The very first test I ever went through with my sister was when my grandmother passed away in 2000. I was 26 and Joanna was 24 and we’d been blessed to have not lost any family members at that point in our lives – my mother’s father died when I was a toddler and our other grandparents were in good health. I suppose we were quite lucky in that regard – I can’t count the number of friends we had who lost their grandparents when we were younger. Even though we were adults when Gran passed, age didn’t make it any easier to deal with and it put my poor mother in the middle of some really nasty fights. Looking back I can see that my sister and I weren’t trying to hurt each other, though that was the end result at the time. We just had diametrically opposed ways of looking at life and death. Gran had suffered a fractured cervical vertebrae after a fall and was paralyzed from the collerbone down — Joanna is at heart an optimist and as such, won’t give up, even when situations are dire. I’m also an optimist, but I tend to temper my optimism with realism and that’s where our schism occurred. Joanna was convinced Gran would pull through, and anyone who didn’t think that way was giving up on her. I, on the other hand, looked at it this way: Gran was 86 and facing complete and utter helplessness, which definitely was never a part of who she was. She was one of the strongest women I’d ever known and I knew that she wouldn’t want to have to depend on others for her existence. You can see where this led me and Joanna. We mended fences long ago and if I could talk to her, I’d tell her that I was sorry for my part in the strife and that there was nothing wrong with the way she handled things. We were just looking at painful events in completely different ways, and there was nothing wrong with that.