Tuesday, December 3, 2013

18 days

There never is a warning. No sirens or timers to go off when it hits. One moment I am fine, nuzzling into bed, looking forward to sleep, hoping for no dreams. The next moment... My chest is ripping open, tears are streaming down my face and a million emotions flood in all at once. I realize in that moment, my sister is dead. Typing those words makes me sick. Thinking them causes great disgust. Saying out loud... I don't know if I have.

I have told people she is gone. I can't admit to myself that I had to let her go. Her death has created such an emptiness in me. I don't feel the same joys or desires as I did a month ago. I am perfectly aware that her passing was only a little over 2 weeks ago. I understand that everything is fresh and new. What I can't grasp is that it is real.

I saw her just a month ago; laughing, smiling and still hoping her family dysfunction could see past itself and come together. I remember the last words I said to my sister before she was no longer coherent were "I love you" and "If you need anything please call me". I hugged her goodbye that day, not realizing that the next time I would see her was while she lay mumbling nonsense and not having a clue who I was. While the nurses pretended nothing was wrong and the doctors were discussing the use of a feeding tube to make her stronger.

6 days. That's all. 6 days. I went back to that hospital 6 days later. Why 6? What was so important for me to not make it back there in six days... I don't know. Life. But guess what, it's still here. Those are 6 days I gave up being with her. My mind tries to console the rest of me body with logic. "You didn't know!" "She's been in and out of hospitals so many times; how was this supposed to be different?" It was.

She joked with me when she saw me... "Wow, Manda! I really must be dying... You're here!" I told her not to think that way, she'd be back home in no time. Boy, was I wrong.

The week after those 6 weeks was the most difficult week of my life. My 43 year old sister was dying and I was not leaving her side. Whether she knew I was there or not. It was Tuesday afternoon when the doctors called us in as a family to tell us that her liver has shut down... her kidneys were quickly following and her body was no long responding to any of the treatments they were trying. They had nothing left to do. She didn't want to be turned into a plugged in mummy. She didn't want to have to lay attached to machines to allow her to live. She knew it was her time to go when her body was done.

Those next few days felt like weeks, months even. I lived at the that hospital. I slept in a chair next to her bed holding her hand. I would crawl up next to her and hold her. Singing to her, talking to her, brushing her hair. I even painted her nails.

My sister had an addiction to alcohol. It had become her disease. Mix that with a bum liver from birth and she was never stood a chance. Her and I were the best of friends while I was growing up, with 10 years between us it's surprising we were as close as we were. Once she made her slip into alcohol and heavy drug use I couldn't stand to sit by and watch her die. I told her she had a choice: Me or her addiction. I lost. In fact, I lost big because she didn't have a choice. Something I didn't learn until a few years ago. She needed me to help her and I abandoned her. Left her with more of a reason to cling to the numb.

She was placed on morphine Tuesday afternoon, all antibiotics and the feeding tube were removed. We were placed in a room where we would have more privacy as a family; to watch as one of us died. Where I woke and slept (resting for a few hours here or there) for days; watching as my sister's breathing grew more and more labored. The only night I went home was Friday. I was so tired. I had barely eaten going on two weeks. I couldn't focus. George took me home to rest one night. What was one night compared to the week I had just spent. ME ME ME... Selfish ME! She died that night. I wasn't there.

The call came in... I saw her father's name flash on my phone and for a brief second I thought if I don't answer it won't be real. I knew what the call was. I knew why that phone rang. I rushed back to that horrible place where the shell of a once vibrant and beautiful woman now lay. I laid on that bed, wrapped around her arm, holding her hard... waiting to see her chest move with a breath. Waiting to hear her heart beat. It never came.

One week after her doctors gave us the "there's nothing left to do" speech we were holding her services. 18 days. 18 days after I first saw her laughing in the hospital. Joking with me. Exchanging I love yous! 18 days.

My sister has been gone since Nov 15th at 11:55 pm. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her. Not a day goes by I don't hate that she is gone.