Let me share with you a very personal story. When we were sixteen, a close friend of mine, a girl I had gone right through school with, was diagnosed with cancer. Melanie. I watched in fear and confusion as she became ill, got better, became ill again and eventually passed away shortly after our high school graduation. No one understood what I went through, watching by helplessly as it all unfolded. People assume that when you're young, you just get over things. You don't. The truth is, I experienced things that I didn't understand--an illness, grieving and my own emotions. Later that same summer, I found a copy of A Summer to Die at my local library. I read it from cover to cover in one afternoon, thankful that somebody (the author) knew what it was like to be young and to watch someone your own age die. Lois Lowry, you have no idea how much comfort your book gave me during an awful time ...
A Summer to Die tells the story of two sisters, Molly and Meg. The pair are opposites--Molly is pretty, neat and kind, while Meg is loud, messy and creative. Although they are close in age, most of the time they do not get along. Each sees in the other someone that they wish they could be. When the family move to the country so that the girls' father can work on his book, the pair find themselves sharing a room, much to their irritation. Meg also notices that her sister is becoming increasingly sick. First there are flu like symptoms, followed by nosebleeds and then a hemorrhage than results in Molly being hospitalised. When she returns home she must take pills that make her hair fall out. Meg does not fully understand what is going on or the implications of her sisters illness. Eventually, after some time, Molly is taken to hospital. Meg confronts her parents, who explain that Molly will not be returning home. Meg visits her sister at the hospital and she dies just a few hours later.
When I love about this book is that the author captures Meg's emotions and lack of understanding about the situation perfectly. An afterword at the back of the book explains why. Lois Lowry had a sister, Helen, who died from cancer when she was young. I also love this quote that the author gives us about her sister and the grieving process:
Somehow magically, mercifully I no longer remember her ill. That's because what is real is the way life continues, and the way people become able to absorb loss, to value memories and to say good-bye.
This post is dedicated to Melanie T, who I no longer remember as ill, but for all of the many wonderful moments that we shared.