She’s in Room 257.

One year ago today, I sent: “She’s in room 257” in a text message to my mom after arriving at the hospital with my boyfriend.

Nine days later, my sister died.

My mom wishes she had those nine days back.  Even though my sister was kept in a sedated coma for the majority of it…and even when she was awake, she had a tube down her throat, was attached to a kazillion machines, but she was there – she was acting like herself to the utter amazement of the doctors and nurses.  To us – this was par for the course.

I remember when I first arrived at the hospital and my boyfriend and I were in the visitor’s lounge, waiting for a doctor.  Finally, he came out to talk to us.  And, at the end of our brief conversation, when I didn’t cry or break down…he looked at me and said: You know this is serious, don’t you?  And I stared back and responded: Do you know how many times my family’s done this?

A few days later, she was improving.  We started preparing for her recovery and rehab. So, my mom wants those days back – the last ones.  Because, we didn’t treat it like the end but another beginning of treatments and medicine.

About a month ago, my dad asked me if I believe in any sort of afterlife.  I told him that I don’t have any strong opinions or beliefs – just hope.  Hope for my sister’s sake that there is one…that she gets to experience something other than the crap she had down here. But, I don’t ascribe to any religion…

I’m jealous of people who do, though.  Friday, I went home to attend a funeral of a school friend’s older brother.  I wasn’t particularly close to him or his family, but I had known them as long as I can remember.  The funeral was at a church and part of the priest’s sermon was actually about how God “gives his ear” to those who have gone through something tragic when they pray for someone else who is going through a similar tragedy – seems there’s some sort of ranking system with prayers that I didn’t learn in church class…ha. But I did attend the funeral just for that reason: I’ve gone through it and now someone I know has to deal with losing his sibling.  I have no answers, but at least I’ve survived a year of this…that must say something.  And, it is strange, because at the funeral…I didn’t cry for my friend’s brother or my sister.  When I cried, it was for my friend – for the fact that someone else has to deal with losing a sibling way before they should.

I wish I had answers for him, but when we hugged and he asked what helped…all I could say was, “Nothing.”

Afterwards, I thought that was the wrong thing to say…but honestly, I don’t know that anything has helped me.  It’s like losing a limb or going deaf or blind maybe…you can figure out how to get around, to get by without it…but you’re irrevocably different.  I don’t have a magic cure…there’s definitely nothing I can say to make it better.  And, I don’t have faith. My friend does.

For someone who claimed she was going to attempt positivity in her last post, I’m not doing a very good job, am I?

Well, I am trying.  Next week, I’m going to the ocean, to the beach.  I had an airline voucher and decided that for the anniversary of her death, I would do something that she liked and wished she could have done more often.  Go to California.

The honest truth is I have no clue how I’ll be next week.  Ni idea.  I wanted to attempt to do something in honor of her…maybe, I’ll be fine – maybe, I’ll be crying buckets.  Either way, at least I’ll be doing it at a beach!  That’s got to make it a little better, right?

Almost a year…

sunshine

It’s been almost a year since my sister passed away.  And while I don’t feel that sad today, I thought I should write just for that reason – today’s not a sad day.  Not all days are, but I tend to write when I’m in some sort of negative emotional state…not really when I’m okay.  Mainly because being positive is, well, difficult…but I was online browsing grief pages and group FB pages and everyone is so damn negative that I thought I needed to snap myself out of this a bit.  All of these posts about how no one understands what it’s like or how difficult the holidays are…it’s just so weird.  On the one hand, yeah – this blows. On the other, shouldn’t those of us on this horrible boat try to feel okay?  Instead of spouting words of how lonely this is or how we’ll never get over this, shouldn’t we be finding ways to…I don’t know…BE HAPPY?  And, I’m completely completely completely guilty of this, too.  My blog is 100% this sucks monkey balls and tomorrow it may be that again….and that is okay.  As long as I start writing about the good days, too.  Even if it’s happy through tears – just a tiny ray of sunshine through the clouds.

What kicked my butt a bit, before the online browsing, was a conversation with a friend.  I think I may have mentioned him before…his older brother married our other friend’s older sister and then the brother died in a horrible car crash.  So, I text these two friends every once in a while and I sent one a text when I realized that Thanksgiving was going to fall on the exact 10-month anniversary of my sister’s death…

Me: Thanksgiving actually falls on her 10 month dead-versary.  FML.

Him: It is never a dead-versary.  I know it is hard, the holidays always are.  Try to focus on the good times you had.  It is not fair that people we loved were taken out of our everyday lives but the memories we have are always there.  A part of THEM (who they were and how they lived their lives) is always there.  I still learn lessons from a man who died over six years ago.  They leave remembrances way past their shortened lives.  Their physical being may be lost but their presences is always here.  Dead is a dark word and does not apply to such bright people like my brother and your sister.  They have no dead-versaries…FML does not apply.  We are some of the unfortunate few that have had shitty things happen….

This continued for a bit…and then I asked how he could be so positive…

Him: Because at one point, all I thought was negative.  So much so that I literally did not want to face it…I came to a crossroads and had to make a decision…I made a new plan, one that takes a lot of work (still ongoing).  A plan to feel life (good and bad), focus more on the small positives, feel love again, recognize pain/loss, appropriately deal with anger, and learn to forgive myself for feeling like life was not fair, it isn’t fair.  I had to forgive my angers in blaming things and people who I thought took something from me.  I had to get over being scared of living because I thought it was too easy to lose.  I looked to the past and planned for the future.  I wanted to honor, not only my brother, but also myself as being a better person.  I have the choice everyday to look for the positive.  The ones we lost do not.  I still have bad days.  It comes with the territory.  The really bad days, I go for a run listening to music that reminds me of my brother.  I look around when hiking and am humbled by the beauty and think how lucky I am to experience that.  These things keep me positive.

This conversation made me reevaluate a bit (and really – it’s just nice to read a message from someone who’s been there, part of the reason I’m sharing it with you)…and so when I went online and saw all of these negative posts, I realized my sister would HATE if I didn’t enjoy the holidays because she wasn’t here.  She would tell me I was being dumb or stupid – probably with way more profane words than that.

Christmas was the last time I saw her before she went into the hospital for the last time.  As hard as it’s going to be, I’m going to try to do what my friend said – to choose to be positive, to choose to be happy….to recognize that this is going to be rough, but in the end, to be thankful for every day that I had this little brat in my life.

Wishing on Wishes

tunnel

When we were little and on family car trips, my sister, brother, and I would always make wishes in tunnels.  It was a very elaborate process.  To make a wish in a tunnel (at least in my family), one had to cross their fingers on their right hand, hold their right arm up so that their crossed fingers touched the roof of the car,and hold their breath the entire duration of the tunnel with their eyes closed.  (Amateurs will squeeze their eyes shut – those of us who have made a wish or two know that the key is to close your eyes “lightly” so that you can notice the light change when you exit the tunnel.)

There was one tunnel that was the most frequented “wish” tunnel.  It was in the city that my grandparents lived in. We didn’t always drive through it when we visited, because it was on the other side of town…close to a hospital…a hospital with a really great children’s wing.  Once my sister got sick, the tunnel soon turned from the “wish” tunnel to the “dread” tunnel – and we started driving through it a lot more often.

My wishes changed, too.  I stopped wishing for puppies and toys and had but one, new wish.  One wish that I kept from the age of 11 til the age of 29.  I wished it on shooting stars, I wished it on birthday cakes, I wished it in every frickin’ tunnel – any opportunity for a wish and I took it.  One single wish in 18 years.  I never told a single soul.  Because you can’t.  If you tell someone, your wish won’t come true.  And, I was strictly adhering to all wish rules.

I never told a single soul.  I followed all wish rules.  So, why is she dead?

My (Least) Favorite Time of Year

Boo TimeI’m back.  Where have I been?  Well, my boyfriend had a conference in Europe that I decided to tag-a-long on (tough life, I know) and then, I moved to my new city and started my new job.  I don’t feel very settled in yet – kind of scatter-brained today.  But, one thing is certain.  The holidays are approaching and I’m not a fan.  Not. One. Bit.  (See my oh-so-lovely drawing above).  Halloween to New Year’s used to be my favorite time of year.  As recently as last year, this was my favorite time of year.  Not only are there the typical holidays, but also my birthday and my anniversary with my boyfriend.  It’s just all of this special, magicalness crushed into a few months for non-stop good times.

But, now my sister is dead.  And all of the excitement and anticipation has turned into dread.  I don’t want her to miss my birthday, especially, this one – one of those big birthdays – thirty.  I don’t want to go through a Halloween or New Year’s without at least hearing her voice.  AND I DO NOT WANT ONE SINGLE DAMN CHRISTMAS WITHOUT HER!  Just the idea, just the thought…and…I’m a mess.  A complete mess.  The last time that I saw her not stuck to a kazillion tubes and machines was Christmas last year.  She was mad at me the entire time.  I had posted a recent family photo of us on Facebook and she hated how sick she looked and so was furious that I had put it online and was refusing to take it down.  I remember not taking it down for two reasons: (1) the picture was cute and, yes, she looked sick but I wanted her to see through it to how beautiful she was; and (2) I wanted the fight.  I don’t know why – I just had this feeling our fights were numbered.  And that’s how we interacted.  Sounds weird…but it’s true.  …I did take the picture down…eventually…

My sister said she hated the holidays after my parents divorced (we were adults when it happened).  It was a lie, though.  She loved the holidays – loved the traditions…  She was always upset if we didn’t make Christmas cookies or paint Easter eggs.  Out of all the holidays, Christmas was the one she loved the most.  How are we supposed to survive it without her?  How do you celebrate family when an integral part of yours isn’t there?  Is missing out?  Is dead?

She’s going to miss this holiday season and all the others and all the days in-between. All the new songs on the radio, the new episodes of Grey’s – big to small – she’s going to miss out on all of them.

But, there’s a sadder truth: She was always missing out.  She started missing out when she was nine.  How many days of school did she miss?  Recess?  School events?  Dances? She missed out on boyfriends, being loved by someone that wasn’t her family, maybe getting married, having kids……..She  could have never gone on the trip that I just did – explore a different country was an impossibility.  She missed out on life.  There were times when she was seemingly “normal” but she was a sick kid and life’s not kind to sick kids.

It’s quite cruel.  You can’t live life like you want to, but you have to watch everyone else get to.  Maybe she liked traditions so much because it made her feel normal…doing the things that we had always done before she was sick.  Maybe, she could pretend just for a little while that everything was okay.  I wish I had figured so much out sooner…had started to realize what it was like for her every day.  The last year of her life was when I had finally started to realize it all.  I figured out how to be a sister at the age of 29.  She died before I was 30.

My one hope is that if she exists somewhere that she’s off in that somewhere living, really living.  The way she couldn’t here.  That she’s no longer watching…not even us.

Especially not as we try to figure out how to live without her.