The Tail End

November 16, 2016
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I watched helplessly as the dim outline of my sister was swallowed by the darkness, like a ghost melting into the dark of night. Shivering from the cold, I stared, paralyzed, into the darkness. The door of the car slid shut with a thud. The car’s engine started up and we began the long trip back to Michigan. Like being pushed into an abyss, I knew that this was the point of no return. I felt a pang of regret for not spending more time with her in the past. I never realized the weight of this until now.

We had driven 10 hours through the U.S. and Canada, and we’d finally arrived in New York to drop off my sister at college. After unpacking all her things, she had hopped back on the car to say her final goodbyes to us.

“I can’t believe that you’re leaving now,” I admitted.

“I wish I could stay at home longer. But everyone has to leave the house someday,” my sister responded.

“Yeah...I’ll miss you. Life won’t be the same with you gone.”

“Bye now. It’s been nice spending these years with you.”

And like that, the older sister I’d known for 12 years stepped out of the car and out of my life.

I’d known this was inevitable for years. With the conclusion of summer, it was time to start a new school year. This time it was special. I’d tried to escape the clutches of time, but the end of August arrived and it was time for my sister to leave. It was a somber time, and I’d tried not to think about it too much, but it was unmistakable. I had to accept that I wouldn’t be seeing my sister everyday anymore. No more casual banter while brushing my teeth, no more zinging our parents together on inter-generational political disputes, no more philosophical discussion while sitting cross-legged on her bed. It had been hard to come to terms with the fact that my sister wouldn’t be a part of my daily life anymore. Sure, I could still communicate with her online, but it wouldn’t be the same as before. This all flooded into my head in those last fleeting moments before she left.

Staring into that cold New York night, I had dreaded and resisted this moment for months. But it was as inevitable as the eventual communist state of society now, and I allowed myself to accept that my sister had departed as an everyday figure in my life. On the drive back to Michigan, I was filled with emptiness. A peculiar feeling that is. My sister, someone I’d looked up to my entire life, had been abruptly removed from my life, and all I could do was deal with it.

It wasn’t until many months after she’d left that I realized the full depth of the meaning of her departure. I had been reading a long article from the blog Wait But Why, and the article explained how many of us were approaching “The Tail End” of our relationships without realizing it. The writer laid out a visual of the number of days he had left to spend with his family, and it hit me. Out of all the days that I would ever spend with my sister in my entire life, I had already gone through the vast majority of them - around 85%, to be precise. I became acutely aware that I didn’t have much time left to spend with my sister - I was already at the tail end of our relationship. It was painful enough knowing that visits from her would be rare, but it was a whole other thing to know that most of the time I would ever spend with her had already passed. All that pain and regret from earlier was put into the sobering context of that realization. Since then, I’ve come to understand the value of relationships and savoring every moment you can spend with a loved one. It might be one of your last.

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