My Love’s Leavin’

Landmines and Boobytraps.

Never really had much use for either of those words; except perhaps during that rare, once-in-a-decade discussion that occasionally popped up dealing with war and strategy. I really hadn’t any use for those words…that is; until after my sister died. The road on which I walk now is fraught with tons of each. I now find myself in the position of never knowing what smell, sound or song will be the one that will catch me off guard; sending me running to nearest restroom to have a mini-breakdown. I never know… Kleenex is now in my purse at all times; because …, I just never know.

“Shadows in purple thrill me
I cry myself awake each night”

Last night (Sunday, June 13,2010) my husband and I had my parents over for dinner and a movie. We had a chance to sit and talk. I cooked and made preparations as music played in the background. Usually, during these family dinners, my sister would be working side-by-side with me…helping. On this night, she was not with me. It all felt strange. My husband had selected a jazz album by the group “Fourplay”. There is this one track on it, “My Love’s Leavin’” that seemed to just suddenly jump out and grab me by the throat . There was no warning. As Michael McDonald sang out the painful words, I ran out of the room. But before I did , I begged my husband to “please, change the song!” “Please change it now!” I ran upstairs and managed to get myself together; coming back down in less than five minutes. The moment I returned, I apologized to everyone and told them that I thought I could listen to the CD, but it’s just “that song”. I just can’t listen to “that song!” Mom looked me straight in the eye and quietly whispered, “I understand, Lord knows I understand”. Daddy ? Well he just sat…and stared straight ahead. You never know.

“I can’t believe that it’s true
Here I am, where are you?”

Then…there was the movie, “Everybody’s Fine” with Robert DeNiro. Mom cried throughout the first ten minutes of it. My husband asked if we needed to stop looking at it; but she said that she still wanted to see it. It took a while before we all felt comfortable enough , but we did finish. I refused to cry this time around; as I already had made an ass of myself earlier. Truth be told: It was actually a good movie. But, you never know.

Wasn’t too long before it was time to pack up food for them to take home and kiss them goodnight. Mom has a difficult driving in the dark, so she was a bit nervous. My husband and I have decided that the next time, we will pick them up and drive them back ourselves. As they left to go home, the sky had had just enough light left; so that they would not have to drive home in pitch black. I looked up into that sky and saw something just awesomely phenomenal.

“Shadows in purple thrill me”

My husband was standing on the stoop next to me; yet I was unable to speak to him until after it passed over. I told him what I saw; and he smiled. Having Mom and Dad over for dinner and a movie was a good thing. A very good thing. I know that you are wondering: Just what was it that I saw? That, I’m afraid, is personal. You’ll never know .

‘sides…you’d never believe me if I told you.

“But I’ll control my feelings,I find faith, healing; and I’ll find hope singing”
“The way is so long. But I’m going to be strong”

We are going to be alright.

Her Diamonds

“Oh what the hell she says, I just can’t win for losing…and she lays back down”

One of my sister’s most precious possessions were her diamond earrings. Everyone who knew her well, knew how much she loved wearing them. She wore them every day. .. even had them on when she was admitted to the hospital. But…as everyone with good sense knows, it is not a good idea to have valuables laying around in a hospital room. It is also especially not a good idea to be wearing expensive jewelry during one’s stay.

It had become our habit (my husband and mine) to take her purse to her every day when we visited. We would never open it. We would bring it in, hand it over to her, and then let her go through it; fingering through its contents to her heart’s desire. Afterwards, she would zip it up again, and hand it back to us. She was beginning to relinquish whatever she had left of her physical decision making power over to others. Making sure that she had complete control over her purse was one of the ways we felt that she could somewhat maintain her dignity.

“Her diamonds bring me down ’cause I can’t help her now”

It would also be well to note that my sister was one “smart cookie”. Although she loved her diamond earrings, she knew that they would best be taken care of if handed over to a trustworthy (and at least semi-responsible) person. I am such a person. And so she took them off and handed them over to me. As she watched, I wrapped them in Kleenex and stuffed them down into one of the inner pockets of the purse. I then dramatically zipped the pocket shut, and patted the purse reassuringly. She smiled. She knew they were safe.

There they stayed…that is, until after she died.

It was hard to have to go through that purse when she passed. It was even more difficult for me to get up the nerve to begin wearing those earrings. She would have wanted me to. I found the receipt for them while going through her things at her house. I was surprised at what she paid for them. I, however, will not reveal to you whether this surprise was in knowing “how much” or for knowing “how little”. Because, you see, the truth is: Now…they are priceless.

“She’s down in it…she tried her best but now she can’t win
It’s hard to see them on the ground…her diamonds falling down, way down”

Her diamonds? In my ears. Right now.

I wear them proudly.

I wear them forever.

If You’re Gone

This is the hospital room where my sister died. She died on a Wednesday. The photo was taken just days before. I knew that one day I would need this. And I was right. I need it today.

Although still in the same room where she had initially been admitted; this time she was now under hospice care. This meant that there would be no heroic efforts made to save her life. She was simply to be kept as comfortable as possible. No food. No water. Just quietly and humanely waiting for the inevitable.

“I think I’ve already lost you…I think you’re already gone

Tonight was my night to stay with her. I maintained vigil in her hospital room; sitting in a semi-comfortable bedside chair. This was to be the last night of her life. This was our last “sleepover”. My back was turned to the open door as moonlight streamed into her darkened room from the window directly in front of me. The shadows of nurses and doctors danced in and and out as they walked behind me in the lighted hallway. Sometimes they would stop to listen, as I softly sang to her, prayed for her, and cried for her. I also cried for me.

I never turned around to acknowledge their presence, and so within moments, they would continue walking. All the while, my sister’s eyes remained half open; their whites a deep golden shade of yellow, her pupils staring vacantly out into space.

By this time, she had long since stopped communicating verbally. The medical/hospice professionals had mentioned to us that “the hearing will be the last to go” And so, whenever she thrashed around in pain, with tears streaming down my face, I would beg her to leave…“Please go,“ I would plead, “we’ll be alright!” When the thrashing finally subsided and she lay in relative peace, I would then change my mind and beg her to stay. This begging and pleading for her to stay…then go, went on all night long. I didn’t know what I wanted. Worse still, I didn’t know what she wanted.

At one point during the night, I placed one of my wrists into one of her withered and chemotherapy darkened clenched hands. “They tell me you can’t communicate with me”, I sobbed, “but I know that you are in there somewhere! I just know it!” “Please do something to let me know you’re still here!“ It was then, while still maintaining her vacant gaze, that she lifted my wrist up to her face. And when she no longer had the strength to hold on to it any longer, she let it go. It was all she had left in her power to do; her final gift to me. Acknowledgement. Recognition. I drew her hands back up to my face. My knees buckled as I slid out of my chair, falling onto them; onto the cold, hard linoleum floor … weeping as quietly as I could . In time, those knees began to hurt, but my heart hurt even more.

“there’s an awful lot of breathing room – but I can hardly move”

In that moment, I had no way of knowing that she would die the next day. But within that same moment, there was one thing I did know: As I reflected on her life, and the gracious, generous, loving way she lived it, I began to reason: The only thing worse than not giving enough, is giving too much. During a lifetime, in a valiant attempt to try and make everyone happy, she gave too much. Far too much. I have no plans to follow her lead.

Sure, I’ll be gracious, generous and loving…but I’ll be damned if I surrender it ALL !

“I think I’m finally scared now…you think I’m weak, I think you’re wrong”

Here is where it stops.

Sand and Water

Days prior to that biting cold February day when my sister was memorialized, I had warned my husband that I was going to wear a red dress to her service. He gulped. Then he diplomatically attempted to advise me against doing so. Yet, the more he tried, the more attractive that dress became to me; making me more determined than ever to wear that “bad boy”. Yep. To her funeral. Yes, to her memorial service. Yes, in February. In the snow…and ice…wearing high heels.

It is a exceptionally bright red dress… long sleeved, heavy crepe, nearly ankle length, trimmed with a black faux lamb’s fur collar and matching cuffs. I hadn’t worn the thing in over 10 years. Last time I remember wearing it, my son was a baby. I had given everyone (except for my parents) time to get used to the idea that I would be wearing it. This was no secret. I even gave a courtesy warning to both my brother and his wife for good measure.

However, I don’t think that any of them actually believed that I would carry through on this. I did. I wore it. Yes sir/ma’am, I did. And…

I had the nerve to look good in it.

My sister’s memorial service was held at a religious “house of worship” that, for my own personal reasons, I hardly attend anymore. It is a place where I am considered somewhat of a persona non grata, (not for any sin I committed, mind you, but because I refuse to put up with their nonsense and feel free to challenge what I do not believe to be right in the face of self-righteousness) But I digress…

And so, I certainly didn’t see what more harm wearing a “li’l ole red dress” could possibly cause. On that day, I also chose to wear a matching herringbone patterned, stylishly sweeping, red and black shawl.

On the way to the service, (we have a family van; also red), we swung by my Mom and Dad’s house to pick them up, so that we could all arrive together. When we arrived, Dad was cool and collected. And although it did appear that Mom was a bit unnerved when she saw me get out of the van (in my red, red dress) to let them in, she did somehow manage to haltingly stumble out the words, “You certainly look pretty” to me. I smiled, nodded; and we rode, mostly in silence, to the memorial service as I looked out of my passenger side window; staring at the dirty snow on the ground.

“Solid stone is but sand and water, baby”

When we arrived, I immediately took my place up front and center and waited for the service to begin.

I had designed the programs myself, and had selected from my own personal album collection, a photograph of my sister walking along the beach for the cover. (Don’t forget this; as it will be important to remember later on). There were two religious denomination-specific songs printed on separate paper, that had been inserted into the program. (Another long story). On the back of the program I had included an excerpt from the song “Sand and Water” by Beth Nielsen Chapman. In addition, I had also printed for myself two alternate songs and had discreetly slipped them into the fold of my own personal program, so that I could create my own memories. The songs were:

“The Whole of the Moon”, by The Waterboys and “Sometimes Goodbye is A Second Chance”, by Shinedown.

Overall, the service was dignified and well done. However, I must confess that I became a bit edgy when the service began drifting off to “what my sister would have said if she were here” and “what she believed”, followed by a brief “please come to our place of worship” info-mercial.

I did it. I got through the service. Without crying. Afterwards, I hugged. I shook hands. I smiled.

As I stood in my red dress and high heels, I knew that my sister would have been proud of me. And then I remembered the words in the song:

“Solid stone is but sand and water baby…sand and water and a million years gone by…”

And so I hurt, and wait…

For a million years to go by.

If you could see it then you’d understand…

Officially speaking, my sister died at the age 48, on January 20, 2010 @ 1:30pm of metastastic breast cancer. (This was the official diagnosis). By now I have stared at that death certificate more times than could ever be imagined, and have marveled at how easily a cause of death can be summed up in so few words; but, at the same time, realizing just how loaded those words really can be.

I will never view a cause of death or look at a death certificate the same way again.

Ever
again.

It was probably a few weeks before her death when I realized she had died long before then. Long before she had given herself permission to have an official reason to die. Long before that last Thanksgiving Day dinner we had with the family. Long before that warm December 4th date when I walked with her to my car from her home, as she shut the door behind her for what was to be the last time. Long before I sat down beside her in the hospital admittance office, while she, almost overcome with exhaustion, filled out the required paperwork to be admitted into the room that was eventually be the site of her deathbed. Way, way long before. All was confirmed after she actually had her “passport” stamped for that final eternal destination.

“birds came flying from the underground”

We have been devastated. I have been devastated.

This blog will be my attempt to put things together, in a perspective that perhaps only I can understand.

I will start with Paris….

France.

No, I have never been, but have always felt that this is where I should be living. Even as a small child, I dreamed of this place. Long before the internet provided me with the means to prove what I had already known instinctively; I knew what Paris looked like.

My sister and I had planned to go together. She had been to many places…even Italy (A friend of hers recently sent my parents a picture of her standing and smiling with them in Positano). However, strangely enough, somehow, in all her travels, she never quite made it to Paris. I believe that she had been waiting for me. I do believe that she is still waiting for me.

“birds came flying from the underground”

For now, these words from the song: “Speed of Sound” by Coldplay resonate through me…over and over and over again. Loudly.

Now, I can afford to go to Paris. But now is not the right time. On this lifetime go ’round, I instinctively know when it will be right. Springtime. Next year (God willing). On a journey complete with all of the “bells and whistles”

And so, as l begin telling this story on Mother’s Day morning 2010, I do so hoping that Paris, France is where this story ends. The name of the exact location?

“Eurodell, en le jardin de Marcella” (or kinda like that)…a place that doesn’t exist….quite yet.

“birds came flying from the underground”

Paris, France. Maybe, just maybe…”When I see it then I’ll understand”

“When I see it then I’ll understand”