The women in the Hamlyn family are tough.
Strong-willed, prepared to fight to the end.
“It’s the Chadwick blood in them,” my dad told me.
My sister Cindy must have been filled to the brim with Chadwick blood judging by the fight she put up over the years with multiple sclerosis.
Cindy died Oct. 13 at 51-years-old in the palliative care unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital as MS finally robbed her of the strength to fight an infection in her body.
She went peacefully in her sleep at 3:36 a.m. and I am so grateful my wife, Peggy, and I were there to spend the final minutes with her.
Grateful that she wasn’t alone and especially grateful we were able to say our goodbyes.
Watching my sister take her final breaths was the hardest thing I have ever done, but there was no other place I would have rather been.
We were supposed to be there – it was a privilege to be there – and a moment I will never forget.
It will be tucked away with other memories of my sister.
Growing up only 16 months apart, we had our share of good and bad times that only siblings can share.
We were definitely two different personalities – me the quiet one and her the … well, let’s just say not the quiet one.
She pushed and explored her boundaries, ready to discover the world outside Nanaimo.
On my last day of Grade 12 at NDSS, I was busy saying goodbye to friends and classmates, getting some final signatures in the school annual.
I forgot I was Cindy’s ride home that day and along she comes, mad as hell that she had to spend any more time than necessary at ND now that school was finished for the year.
We had a big fight and I threw the car keys at her and ended up walking the few miles home later. She was always ready to get on to the next step in life.
As the teen years turned into adulthood, life got busy and we saw less of each other. But it was always quality time when we did get together.
Diagnosed with MS in her early 20s, Cindy rarely showed any signs of the disease. Ten years ago you would never know she had it. She was always full of life and definitely the life of the party.
A trip to Disneyland in the mid-2000s was one of the first times she showed signs of slowing down.
She was unable to muster the strength to put in the amount of walking Disneyland required, so reluctantly agreed to a wheelchair.
“Don’t tell mom,” she said. “She’ll only worry.”
For years after, she would never let us forget she was the one who got us to the front of every line in the park. I called her the ultimate flex pass.
Eventually MS took its toll, robbing her of her sight, her mobility and her independence.
That’s where the Chadwick blood rose to the surface.
Never once did I hear her complain about the hand life dealt her.
She always greeted me with a smile. Asking how I was doing, how was Peggy and my children.
She took every curve ball thrown her way in stride, adjusting to the changes to her body and the pain it caused.
Although I’m the big brother, I know I wouldn’t be a fraction as strong as she was. I could not keep up the fight she fought or find the will to continue on.
While the family always knew the final chapter of Cindy’s life, you’re never completely prepared for the death of a loved one. It has been tough on us left behind.
But I find solace in the fact she is in peace, now. She’s no longer in pain.
I told her in those final minutes everything would be all right and she needn’t worry about anything. And I told her we would see each other again.
Who knows – maybe she can get me to the front of that line, too.