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  • The boy on the far right is my Argentinean grandfather (the oldest of his siblings, the only one in trousers). My sister was his ‘Irish granddaughter’. Really, like me, she was born and raised in Mexico, but, the story goes, my grandfather (raised by Irish women) walked into the maternity ward, saw my newborn sister’s big eyes, rosy cheeks and declared: “Put a glass of whiskey in her hands and she’s Irish.” The bond between them was established.

    My sister didn’t develop into much of a whiskey drinker, but she did get to visit Ireland. She traveled to Dublin when she was 14, the summer right before she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.

    The six years that followed were intense. Rounds and rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, experimental hormone treatment, hyperthermia, nutritional strategies, sessions of reiki, bottles and bottles of essential oils. In freer moments, including her brief remission, my sister went to school for architecture, created clever collages, spread her love for the Beatles, purchased fashionable fedoras, baked incredibly good vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free cupcakes.

    She was a silent warrior, almost stoic in her processing of pain and side-effects, of weeks of immobility and the weight of her fears and ours. Throughout much of the process I suspect her mantra was Dylan Thomas’s 'Do not go gentle into that good night', but at some point (even before we ordered the boxes of miraculous pinewood from Chiapas and began insisting on wildly unpalatable broths) she seemed, more than fighting for herself, gracefully acquiescing to our insistence that she stay alive. When she started to mention death, we insisted there was still much of the world to see. We still had to take a second trip to Ireland, for example.

    My grandmother showed us this picture of the Argentinean boys a couple of weeks before my sister died. My grandfather had passed away two years before then. We spent the afternoon talking about him and reviewing the history of our Irish names. Then my sister said something that has become a very soothing recurrent thought. “Look” she instructed, pointing to the picture, to our adored grandfather who was no longer around, “He is the reason why I’m not afraid to die.”
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