I Wasn’t Allowed To Go To My Sister's Funeral: I Thought My Parents Had Given Her Away

Lefty Graves

** This article is based on nonfiction by actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

I was four years old when my younger sister passed away from a rare form of cancer. My younger sister had been in and out of the hospital for her entire life, and it wasn’t unusual for her not to come home when my mother or father came home.

This time was different. My parents told me that she wasn’t going to be able to come home again. They explained to me that she had passed away and gone to heaven. I asked to see her one last time, but my parents refused my request.

I knew that when people passed away, there were funerals where people could say goodbye, I’d gone to grandpa’s funeral, and I remembered how there were many people there and that they all wanted to tell grandpa goodbye.

I patiently waited for my younger sister's funeral so that I could tell her goodbye. After all, we’d spent many hours having tea parties, playing with dolls, and pushing the cat in our baby carriage. I really missed my sister and wanted to tell her goodbye.

I asked my mother about how my sister had passed away but was sent to my room with a swat on my behind telling me to “Never mention her name again.” I wish I could say that my mother only did that one time, but that would be a lie; the truth is that she still refuses to hear my sister's name or discuss anything about her.

I remember her pretty blond curls; I had brunette hair and was so envious of her pretty blond curls. I used to comb her curls and play with her hair gently. Playing and snuggling together in my big girl bed, all of our tea parties left me feeling lonely without her.

The house quickly filled up with yellow roses. Yellow roses would become the symbol of my sister to me for many years. Even today, if I see soft yellow roses, I remember my sweet sister. Their subtle scent reminds me of her hair after it was washed.

On the day of my sister's funeral, I was shuttled away to a relative's house. This is where the children would all be during my sister's funeral. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to say my goodbyes. This is why I thought that my parents had given my sister away. I was now worried that if I misbehaved, I might be sent away as well. After all, if they wouldn't let me tell her goodbye, had she really passed away?

This feeling would prevail throughout my childhood. Every time I even broached the topic, I was swatted and sent to my room. When I was in my late teens, I finally understood that my parents had just been trying to spare me from going to a funeral. However, I still disagree to this day with their decision.

I believe that young children need the opportunity to say goodbye to their lost loved ones so that they have closure. I had to create my own closure by going to a cemetery to place pretty yellow roses on my sister's grave and tell her goodbye.

I’ll always wonder what my sister would be like had she made it to adulthood. I’ll always miss her. I spent years waiting for her to walk back through the door because I wasn’t allowed to talk about her at all to my parents. I was sure my parents had tired of all of her medical issues and given her away. The fact that they wouldn't answer my questions made me all the more certain that they'd given her away.

When I was older, my father and I had a deep conversation, and my questions were finally answered, but to this day, I am not allowed even to mention my sister's name to my mother. She gets very angry with anyone who mentions my sister's name.

When my young daughter passed away many years later, I made sure to sit my older children down and discuss death. We all went together to see her and kiss her goodbye. My older children knew that she couldn’t come back and why.

I think I made the right choice for my older children when I had to go through the same situation. Do you think I made the right choice? What would you do? Please share in the comments.

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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming & more. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington state.

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