Updated: May 23, 2021
I have been older than my older sister for almost 2 years now. I still get confused if I try to think about how much time has passed since her death. She died in December 2012, but we were not told that she had disappeared until the 4th of January 2013 and, on the 29th of that same month, her body was eventually found. I never talk about her, not really. The last time I spoke of her was when my two nieces visited last summer and, naturally, they wanted to talk about their mother. Apart from that, she mostly remains a memory that I allow myself to revisit at times. On rare occasions, she appears in my dreams.
It is a strange feeling; how she was here one moment and the next she wasn't. I asked to see the remains when I went to Spain to collect her body, but I was told it would be too upsetting as the stage of decomposition was quite advanced by then. I was too upset to really argue at the time, but I wish I had argued more now. At least there would have been something tangible and visible instead of a sudden feeling of emptiness and void.
Rebecca hung herself from a tree overlooking the mountains in northern Spain near the community where she and her family were living at the time. During my stay I was taken to the site of her death by a few women of the community who, more than anything (and understandably) wanted to "clear" the energy and move on. The view of the mountains was beautiful, and the place was peaceful. I remember thinking that the tree from which she was found hanging did not look sturdy enough to hold the weight of a human being and I found myself looking for a note or something she might have left behind; I did not find anything. I just realised that it is the first time I have ever written about her death. I'm not sure if I have come to terms with it. I had to deal with so much when it happened; it took six months, two trips to Spain, countless phone calls and e-mails to embassies, police officers, funeral home and family members as well as DNA swab tests between the day she died and the day that my mother finally got her ashes. I don't think grieving was ever an option then, and by the time it finally dawned on me that I would not see her again I didn't really know what to do with the roller coaster of emotions which ensue.
Growing up, our relationship was shaky, at best. We were united more through shared pain than sisterly love. We got on but later on grew apart, unable or unwilling to talk about what we were going through. From the time I was eight until my early twenties we argued, fought and despised each other. I remember not speaking to her for almost a year because of something she had done. We were not close and yet, we were. She had this idea that our mother loved me more than she loved her; this is probably a common theme among siblings. Blinded by her suffering, she never saw how much our mother loved her. I never thought our mother loved either one of us more or less but their relationship was always more passionate, more intense and our mother endlessly forgave Rebecca no matter what she would say or do.
We became closer a few years after I moved away from home; although it was not an overnight reconciliation. The first time she visited me in the UK she stayed with me for about a month until I threw her out for basically free loading. I didn't speak to her for months after that, then she came back a year later I think. Something had changed in both of us and, for the first time in years, we spoke to each other. I don't remember the exact words, but I remember the feeling of emotional release and the connection between us. It was freeing, for both of us. We had lived and shared things (together) that nobody knew nor understood. In a way, we knew each other so well that it drove us apart because we reminded each other of something we were trying to forget.
That day was the only day we ever spoke like we did. She went back to France, and we both went on to live our lives, away from one another. I visited every now and again when I was in the UK, but it stopped when I moved to NY. We sent each other e-mails and letters from time to time. The last time I saw her, I hadn't seen her in about 6 years. I had moved back to Europe a year before, and I wanted to see her and her family of course. She burst into tears when we finally held each other. I asked her why she cried, to which she responded: "Because I haven't seen you in so long". I didn't cry, but I realised how much I had missed her. We spent almost a week together, the inexplicable bond that we share still very much alive despite our years apart. She seemed content and spoke of future plans.
The week of her death I had very vivid dreams about her, accompanied by intense night sweats. I still have night sweats every now and again and Rebecca has visited me in my dreams since her death, only twice. Both times we simply hug, I tell her I love her and miss her, only to watch her walk away peacefully.