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My baby sister Megan was nearly young enough to be my
daughter. She was only two when I left home for college. We never lived under
the same roof again. I never thought a sister whom I hardly knew would have so
much to teach me about living and dying.

Yesterday she went the final round in a ten year brawl with
cancer. She was 42. In those ten years her spirit rarely flagged. Grace and
good humor teamed with anger and maternal ferocity in a heroic struggle against
disease. Through it all she raised her kids and remained happily married to a
man who himself surely qualifies for some species of sainthood.

The battle was the medical equivalent of a nightmare,
ten-year bar fight. Every nasty, painful, poisonous, destructive weapon in the
modern medicine chest was used on my sister’s body like the ragged ends of a
shattered beer bottles. Drugs, knives and nuclear weapons each had their turn
at her until the only weapons left were those that relieved pain.

Megan clung to life with wild, fierce tenacity. Over a year
ago, with unanimous expert predictions of her imminent death on every doctor’s
lips, a last wish foundation paid for a trip with her family to Disney World.
Our extended family joined Megan and hers for a wonderful final visit. Fortunately,
the foundation doesn’t ask for their money back if you mock the experts.

On her deathbed, in and out of consciousness, she was heard
telling our deceased grandparents, “I’m not ready yet, I’m waiting for
Marlene.” No one in our family knows anyone named Marlene. We are certain,
however, that whoever she is, Marlene died before Megan. Because if Megan was set
on waiting for her, you can bet she didn’t go without her.

Megan never got to be of the “old age” that Dylan Thomas had
in mind in writing this poem to his father, but she lived his advice as few
ever do or could. I leave you with it because I can write no better words to
honor her courage and grace and that of all who do not go gentle. 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

─ Dylan Thomas