On mourning the same sibling twice: The story of my Sue and me
By Louise McOrmond- Plummer
Dedicated to my beloved sister Suzanne Gardner
08/01/1960 ~ 11/09\2022
In 2008, my mother told me that I had a sister who was born in 1960, and relinquished for adoption, and who had sought out her birth family.
I knew I loved this sister as soon as I found out she existed, and I asked a counsellor in the area of adoption how it was possible to feel this incredible love love for somebody you’ve never even met, and she said that it isn’t unusual to feel an immediate and very deep bond under these circumstances.
We exchanged letters, my first letter from Sue said that although she hadn’t considered that she might have had siblings, she was, she said, glad I exist. Knowing as I did , that adoptees can be fearful of rejection by birth family, I was determined that Sue should feel utterly welcomed.
In preparation for our first meeting, I put together a family tree to present to Sue.
I will never forget that first meeting. We just held each other.
Eventually I came to consider Sue one of my best friends, and we even discussed the possibility of writing a book together about different aspects of the adoption equation.
Over the years she was every reason I always needed a big sister. Sue always had my back, and was always there to soothe me in tough times, including after my husband Ken’s passing n 2016 I often referred to her as “My Sue.”
Shortly after our reunion, I was at a little bush market seeking a birthday present for Sue, and I found a little trinket that read
“biology made us sisters but love made us friends” I bawled then and there and oh look, here I go again. 😭
We shared many stories of our separate lives, and unfortunately, My Sue had been raised by a very cold mother unwilling or unable to give her any affection, so I decided that I would bombard her with love and affection, My kids came to love their Aunty Sue too.
A warm generous soul with adorable eccentricities was my Sue, we both shared the same bawdy sense of humour.
I was and am so glad I called my youngest daughter Suzana, the Slavic form of Suzanne, which, coincidentally, was many years before I knew of Sue’s existence.
Yet, initially among the love and extremely positive feeling was a deep sense of mourning the decades I had missed with my Sue.
Most of us consider grief to be the mourning of somebody who is no longer here, but for me although Sue was very much a part of my life then, I really mourned with frequent floods of tears the years she couldn’t be. It was like we’d lived in a parallel universe, side by side but each unaware of the other, I might call it “retrospective or inverted grief”
Still, I consoled myself in with the belief that we in all probability would have beautiful decades ahead of us to enjoy our relationship.
Sadly, that was not to be, for on her annual holiday in Bali, my Sue contracted peritonitis and died at 3am on the 11/9/ 22
I don’t think I will ever forget the shock and heartbreak I felt when a family member called to tell me, there was this sense of “What the actual FUCK??? NO!”
Although I was completely shattered, I’m just glad that in the 14 years we had since our reunion I showed her all the love I could.
The aftermath of Sue’s death has been a time for me to remind myself that while people die relationships do not.
If you’ve ever read anything else I’ve written about grief, y’all know I’m a massive fan of the continuing Bonds narrative, for which I am once again grateful, as it has given me something positive to focus on – chiefly how I will continue Bonds with My Sue.
So, how will I do this?
- I’ll go on chuckling at some of the anecdotes she shared about her life
- I’ll play Sue’s favourite music,
- The last time she came to stay with me we got on the booze and blasted some Neil Diamond, and Sue told me that she was a tragically unhip teen with pinups of Neil in her locker, and told me of how her adoptive dad had bribed her to do farm chores with the promise to buy her the “Hot August Night” record, and the memory of these accounts still makes me smile.
- I’ll keep talking to my Sue, and, within the framework of my spiritualist belief system, for which I am also all the more grateful, I believe she can hear me.
- I’ll continue to tell people about my Sue
- FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, I will direct loving thoughts and feelings to My Sue.
- I’ll take pleasure in the things Sue, a trained horticulturist and a girl of the Australian Outback, She loved plants and nature, so when I see a kookaburra, I’ll comment to her about it , in fact there is one such cheeky fellow who visits often, I’m calling him/her/ it Sue.
- As my Sue died abroad, I have no grave to visit, so I have enjoyed, if that’s the right word, creating a little homage space in my home, with items my Sue would have liked atop a book case, some nice photos, a tiny Limoges dish candles, wineglasses and, of course, the Hot August Night CD (What was he doing with his hands in that cover pic?). This gives my grief a memorial site which is helpful to me.
- I will continue in gratitude, for the relationship we had and will always have, albeit in different form.
- I will treasure and read over again, the books Sue loved and gifted to me so that I would love them too.
- Speaking of books, I might still write ours.
I am by no means religious, and Sue was an avowed atheist, but the biblical words of Ruth to Naomi have now taken on a particular poignancy:
“Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, … more also, if aught but death part thee and me.”
This reminds me of the equally fitting words of e e cummings: “Where I go, you go”
And now time for few tributary words:
I love you My Sue
Being your sister was and is an honour we will always be part of each other and
Chill over there with Kenny
Until we meet again my darling
Lastly, reader beware:
If you have had a recent bereavement, you may notice earlier grief piggybacking on the current. Yes, my grief at the death of my Sue certainly invigorated my still pretty considerable grief for my husband, Kenny. So, my friend, if this applies to you take extra gentle care of yourself.
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