About six months before my sister died, a friend called me – somewhat out of the blue. We’re definitely friends, but we definitely don’t talk more than once every couple of years. He called to ask if I was okay…in a very concerned sort of way, not your run-of-the-mill-how-you-doing way. I said I was fine and asked him what was up…and then, he told me that his mom (works at the hospital in our hometown) had called him when she heard about my sister.
I had no clue what he was talking about. Then, he gets quiet and says: “Your sister attempted suicide a couple of days ago.”
I laughed. I laughed in disbelief. I laughed in pure belief. I laughed at how I was finding out through a distant friend days after it had happened. I laughed at how awkward this must be for my friend. And, I think I said something to the tune of: “Of course she did.”
He was taken aback by my response, as he should have been.
But this wasn’t the first time…or the last…
How many times total? Only my mom probably knows. She didn’t call me every time my sister got sick and had to go to the hospital…and she didn’t call me every time my sister attempted to kill herself. There was a threshold that had to be passed before my phone rang. Death had to be not just hovering around my sister but with his hands at her throat before my mom would let me know, because she didn’t want to put us (me or the rest of my family) through it…unless we really needed to be put through it.
And my sister’s suicide attempts were…halfhearted. She had an addiction to pain meds (a topic for a future post) and she would take enough pills to kill a normal person but not enough to be sure that they would kill her. So, my mom, again, didn’t want us to have to deal with the drama of it all, because she believed my sister really did not want to die or why wouldn’t she have downed the whole bottle?
If I sound cavalier and cruel in talking about this, it’s because I was. The possibility of my sister dying, whether of her own accord or from her disease, had started to mean less to me. Maybe it was some form of self-protection. She would not make choices to lead to a healthier life and no one could convince her to change…so, in theory, I was over it. She was going to die. In reality, I was selfish and blind, numbed by the past to the present.
The last time she attempted suicide was three months after my friend had called. My phone rang, again, but I missed the call (I was in the bathroom – peeing).
I had heard my phone, so I checked it – missed call from my sister. I set down the phone, thinking that I’d call her back later, but then picked it right back up and called her. Because in those three months between the phone call from my friend and this phone call from my sister, something had changed. I don’t know what, but I had stopped the self-protective selfish bullshit going on in my head and started to really really really be concerned. Because I had realized one thing…
I didn’t want my sister to die.
It’s not even “realizing” really – it’s more like admitting. Admitting to yourself that your selfish behavior is just an act and that deep down you are a mess because you are destined to lose something that you would really really really like to keep. Your little sister.
I had started to admit that more and more (like in the journal entry pictured above). And instead of treating my little sister like something I had already lost, I started treating her like something I thankfully still had.
So, I called her back.
She was crying.
She said something about nobody caring and how I didn’t even pick up the phone. I told her I was peeing – that I called her right back. (Thank gawd that I had!)
And she kept apologizing and saying that she wasn’t going to come visit me (she was supposed to come to town in a couple of days). That she was sorry – she just couldn’t make it.
I know we were on the phone for a while but I don’t really remember what I said – I don’t remember much more of what she said. I just remember trying with all my might to make sure that she did not hang up the phone. Of trying to convince her to stay with me…to stay with all of us…to stay. Stay. Stay.
Eventually, she hung up on me. Not in an angry way. In a sad, I-love-you-goodbye way.
I immediately called my mom and told her to go home.
She immediately called my dad because he could probably get there faster.
He got there in time and this turned into another “attempted” suicide. Her last one.
She did end up coming to visit. I’m so thankful that she did, because we had a really great time…and because, three months later she died…not from suicide but from the damn disease.
Now, it’s a year and-a-half after her death…and I’m still here – trying to live in a world that doesn’t include my little sister.
And trying to understand why I didn’t do more to keep her in it.