Marian Sinn

I want to tell you about my beautiful Rachel, dark eyed, tall, quick to smile. She died on August 8, 1995. She was 16 years old. She died of anaplastic astrocytoma grade 4 (brain tumor), diagnosed in February 1993. She had the usual treatment, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation. They bought her some good time, for which we are grateful. But, in January 1995, the tumor began to grow fast - nothing could be done. She lost her expressive language, balance, coordination and she was having seizures. After several more stays in the hospital through out that winter and spring we brought Rachel home and into palliative care. It was the first of June. She was in a coma for most of the summer, and one hot summer morning, she simply quietly, without a fuss, slipped from us. Four deep, long breaths and she was gone.

For two weeks I felt that she was away somewhere having a good time. I washed her clothes, cleaned up her room, taped some music I knew she wanted, wrote her notes. I felt that any day she would phone and I would be driving out to the airport to pick her up. But she didn't phone, she didn't write. She was gone. Silence.

One day I went to her cupboard to put something away. when I opened the door I could smell her - I could smell the rose oil she used. But she wasn't there.

Her father and one of her older brothers and I spent most of September building a small sunken memorial garden for Rachel. Her ashes are in a pottery urn made by a friend, with a special iron worked clasp made by the young man who had been the ferrier for her horse. We placed it in a niche made of slabs of rock from our fields. another artist friend carved a piece of cherry wood with a little sleeping angel and Rachel's name and dates and hung it on a hugh pine tree over hanging the garden. Her father strung Christmas lights around the tree early in December. The reflection of the coloured lights on the snow is beautiful, but sad. My friends, and her father say that she is there, in the tree, around the land, on the road, at the little school she loved, with her horse, in all our hearts.

Rachel was my best friend. Several weeks after she started high school she told me that she was having a hard time finding a group of friends because all the girls seemed to "hate their mothers". She found this sad and perplexing.

I will never love anyone the way I love Rachel. No one will ever love me the way Rachel did.

Marian Sinn


Wylie came to stay with us early in the summer of 1993 when Rachel was having chemo and radiation for anaplastic astrocytoma (brain tumor). Wylie was a cross golden lab/collie and was well known around the community, for he certainly was a dog of distinction, handsome, proud and self-possessed. He belonged to our neighbour Bob, and we would often see them out together on their early morning run.

Rachel's little dachund, Bruno, had died of old age (14) the week she went into hospital for surgery (March 1993), and she was forbidden to ride her horse that summer. One lovely June afternoon as we were sitting on the deck just home from the hospital and feeling sick, dizzy and miserable, we looked up to see Wylie coming up the driveway. He went right to Rachel and plunked himself down at her feet. Rachel spent a happy afternoon brushing him. Wylie stayed the night. He was still there the next evening. We called Bob. Bob said that it was all right with him if Wylie wanted to spend a few days with Rachel. Wylie moved in. Bob was somewhat surprized at Wylie's defection, but he was gracious and genuinely happy that his dog was giving Rachel some comfort. Since Rachel couldn't show her horse at the Fair that September, she decided to show Wylie. Together they won almost everything!

Wylie would sit by Rachel's bed when she was too sick to get up. He would place his head on the edge of the bed so that she could reach him and stroke his ears. He lay under her hospital bed when she was at home in palliative care. When Rachel died, Wylie would not go into her room, but he would lie with his head stuck just inside the door way. Wylie died on October 15, 1996. Those last few weeks he did go into her room to sleep.

Wylie knew that Rachel needed him, and he came to be with her. We hope that he is with her now.


You can send email to Marian at [email protected]
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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW