sister when they were kids, but they grew into siblings who love each other fiercely and are always for each other.

I won’t try to tell her story. Maybe one day she’ll find time to tell it herself. But that’s the thing, she might not find time for a long while yet, because Cana lives her promise to love the people within her ten-foot radius, to both seek and cultivate Beauty, and to offer her family a safe haven at home.

I am in awe of what she accomplishes in a single day and how she welcomes friends, family, and strangers while maintaining appropriate boundaries; not losing sight of the needs of her husband and children, eight of them – the ninth now being formed within her beautiful body.

She does not, like I, have the luxury of crying in solitude nor long phone conversations with supportive friends. But she carries her grief in her own way, with great courage and dignity.

During my recent visit, her toddler was unusually demanding since six of his siblings and his dad were away at camp and he is unaccustomed to the absence of playmates. Cana’s patience was exemplary. I watched her navigate seamlessly between conversations with her 20-year-old college daughter, Madeline, who stopped by to recount the challenges of living with roommates (and other concerns of her young adult life) to building towers of magna tiles with Oliver, to sporadic conversations with me about our future.

Evan was so proud of Cana and her children. His loud and sometimes obnoxious “fun uncle” antics included ridiculous nicknames for the whole family. His jokes were not only tolerated, but relished. Cana’s family felt, as did all who loved him, that his visits were too few and far between. But that cannot compare with the pain of knowing he will never return.

Each love relationship is unique and unrepeatable and so is our grief. I tell myself that the only way forward is to keep loving each other, allowing space for each one’s sorrow to be expressed when and how they will. Since love is stronger than death, it will prevail in the end. It’s okay if we’re sad.

Love binds us together in our sadness somehow bringing rays of light which shine through sorrow’s clouds. The light of love allows us to relax and enjoy the soothing elements of water, sun and a Houston breeze in Cana’s backyard pool. It makes it possible for us to laugh together at a silly movie. We recall how Evan made us laugh too, and as we remember, we realize he still does.

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