On October 24th, 2017, my Sissy looked up toward Heaven and taking her last breath surrendered. It had been a horrific couple of months in hospital beds, her body frozen from two heart seizures which resulted in a “99% brain dead” diagnosis. They hadn’t gotten to her in time. It seems that all of us, my Sister, my Brother and Myself we’re born with an irritable, restless and discontent nature. The waters at home were not calm for any of us and having to navigate a wild sea of confusion without the proper oars, left us with unseen unbalanced emotional natures – with each of us taking different roads to look for relief, happiness, peace and that true ‘something’ that most humans seek for their entire life and some are lucky enough to find. When I graduated from High School at 17, I took off and pretty much didn’t look back. My Sister had driven me batty with her rebellious, acting out, throwing tantrums nature and I didn’t want anything more to do with her. I had my own mountain of unexplainable restlessness to start tackling and I didn’t want to be concerned with her or anyone in my family at that time in my life. I wanted freedom and I wanted to get going on my own life as I felt I had A LOT of work to do in this world. I tried to tell my Mother that she was not going to be able to handle my Sister when I left and I don’t know if she listened or not, but the worst came true for my Mother. When I left, my Sister was 12 and within a year or two she ran away from home with my Mother chasing her all over town, putting her in shelters and then she’d run away again and the cycle continued. It was a brutal thing for a parent to go through. It was heartbreaking as she tried to save my Sister from herself and the vicious dangers of a young girl out in the world running in the wrong circles. But in the long run, no one could save her because she was on a mission to find something that would ease her pain but that in the end would kill her.
Thankfully, I don’t know much of what my Sister did for most of her life. I would get phone calls from her after she moved in with the Father of her two daughters where she would cry about her relationship and the physical and mental abuse she was enduring, (which I truly don’t know how much of this was true – as I have no proof), and finally when I couldn’t listen to the stories anymore because of the pain in hearing them, I told her not to call me back until she could muster up the courage to walk out the door and leave. So I stopped hearing from her for along time. I would then get stories of her disappearing for days, weeks on end and then the word Meth began to come up. My Sister fell in love with Meth and who knows what else out there on the streets in the ‘community’ she finally found that she felt accepted in. She fell in love so hard that all other things in life, including her precious young children, family, and any type of normal existence became unimportant. Her two Girls found themselves being raised by their Nanny and Papa and I heard my Sister would appear now and again to see them and then disappear. My Sister didn’t know it, none of us really did, but she was on her way down.. and I mean down hard.
After I had moved back to Portland, OR after my 2nd husbands death in late 2004, I got a call from my Mother that my Sister had shut the door in the Meth dealers face. I was proud of her.. my little Sissy had gotten away from that EVIL drug.. and not died in the process. But overshadowing my happiness was shame. Shame that I had felt she was inadequate, damaged goods, a fuck up, a hopeless case, a junkie. And yet there I sat, still deep in my own addiction of sugar and junk, unable to get clean from something that seemed not as bad since it did not put needle marks and holes in my arms, or sink my mouth inwards and rot all my teeth, and make me bent over looking 50 years older than I was. Yes I was the fucking perfect one.. the one who always did everything right, who was going to prove to you that I was ‘something!’ The shame I felt flooded over and through me like hot lava. My sugar/junk addiction only made me fat, grossly unhappy, guilty and horrible embarrassed. The disease process that excess sugar & junk can bring on had not happened yet. But for my once stunningly beautiful little Sister, the deep damage had been done. Not only on the surface but deep within her mental and emotional chemistry.
After Meth, she had a couple of years of being present. Pretty darn present. She had contacted Hep C during the Meth years and ended up on an Interferon and beat it but it was a ride and during that time she almost died. When she was fairly stable, she came to visit. She spoke of her continued excruciating loneliness. She spoke of being a member of a 12-step church and how she was going to help people with her story. She talked of her cute apartment that she had gotten through housing. She gushed about her Grandbabies and her Girls whom she loved and she ached to make up the years she had lost when neglecting them. Her guilt was so thick it would suffocate her at times. We talked for a couple of years on and off and it was always the same.. she was always ‘going to do this or that,’ get her G.E.D., find a man who would love her, and on the dreams went; but there seemed to be continual upheavals and dramas in her life that never seemed to end, stopping her from getting much of anything done and these upheavals became worse and worse as she began her journey back into addiction on prescription meds for depression and then Xanax. Unbeknownst to her, this demon Xanax became her new Meth. Over the years, she began to take more and more of it and to talk fast, then faster and her ability to concentrate, to have much of a conversation for very long, began to diminish. She started going in and out of the hospital for dehydration, starvation, various other physical ailments. She landed in a homeless shelter on the floor on a mat and during that time had a serious surgery and then had to go BACK to that homeless center to recurperate on that mat on the floor, because she had lost her apt. She called me sobbing and sobbing… it was blood cold numbing to hear her and yet once back on her feet, in another housing apartment, she was back to her old ways.
You know, it seems that at times storms can brew for a mighty long time before the fury breaks loose and nearly destroys everything in its path. So it was for my Sister when I got the call she was in the hospital again. Her daughter had found her in her apartment in starvation mode, not copasetic, unable to even walk or talk correctly.. mumbling, slurring, and totally not with us…… there’s more but I don’t want to go into the human depravation of the scene.. it’s too graphic and sad. When my Mother called to report on her condition, (I can’t remember if it was the next day or how many days she had been in there), she said they had gotten her stable and said that she was cheerful and laughing and seemed upbeat. That’s the thing with my Sister… she could always find a happy place inbetween her huge emotional swings when she would talk about Jesus loving her. She just knew he loved her and she would tell me she was praying hard for happiness and relief of her loneliness. But the truth is we cannot get to God or that deeper love we all really need if we are using a substance of any type, and this was so blatantly true with my Sissy. She never quite got to the place in herself where she could find a Higher Power… she couldn’t because she couldn’t stand the pain of her existence long enough to make it through to truly getting clean so she could feel the presence and allow it to help her.
As I sat and prayed for my Sister that day, thinking about how once again how lucky she was to still be alive, I got another call. This time it felt like the first nail of the coffin that Meth and Xanex had built for her, had been driven. She’d had a stroke and the family had better get to the hospital and now … and then another phone call came.. she’d had another stroke and we had better well be on our way because they didn’t know if another possible stroke would take her out. And then came the silence. But… it wasn’t the right kind of silence yet. It was the silence of a deep unexplainable pain in her mind that would now lead to 2 months of being frozen in hospital beds, unable to move.. unable to play with her Grandbabies anymore.. unable to go back to her cute apartment and watch TV or call her friends or go to her 12 step church, or the daily calls to her daughters and her Mama to check in where everyday she would say “I love you Mama..” Unable to do anything but stare out at the strange scary people in her room with beeping machines and needles poking her and nurses moving her about which hurt her really badly while she struggled with trying to make sense of it all.. with only 1% brain power left.
I was facing an upcoming total knee surgery on Oct 8th of that year – 2017 – and so we flew in to see her before that happened, and there she was, frozen – her body stuck in an odd uncomfortable looking position. Her eyes were hazy and glossed over. She stared at me for along time.. a very long time. It had been several years since I had seen her. I don’t know if she ever did put it together who I was but I stared back and tried to do my best to communicate love to her. I tried to tell her it was ok to let go of her damaged body and go home.. I tried to calm her fears that going home to Jesus would be ok.. and she wouldn’t hurt or be lonely anymore. Of course we all had hope and desperate prayer but the prognosis was that ‘it was just a matter of time as her bodily organs were shutting down.” When she did finally die, I was home from my 2nd knee surgery from complications from the 1st knee surgery and I realized that God did her a great favor of Grace by taking her home from a life she could not break free from. She had just been moved to a nursing home to finish out whatever time she had left and her daughter had hung a picture of Jesus on her wall. I got word that the morning after the evening she had arrived, that the nurse had seen her looking up toward the ceiling with a very peaceful smile on her face and then she was gone.
I weep hard as I write this. My little Sissy. She finally found what she had been looking for all her life.. that thing we all truly need desperately.. that connection.. that hit.. that comfort.. that unconditional love… that can only come from a deep relationship with our Creator. She got so sidetracked. I got so sidetracked, looking for ‘the connection’… that hit… the comfort in so many other things that have left me destitute inside.. like a dry dusty desert of ache. By Grace, today I have broken free, (thank you God one day at a time), from the wicked thief of addiction. But my Sister was an ‘unfortunate’ as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous describes such sad cases as hers. Addiction stole her life. However, I now feel that I can truly say that my Sister got free to – She died clean…. but not until the end when the LOVE of GOD stopped the THIEF in its tracks and forced the hand of deaths Grace upon her. My Soul resonates with the belief that we go on. That these bodies are just earth suits that we put on to come here to do more soul/heart work. In my very limited vision my Sisters work this time round was full on junkie addiction and all the painful lessons that that life teaches. For my Sissy, the most devastating, wretched lesson came at the end when she had to look out at the world, her body frozen and paralyzed, unable to come back. We knew she wanted to come back, but it was over. My Sissy with her 9-10-11-12 Cat lives was finally out of re-starts.
The most heart-wrenching heartbreaking moment for all of us in that final hospital room, was when her daughter would caress her hair, tell her that she loved her and sing gently to her.. in those moments, a tear would slide down my Sissy’s cheek from the corner of her eye … it was more than any of us could take then and it’s more than I can think about now. I know that my Sister is free and I believe that she is free from addiction for good. I would place my entire heart on the truth that after going through what she went through at the end, where life was stripped away from her on all levels in every way, and there was absolutely NOTHING she could do to get any of it back, I don’t think that she is going to have to come back or would even want to come back and experience any of that again. By the Grace of Gods Mercy… she was forced to die clean. I love you Sissy.. I love you…
Credits: Header Photo by Satan Patel from Unspash.com / Family photos from family archives.