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Lynn Lombard: It’s never easy to say goodbye to family

I stepped onto the plane in Fort Myers, Fla., my tears barely dry. I had been dreading this moment ever since New Year’s Day, when I found out my sister was moving away. I could sense that something was amiss when I joined our family gathering at our parents’ house. Dad immediately took me into his bedroom and closed the door.

“Your sister bought a house in Florida,” he said.

Sue had talked about moving to Florida for years, so it should not have been such a shock. But it hit me hard. I walked into the living room in a cloud of emotion.

My sister instantly appeared by my side. “This isn’t about you; it’s about me,” she said as tears spilled down her cheeks, mirroring my own. “I just want you to be OK with it.”

But I was angry – angry at her for wanting to leave me.

She tried to soften the blow by filling my head with promises of visiting twice a year, and flying me down to see her, too. “We’ll text and talk every day. It’ll be like I never left.”

But she was wrong. It would never be the same. She wouldn’t be coming over to share a bottle of wine or meeting me for lunch anymore. I selfishly didn’t want her to go.

My sister and I have always shared a special bond. Just one year apart, we were always together as youngsters. When our Mom passed away when I was 6, Sue stepped in as my protector, the one who would do anything for me.

We separated somewhat through high school, even though we were in the same grade, because we each had our own group of friends. But once we threw our graduation caps into the air, it was back to the way it used to be. And then our relationship grew – sissy and me, we were no longer just sisters. We were best friends, too.

So, how was I going to say goodbye? When we needed each other, we would no longer be just a 15-minute drive apart.

Every time I thought I had accepted it, the facts would crash back down on me. She was leaving me; just like Mom did, just like my brother did when he moved to El Paso 15 years ago. Mom’s death had instilled in us the importance of family. So why was everyone leaving?

I had five months before the big move. Friends and family kept telling me the same thing: “You’ll have another place to visit.” Who needs another place to visit? I hardly made it to El Paso as it was.

By February, I had gotten past the anger. I truly did want my sister to be happy. Like any supportive sister would, I had to accept it and let her go.

When Sue asked me if I would drive down to Florida with her to help her move, how could I say no? I spent a week with her unpacking her things, wearing my happy face. During that time, I put my feelings aside so I could enjoy the time we had together.

Once the plane landed back in Buffalo, the fact that Sue was more than 1,000 miles away didn’t seem real. It still doesn’t. I guess it won’t until I pick up the phone to see what she is doing next weekend so we can get together. Then reality will set in.

I’ll have a pity party for myself, and then I’ll move on. After all, she is my sissy, and I would do anything for her. Even act happy when I’m not.