'I am so thankful for every moment': I moved back home to care for my dying sister

Sabrina has three kids — August who is 11, Solomon who is nine, and Skye who is 21. I have become a full-time live-in caretaker for the little guys and for my wonderful sister who stays in her bed most of the time.
Solomon, August, Amber and Sabrina Radema together (A. Radema)
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By ​Amber Flokstra-Radema

The wind is blowing in my hair, the sun is shining and I'm feeling so happy that it is finally spring. Winters are long here in rural Ontario. It's one of the main reasons I moved away and I told myself I would never come back for a winter again. 

I had been living in Vancouver for about six years, working at two great restaurants and just getting cozied into a new apartment when my instincts told me I needed to get back to my home town, Killaloe, Ont.

Killaloe, Ont. in the winter - Amber's hometown (A. Radema)

That's where my sister lives. She has been living with Stage 4 cancer for four years and it was getting to the point where she wasn't going to be able to do a lot of things on her own much longer. 

Sabrina has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. She has always been there for me, no matter what. She made me feel more human when I felt like I was loosing my marbles. She is also the most grounded person I know and I will always carry her comforting voice with me wherever I go. 

Amber Flokstra-Radema with her older sister Sabrina (A. Radema)

So I took the 4,266-kilometre leap.

Killaloe is a tiny town in rural Ontario. There are trees for days and lakes for hours and everyone calls you Bud. Sabrina has three kids —  August who is 11, Solomon who is nine, and Skye who is 21. The boys live at home with us. I have become a full-time live-in caretaker for the little guys and for my wonderful sister who stays in her bed most of the time. 

Every day I get up, check on Sabrina and get her anything she needs, get the boys up for school, take the dog for a walk, make breakfast, do the dishes, clean the house, do laundry, make lunch, go get groceries, drive for at least an hour every day and make dinner.

The days are long but I really can't complain because when you are taking care of someone you love you would do anything for them.  I try to stay positive.

Sabrina (L) dressed up as a bear for a dinner performance, with Amber. (S. Radema)

I also try to play music the whole day through. For these past six months I have been using music as a therapy, dancing in the morning, blasting John Prine in the car, or playing Afrobeats while I stir some chicken soup. 

I am settling into this little town now. I have really been making more time for myself, which is so important in times like these. I'm starting my own little radio show at the community radio station. Every Sunday night I go there and have Amber time, hosting my program, Sunday Sauna.

Amber Flokstra-Radema hosting 'Sunday Sauna' for her local community radio station (A. Radema)

I have a profound amount of respect for single parents, usually women, who have to sacrifice so many things in their lives to keep little beings alive.  Women are so adaptive in these situations.  We can be thrown into any environment and no matter what, we have to survive and keep the people around us happy and healthy. 

It really makes you think about what is important in life — the compassion and love that you give your family shining through your heart. I think it is very important for everyone to learn how to bring that forth, for humankind. 

The Dalai Lama said:

"In today's highly interdependent world, individuals and nations can no longer resolve many of their problems by themselves. We need one another. We must therefore develop a sense of universal responsibility… It is our collective and individual responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weaker members, and to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live."

Sabrina is such a shining star in my life. We have our differences but that is what makes us love each other more and allows us to grow together. Being here has been such a growing experience and I am so thankful for every moment. 


If you want to hear more of Amber and Sabrina's story, brought to Now or Never by John Smith, click on the 'listen' button above.