Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Grief, Interrupted

The inevitable and yet unthinkable happened January 25. I knew my sister's cancer had spread into her liver and possibly her brain. I knew she had lost muscle control. But we had a good conversation the night before she died. She had asked me to make some beads for her friends and I was thrilled they were finally finished. We said our I love yous and hung up.

It had been a rough day for her. My brother-in-law was at his saintly wit's end trying to lift her onto her potty chair. She had managed to puke and defecate on herself all at once. She feared they were sending her to the hospice hospital but after a family pow wow with the PA in charge of her case, it was decided that 24 hour in home care would be a better fit. She had exactly two 12 hour shifts before it was all over.

I had bought a plane ticket home. I asked the nurse to shout into her ear that I was coming. But she couldn't wait. My brother-in-law called. I was working in the studio.
She's Gone.

She's gone. I think Sis is gone. My face contorted as that ugly cry started. And then my rational brain took over, "What do you mean 'you THINK?'"

She was cold. She was not breathing. They were waiting for the doctor to come pronounce.

And so I fell into some new form of grief. Something so foreign to me, I don't feel as if I occupy my own body anymore. Even now, weeks later, I seem to be floating above it...Numb.

I had a massive number of orders to ship that day. I had one of my biggest ever wire wrap classes the next. I had to pack. I ended up with THREE people taking shifts to care for Mabel. That long flight home. And there were arrangements - started over nine months before - to finalize. And hundreds of people to greet and hug and console. And endless thank you notes to write. And a dog to comfort. And my sweet brother-in-law. And my 89 year old mother.

And Then There Were Three

My whole life, there were the four of us. My sister met my brother-in-law when I was barely a year old. I was two when they married. I've often wondered why my brother-in-law put up with three such loud, opinionated, volatile women.

Just as I've wondered why my sister loved me so much. I know it could not have been easy for her. I was born of an affair in 1964 when that just wasn't done and certainly not talked about. My sister had wanted a baby sister all her life and was always thrilled to be my big sister. But I'm sure there were whispers. It made far more sense to some that I would belong to the 21 year old instead of to my 41 year old mother. My brother-in-law told her that it was OK...he would adopt me after they married. It was only then that she spoke of my mother's secret for the first time.

My sister was one of those glue people...you know the ones...they hold their family together. She simply would not allow any of us to be mad or hold a grudge. She would make us talk to one another.  I attribute her glue skills to the fact that she was the only one allowed in the bathroom with all of us. It's how family fights always ended... someone gets hurt and skulks off to the bathroom to be alone. My sister would wait a few minutes and let herself in. After an hour or so, someone else would knock and ask if everyone was decent. (My brother-in-law was always this person when it was my turn to skulk off.) And then eventually the last party would get lonely and come in the bathroom where it would all get worked out.

As I popped in on my brother-in-law, alone and lonely save for his dogs; then would see my mother so sad and know that I was headed home to California alone... I couldn't help but wonder, how do we hold it together without our glue?

Malfunctioning Robot on Autopilot

I've lived the last few weeks running around and doing but not thinking. I found myself in a Walmart and decided to look for the comforter my sister has been wanting for months. My cousin, brother-in-law and myself all left the house one night; each of us with an errand to run before meeting the rest of the family at a restaurant. Each of us made it down the driveway without the items we needed to complete our tasks.

I drove to the funeral home so many times the first day - I kept forgetting things I needed to take or would take the wrong pile with me - I felt like a robot. A clearly malfunctioning one.

And now, weeks later, the numbness has not worn away. Last night driving, I was suddenly angry at myself for not calling my sister since I got home. I'm not sure that ugly cry is going to come. Was I just overly prepared to lose her? Am I finally a grown up who copes well with loss? Or am I in too much shock to cry? I just don't know...

Look for a number of photo posts, a bit of sadness, and some silliness in the weeks ahead. It's how I cope.


Girl Power Golf said...


harrispen said...

I'm sorry to hear about your sister. It sounds like you two had a special relationship.


Nicole Beadwright Campanella said...

I am sitting here crying. I KNOW how your feel. I love my sister to cancer and then 6 months later my baby brother. It is a strange feeling to loose a sibling. My heart goes out to you and your family.

rottrover said...

yes. Beautiful...

Linda@VS said...

Holly, your love for Patsy shines through this beautiful tribute to her. I know your grief is overwhelming right now, but I hope you will learn, through time, how very much of her is still with you. The love never goes away.

Maggie Mae and Max said...

We are so sorry for your loss.

Janelle, Maggie Mae and Max

GOOSE said...

I am so sorry to hear about your sister. You will grieve and heal in your own way and time. You are in me and MOM's prayers.

Amy said...

your absence has gone through me
like thread through a needle
everything i do i stitched with
its color
W.S. Merwin

♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥ said...

So very, very sorry for your loss. Your sister was so loved by you. Our hearts go out to you.

Mom and The OP Pack

Becky said...

Aw, Holly, such a beautiful tribute to Patsy. All my love, my friend.

Staci said...

Holly I'm so very sorry to read this. You have created a lovely tribute to your big sister. The picture of the two of you is so very sweet. Thank you for sharing her with us. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Big hugs to you and Mabel.

Lots of Luv & Kisses
Addie, Lucie, Hailey and Staci