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SimonThibault.com

Journalist. Food Writer. Producer.

Wild and Sweet

Today my sister would have been 44. I don't post personal items on this website very often, but today felt like a day where the exception is perfectly acceptable.

Every year when wild blueberries start appearing on kitchen tables, my mother would tell the same anecdote. “You sister would come from from camp, and I’d make her a wild blueberry pie for her birthday,” she would say.

I remember those summers. My sister Ginette, blonde and smiling from ear to ear, happy birthday being sung, and wild blueberries falling out between layers of pastry. Blue smears on plates and children’s faces. Cake wasn’t missed. It would seem out of place.

This will be the first time Ginette’s birthday will pass without her.  Over the past few weeks, my parents, my in-laws, and friends and I have all had the same thought, “She’s not here.” 

***

“Are you baking a pie this year,” I ask my mother. There is a slight pause on the other end of the line. “Maybe,” she says. “She was the one who liked it the most.” I suggest doing what she feels is best. No one expects anything to be normal today. 

It’s hard not to use words like “strange” or “weird” when discussing life after death. We lack a vocabulary for the sensations, emotions, and passing of time that we endure while we grieve. The world has shifted, or maybe it’s us that has. Things that held positive significance become double edged.  Ceci n’est pas un bleuet sauvage.

***

In 2014, my sister received her first cancer diagnosis. She soon lost her sense of taste due to cancer treatments, and food became a chore for her, rather than the pleasure it had been for so long.  

I ended up interviewing her about the loss of her sense of taste for CBC Radio. I listened to the interview and had forgotten that the it ended with she and I commiserating about peaches - specifically the peaches we ate as kids in our parent’s orchard.

One of the most important things she said to me, to her husband, to her kids, and to everyone who knew her, is that happiness is a choice. So even though today may seem like a day to be sad, I choose not to be be. I choose happiness