One of the best parts of my growing up was being with my best friend and sister Lisa, who was 18 months older than me. We were like twins and together all of the time. Of course we had the normal sisterly bickering here and there, but we were attached at the hip. We shared a room in every house we lived in. Shared stories, dreams, secrets, sightings of Santa out our bedroom window, tears and when our parents got divorced when I was 13, she was 14, we shared that too.Fast forward to her living in California as a NICU nurse and me married and pregnant attending nursing school, 1990. My phone bills were over $300 a month speaking several times a day as if she lived next door. She fell in love with my oldest daughter, mailing sticker covered packages almost monthly for her. We would take turns flying back and forth to see each other, though it just never seemed to be enough.
In 1993 she moved home to attend University of Penn to get her Master’s Degree as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner. What a great time that was! I was pregnant with my second child and always with her when she was free. She would take my daughter when I would have a doctor appointment, even if she was loaded down with work because she just wanted to spend as much time with her that she could.
She graduated in August of 1994 and was with me on Sept 5 when I gave birth to my second daughter. Even with all the babies she helped deliver, she was in complete awe and amazement of my delivery because I was her sister giving birth to her new niece. She was so proud!
She moved back to California in October 1994, not a happy day for any of us as we wanted her to stay here.
I knew I would see her in a few weeks because she was coming home for my youngest brother’s wedding, which was to be on December 10.
On December 6, I was in a head on collision with my 3 year old and 3 month old daughters. Thankfully we were all ok. I had some bruises and bumps – the car took the worst of it.
December 9, Lisa flew in and we saw her at the rehearsal dinner. My oldest daughter was in the wedding so attended the dinner as well. She sat with her Aunt the entire night.
December 10, 1994, will forever play as an old movie reel in my head, scene by scene, word for word as if it was yesterday. I didn’t have my car because it was totaled, therefore didn’t have my cell phone – back then they were factory installed in the cars. It was a dark, rainy day, Dec 10, when my husband took me and my daughter to get our hair done for the wedding. When we arrived at the bride’s house, something was up but I wasn’t sure what. My husband was getting ready to leave when her parents spoke with him outside. He called for me to speak with me outside, I went. Once out there with him, I truly believe I left my body and watched from above when he told me what he did. That is actually how I see the entire scene play out over and over in my head, from above looking down.
He had his hands on the sides of my arms and told me that my sister Lisa had been in a car accident and didn’t survive. I can’t explain how I felt at that moment. I lost my mind hitting and running trying to escape those words that I couldn’t bare to be true. (There is a movie, Mystic River with Sean Penn, that I saw not too long after Lisa died. There is a scene when he was told his daughter died that he acted out so unbelievably real. It was crazy to me how much my own experience was so similar to what I saw on the movie screen. I couldn’t believe he (Penn) knew “how I felt” and portrayed it to be so real in the movie)
We rushed to the hospital ER and to her side. She looked perfect, not a scratch on her face. I had to look at her hands and feet to make sure it was her – she always said her feet were nice and took pictures of them a lot on the beach. The only sign I could see was that her stomach was distended from internal injuries. The nurses pulled me away – I was not in good shape dry heaving and crying hysterically. My body was filled with such grief, such pain. I didn’t want it to be her. She was my confidant, my best friend, my sister, my daughters Aunt, they would miss out on so much.
She wasn’t in her body when I saw her in that bed, I did know that. It was weird but her soul was not in there. I hated leaving her that night. I couldn’t eat or sleep, she wouldn’t ever again. I couldn’t grasp that, I didn’t want to. To me she was just in California and coming home soon.
The days that followed were horrible, I couldn’t function. I could feel myself withdrawing from life. I did my best but was very distant doing just what was necessary and only what I could handle. Picking out the coffin was awful with my parents arguing over which one to buy and how much to spend. My husband, now ex, would yell at me to stop crying, don’t let the kids see you cry. Yelling at me at the viewing as I ran to lay next to my sister in the coffin, that I didn’t wait for him to walk in with me. Not there for me as I tried to sit inside the mausoleum spot where she was to be placed. I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t want to let her go. With no support and so much anguish there was no where to go except to that dark place of despair.
I guess I don’t have to tell you that I became extremely depressed. I had 2 clinical nursing classes left which after maternity leave, I was to take in January. I never went back. I withdrew from my life – functioning, but I’m not really sure how. I feel as if I slighted my youngest daughter. I’m not really sure I was fully “present” for her first year.
I was given a small dose anti-depressant to take daily but had to sneak it to avoid the belittling, disapproving comments I would have to listen to from my ex. I finally stopped taking them because I began to think something was wrong with me. That’s what I was being conditioned to think.
I worked through what I could with some of my sister’s close friends and my own. We would talk every day, laugh, cry, meet for lunch. I was even in one of their weddings. We brought each other comfort. It still didn’t bring her back.
I would cry in the shower, when everyone left the house. I would talk to her as if she was right next to me, sometimes I still do. I went through surgical procedures hoping to find something. I was searching, searching for what? Peace? Solitude? Closure? Distraction? I don’t know.
Every stage my girls overcame and my sister missed was another shot to my heart. I don’t understand her death. I still feel as if it was yesterday that my life changed forever.
The impact of losing my sister and being in an unhealthy marriage wasn’t a good combination. I got beat down and very depressed. I eventually climbed out of that pit. I left my husband, got divorced, left my home I built and designed, moved to an apartment, bought a house and joined the MHWTC. My main reason for joining the club was to overcome all the negativity that has been placed in my head – the lack of self worth and ability. With all of the changes last year I couldn’t get very involved with the club, but I did what I could.
This year I am hoping to complete a triathlon once I conquer the swimming with Joe at Riverwinds (began in October) and get over needing an oxygen tank to run!
Sometimes I think I still revisit that pit of depression. I’m not sure it really ever goes away. I believe having a healthy lifestyle and mindset helps a lot. Good friends and family are a blessing. Learning to accept and love all of your “flaws” knowing they are what make you eclectic and special. Aways be true to your heart, yourself and your friends and family. Live and love life to the fullest, it truly is a gift. Do your best – it doesn’t have to be perfect, nothing is.