"In memory of my sister." "An unexpected death." How do I title a blog post that is so painfully unexpected, but which I have to write --- because that's what I do when I hurt, and when I don't hurt: write.
You say it like it is. My sister died today. I got the call from my brother-in-law, Bob, a few hours ago.
He said that Carol Ann, who was 71, went into a room to look something up on her computer that they had been talking about. When she didn't come back after a while, Bob went to look for her.
Carol Ann was on the floor. Dead.
Bob didn't hear a sound. It was a stroke or heart attack. Something sudden. Not a bad way to go. I wouldn't mind being on my computer, maybe writing a blog post, and dying snap, just like that.
My sister recently complained of symptoms that pointed to congestive heart failure. She'd had some tests. I've got an email in my inbox from her that came yesterday. Carol Ann talked about how one of the new medications she was taking made her feel out of breath and dizzy.
Maybe it killed her. Maybe it didn't. Doesn't matter. Life kills us all. It's just a matter of when.
I haven't cried thoroughly yet. Just a little. Maybe that will come later. Maybe not. Doesn't matter. What I'm doing now, what you're doing now, what everybody in the world is doing now, that's what matters.
Because yesterday you can have sent an email to your brother about how you're starting to feel better, making a comment on the weather...
Some sunshine today, but more rain is forecast. Hope this signals the end of our 3 year drought.
and the next day you go to look something up on your computer, and then you're gone forever, and you'll never know whether the rain came or didn't, or whether the end of a California drought is over or not.
So Jesus fucking Christ, who neither my sister nor I believes is the son of God, because God almost certainly doesn't exist, and neither will you, or I, or my sister after we die (though I hope to God I'm wrong), do what needs doing now.
My sister's one and only child, Cathy, should have gotten a Christmas card from me yesterday. Since 2000 she and her equally cruel husband, Steve, have refused to let Carol Ann and Bob have any contact with them or their two children, my sister and brother-in-law's grandchildren.
Cathy and Steve claim to be Christians. I call them something else, nasty swear words that passed through my mind when I heard that my sister had died.
In the card I told Cathy that her mother probably had congestive heart failure. Like I do every year, in every Christmas card, I told Cathy that it would mean the world to my sister if they could get over this ridiculous family spat and let her and Bob see their grandchildren (and child) again.
Now, too late. Too late, Cathy.
If I'm wrong about life after death, and you meet your Jesus, I hope he rakes you over the fucking coals for bringing so much unhappiness to your mother and father, and allowing your mother to die without having seen her grandchildren for ten years, since they were only eight and ten years old.
For a few seconds before I sat down at my laptop, I thought: "Some people are going to think this isn't the right time to write a blog post about my sister dying, since it was just a few hours ago."
And in the next few seconds, I thought: "Screw them. There is no right time to die, it's always a bad time to die, and there's never a right time to write about dying. So this is a good time, as good as any. And if somebody is bothered by that, tough shit."
Maybe one person will come across this who hasn't reached out to someone they should, or done that do it before you die thing we all talk about but never do because we don't really believe that death can come as suddenly as we all know it can.
Wake-up call. That's what the phone ringing a few hours ago was.
It was Life talking through my brother-in-law. Death is here, right next to us, you, me, everybody, one heart beat, one breath, away.
I didn't spend enough time with my sister. I didn't do enough for her. I didn't tell her "I love you" often enough. I always felt that I had plenty of time, and so did she, and eventually I'd be able to make not enough into enough.
Now there isn't. There's no time. So I'm not all that different from Cathy, Carol Ann's jerk of a daughter, except I wasn't quite as much of a jerk of a brother.
I want to make amends. But I can't. Because my sister ran out of time, and so did I.
I wish she was still alive. She can't be. But the rest of us, me especially, can be more alive if her death spurs us to appreciate our living more. I guess that's the greatest gift I can offer my sister, the greatest "thank you."
You gave me so much while you were alive.
And now you've given me a wonderful gift by dying: a deeper appreciation for living, and a gut-check moist-eyed knowledge that wherever you are, I'm heading there one day also, as are we all, and that day could be the next moment.
There's one thing, or ten things, or a thousand things we know, deep down, that we need to do before we die.
Things that when we're lying on the floor next to the computer, knowing this is the end, will make us smile, even through the pain and the oh no not now, because we did one thing, or ten things, or a thousand things that were exactly what needed doing.
Now. Now. Now.
Thank you, Carol Ann. I love you.
For the very little that it is worth, I offer my sympathies. My eldest brother died last month. His son preceded him in death by a little over a year.
Robert Paul Howard
Posted by: Robert Paul Howard | December 20, 2009 at 12:47 AM
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. It is part of life but it doesn't make it easier to know that. Maybe she knows how you feel. Maybe she always knew. Then again maybe not but you said what you felt and if it didn't go out to her, it went out to the rest of us. *hope you don't mind a hug*
Posted by: Rain | December 20, 2009 at 02:43 AM
Robert and Rain, thanks. Everyone deals with grief in different ways. For me, immediately writing about my pain helped me. After I clicked "publish" I went into my meditation area and had a good cry. Then, calmed down and meditated for a while.
I came out, poured a glass of wine, made some microwave popcorn, and watched "Up" -- that marvelous animated movie that had just arrived from Netflix a few days ago. Good therapeutic timing.
It's about a man who flies his house to South American via balloons after his wife dies, to fulfill a long-deferred dream and promise. I laughed often. And almost cried often. Like I'm starting to do now again.
Death is so final. I woke up and thought for a moment that my sister's had been a dream of mine. But it wasn't. It was real. Like mine will be. Like each of ours will be.
Death is a wake-up call. Before a final sleep.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | December 20, 2009 at 08:31 AM
I think it was William James who said we are all cold yet we huddle together for the illusionary warmth so I reach out and, as Rain, give you a huge hug.
Posted by: elizabeth w | December 20, 2009 at 11:47 AM
I'm so very sorry for your loss.
Family relationships can be so difficult and complex..and painful. I have deep empathy for that part of what you're going through.
You're in my thoughts.
Posted by: Carla Axtman | December 20, 2009 at 01:32 PM
Very honest post and I appreciated it. I went running this morning and thought about Carol Ann the whole time. I thought about if I died right then and there would I have any regrets. I'm happy to say that I can't think of anything that I wish I would have done and I've lived the life I wanted and whether I die tomorrow at 37 or in 40 years, I'll die happy. You raised me right and some of my best memories are of the two of us when I was little. I love you Dad!
Posted by: Celeste Vos | December 20, 2009 at 08:39 PM
Celeste, damn...you almost produced a tear. Good job.
Yes, memories. I fondly (and also not-so-fondly) remember "Bisneyland," which involved holding, pulling, and swinging you and a friend around in a blanket, pretending that you were on various Disneyland rides -- which would have been a totally fond memory if it weren't for the fact that you two weighed a heck of a lot and I am probably still recovering from the strain on my back.
But that's love. Which is why I miss my sister so much. And love you so much.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | December 20, 2009 at 08:56 PM
Under the circumstances this may be in poor taste and if so I appologise.
First, My sincere condolences on your sister's sudden parting especially with unresolved family issues.
But at least Russell didn't win Survivor. There must have been a teeny bit of consolation in that.
One old saying is true...
It isn't winning. It's how you play the game.
And one isn't...
Nice guys don't always finish last.
Finally, Best wishes to your brother-in-law in this trying time.
Posted by: tucson | December 20, 2009 at 10:27 PM
tucson, I'll confess, rather guiltily, that I actually was rooting for Russell to win Survivor. At least, I ended up feeling that he deserved to win. I didn't like him, but I came to respect his abilities to scheme, manipulate people, and understand interpersonal dynamics.
It was a surprise to me that Natalie won. To my wife also. Taoistically, she played a "yin" game. (And she also looked good in a bikini.) I don't think she deserved to win, given the coattails argument. However, it could be argued (and it was) that she simply played a more subtle game, while Russell's was extremely overt.
I'm glad Russell won the $100,000 Best Player prize. He grew on me over the season. Once in a while I'd even find myself liking the guy. it was nice to see his wife appear on the results hour. I'd been curious about what she would be like.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | December 21, 2009 at 12:11 AM
Every day people go off to work or the store or wherever and they say to their loved ones, "See you tonight" or "I'll be back in a bit" and they never return.
My wife works about 12 miles from home and I think of this every time she leaves and I'm thankful every day she returns.
Life is so fleeting. One minute everything is "normal" and the next it's never the same. For me, that's why it's important to embrace this life while we have it. Once it's gone, it's gone.
Brian, I'll be thinking of you in my non-prayers.
Posted by: The Rambling Taoist | December 21, 2009 at 01:12 AM
I am so sorry for your loss. I wish you peace and that the love you have for your sister (which is very much still alive) bring you consolation and healing.
Posted by: John Phelan | December 21, 2009 at 07:26 AM
I disagree that Russell played the game well as evidenced by the fact that he didn't win. I give him credit for finding the immunity idols and his strength of will in the final immunity challenge. In the end, the human factor plays a part and Natalie succeeded in that department while using Russell well. Even during the reunion show Russell was completely ungracious and without class.
Posted by: tucson | December 21, 2009 at 08:47 AM
tucson, good points. By "playing well" I meant that Russell's strategic vision was outstanding. His summary of that at the final Tribal Council was terrific, how he played this person against that person for this reason. He had that part down.
But I agree with you that he overplayed that aspect. Russell assumed that the jury members would value strategizing above all else, forgetting that people are feeling beings as well as thinking beings.
I suspect that Russell won their heads, and Natalie won their hearts (the viewer reactions echo this, since Russell was more popular among people who watched him from afar on TV rather than putting up with him on the island).
Posted by: Blogger Brian | December 21, 2009 at 09:06 AM
"Russell assumed that the jury members would value strategizing above all else, forgetting that people are feeling beings as well as thinking beings."
Exactly. This is what the bartender guy summarized so well in the final tribal council. Up to that point I was sitting on the fence between Russell and Natalie. The bartender's (can't remember his name) comments struck me as eloquent in that moment and I saw a change in Russell's demeanor after that little speech. I think he knew then that he didn't have it in the bag.
I was continually surprised that people in the game did not seem very perturbed by Russell's brazen, cocky attitude. I realize that it was mostly revealed to the audience and his "good old boy" side to the players, but some of the smarter ones caught on pretty quick.
Nevertheless, he did play a smart strategic game and he would be a formidable competitor in the dog eat dog world of business. I'll give him the 100 grand but not the million.
One thing about Russell that I do admire was his ability to keep his spirits and competitive attitude up during the bad weather when everyone was shivering, suffering and complaining. Not one negative peep or complaint from him. He almost seemed to enjoy and thrive in it.
I am just happy to see that utter ruthlessness does not always pay off. I think all winners of Survivor have had to resort to scheming, betrayal and manipulation as a necessary part of the game, but most seemed to have some level of regret or remorse about it. Not in Russell's case however.
Whatever. It's just a TV show, but one that can teach a lot about human nature.
Posted by: tucson | December 21, 2009 at 03:26 PM
Brian, sorry about the sudden loss of your sister, my condolences. What I have found cathartic in the past in similiar situations was to write down all the favorite and unique sayings of the loved one, in my mind before I forget. One just came to mind the other day after 3 years: "next summer, on the ice".
Posted by: Nw | December 21, 2009 at 07:56 PM
You're horrible. I understand and feel for your loss, I know if Bo suddenly died I'd go to pieces. But pain is absolutley no reason to lash out at people who are (well were) in a situation of which you know very very LITTLE about!! Every thing I've read on what you've said about this whole godforsaken situation tells me that you take very little into account in forming your opinions. Mostly from her side, sometimes it seems like all from her side. I've learned over the years from being an improptu mediatior for my friends is that no matter who you love/know/believe more, yoi need to litsen to everything both sides says with an open mind and heart. That's the only way you can ever get anything solved. You spewed out the "there's always 3 sides to an argument..." quote in one of your other posts I read, but I dont think you fully know what it means, or if you ever will. Doesn't matter I guess, everyone has their own oppinions. But taking it out on her without truly trying to understand her side is cruel and selfish. She is a sensitive person as you have pointed out time and time again and sending her letters, especially ones like the one she got this morning hurts her deeply, as much as she claims to dislike you. I know from the tears in her eyes when she heard the news that she could never fully dislike anyone, thats how much love she stil has in her heart even after all the crap she went through. I dont want to seem like I'm "casting stones" as you also have said, because I also mostly know one side. But what I have heard from the other side is cruel lashing out and manipulation. That is why I choose to believe my mother. The other reason is I was mentally bullied by one of my peers in middle school. I know that is a frightening, extremely hurtful situation, where everything that is you feels like it is stripped away, and all that is left is the fear and insecurity and you don't know if you will ever be able to get back up again. You feel so alone. This girl was a close friend, who I told many things and trusted deeply. But one day she started whispering things in my ear that all went along the lines of "no one actually likes you." And because I trusted her, I believed her. Every word. The last thing I know about this kind of bullying is that it is 100% underhanded. No mental bully is going to come out and show everyone what theyre doing. All that happened were the whispers and a few instances that it was obvious she orchastrated, and wanted me and me alone to know it was her. When its someone you trust and care for that much, it makes it so much worse. I cant even begin to imagine what it must have been like to have your own MOTHER do that to you. At first, a was a small child and like you thought she was being silly. But when I was old enough she explained to me exactly what went down. And seeing the pain in her eyes and having my experiences with a bully that uses manipulation and mental tactics to break you down, I fully believe her. And the things you say about my parents, in this post especially really piss me off. Thats the mostly the reason I said you were horrible (and I apologize for that). If it weren't for them I would've ended up a extremely messed up individual as a result of the mentioned situation and a few others. They never gave up on me, and showed me more love, compassion and understanding than I will ever deserve. They helped me to live learning from these situations, letting them define me in the best ways possible by learning form them and letting what Ive learned make me stronger ans smarter. Its not to say I think Carol was a mean unfeeling person that didnt care about her, I believe you when you say that she missed all of us and wanted to have relationships with us. But I also know that my mom was 100% ready to forgive her, in fact she did a long time ago. All she wanted was an apology for the mental abuse she had taken over her whole childhood, and she was willing to make amends and and let her back into everyones lives. But all she got was the snide remark of "well at least I didnt smack you around or lock you in a room" THATS why she decided to sever contacts. And I know tha tif she had apologized at any time these 10 years that my mom wouldve happily welcomed both of them back into our lives. As would all of us. She missed them both, her dad especially. I am beyoned thriled that we have the chance to see him again and develop a relationship with him now, as I have missed him terribly as well. I just wish it didn't have to be like this. We will give him all the love and support he needs, and once again you have my sincerest condolences....no matter what you believe. I hope you have a good holiday (as I know with a loss it could never truly be "great" or "merry") and a much better New Year than this.
P.S. I also wanted to apologize again for the words I began this with....I guess I to was feeling the emotion of the situation. I also have an EXTREME protective streak when it comes to the ones closest to me. (guess that runs in the family, huh :P)
Posted by: Lori | December 22, 2009 at 01:23 PM
Lori, I can't challenge your feelings. I'm sorry you feel so badly toward me. I talked with your grandfather, Bob, about an hour ago. He's very happy that he was able to see his daughter and son-in-law last night (I believe it was), your mother and father.
Now he's looking forward to seeing you and Bo again.
You've expressed the anguish you feel. Please listen to mine.
A week ago today I mailed a Christmas card to your mother. I told her about my sister's being diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and urged her to get in touch with Carol Ann. Bob told me today that your mother and father read what I said and decided to contact my sister.
Their card arrived today. A day and a half after Carol Ann died. She looked forward to hearing from her daughter for ten years, and she died 36 hours or so too early to fulfill that heartfelt desire.
I started to say to Bob, "I feel terrible that I didn't send out my Christmas cards a few days earlier..." He interrupted me with "Don't! Don't berate yourself. The past is done. It can't be changed."
So true. I hope you'll come to feel the same way.
I'm glad you expressed yourself so honestly to your great-uncle. Now, perhaps we can come together and start to heal the family wounds. I wish so much that Carol Ann were here to share in that process, but she isn't. We can honor her, and continue to love her, by acting as a family with differences -- no longer disconnected and mistrustful.
When I wrote what I did my sister had just died. I visualized her lying on the floor by her computer, unable to call out for help, knowing these were her last moments. And also knowing that she would never see her daughter and grandchildren again -- the daughter and grandchildren that she hadn't seen for ten years.
The pain... not just of dying, but of the knowing that what you wanted so much, you'll never have. I don't know what that pain would be like, or if Carol Ann actually felt it. But just envisioning that she did filled me with tremendous anger toward your mother. I still feel it, but it is mixed now with more compassion, as she deals in her own way with the hurt of her mother's death.
There's plenty of justified anger to go around. Now, let's stop spreading it around. That's my hope at least.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | December 22, 2009 at 01:47 PM
My sister Joanne died 13th May 2010 aged 47yrs young.
She studied angels
She believed in afterlife
She studied Doreen Virtues Miracles
She studied Doreen Virtues lessons
Chakra was something she mentioned
She detoxed on holiday camps
She visited the most amazing places in the world
She lived life to the full
She told me to stop thinking and just do it
She forgave those who did not deserve to be forgiven
And then she died!
I am still in shock.
Posted by: J Spencer | November 03, 2010 at 03:58 PM
My sister passed away on 16 September 2012
Only 30 years old I'm 32 and I found her in her 6 year olds sons bed
We where like twins and so best of friends why me!
Why did I find her I think it's what she mite of wanted
Me to find her. I still carnt believe she's gone my Kelly ann
My baby sister :( oh the pain is unbearable
Her two children left with no mam I have spent every day
Looking after them since the day she left us and now there dad
treats me like my sister! And I'm so sad!!
Posted by: Tina | July 28, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Brian, I could have written those words myself. I felt everything in the exact words. The thought of God pisses me off. My mom was starting the holy roller thing and claiming Jesus' promise of return. I just blurted out over a post funeral kitchen conversation, "That's fairytales." My family looked at me as if they somehow were saved from death and i wasnt. I was a crappy sister. I think before Raquel died I had told her to just off herself. She had got on my last nerve with the self pity stuff and being mad at me for who knows what. She was an alcoholic but she died in a car accident. I just figured I show her tough love, cuss her out, remind her of how she is fucking up her kids life and oneday she will sober up and get passed it. I thought we laugh abt it oneday. But she died one saturday morning on Sept 17, 2011. Shit, she was just 30 and it was any given saturday. And her doctor said tht the sauce was going to kill her. Haha, the alcohol didnt kill her. The effen irony in that. I should have enjoyed my sister drunk or sober. We argued in every conversation. The second to last time i saw her was in 2005. The last time I saw her was in her coffin, sept 2011. 6years, death in my face. Most of us are born surrounded by fantacies of angels, gods, santa claus and heros like batman. I am born thinking that someone, something is going to save the day because there is something special and my family, my sister and I. And then my sister dies, time is up. No hero, no angel, no reason. No different from the roach I killed in my bathroom. And now I really dont want to die. I don't want to die ever. I am a biology major and I have considered that death might be a flaw in our genome. I thought more radically, that maybe we are the ones to master the universe. And then I come back to earth on a small grave in the San Antonio desert. If there is a "God" I want to know before I die, "What the fuck is going on." I think He would appreciate the question. Now, I enjoy life more with anger. As if Im being rushed to eat at the sound of a whistle. I wished I had consumed more time with my alcoholic sister, getting drunk and partying it up like it Friday, Sept 16. I am so so damn sorry I didnt.
Posted by: Sienna Dow | August 20, 2012 at 02:35 AM
My sister's body was found -- with 24 days of decomp. -- on her kitchen floor, at the end of August 2012. More than five months later, I'm sobbing as I try to type this, because what haunts me most is that she was alone and I can never know what her last thoughts were, if she even had time for final thoughts. The M.E. determined primary cause of death to be diabetic coma.
The beast of loss inside me is screaming so loud and mourning so deeply, I guess it's time for me to learn how to start a blog! It's time to free the beast!
Posted by: Marta | February 08, 2013 at 10:03 PM
My sister is gone. 2 yrs now. I thought I was ok but I'm not. I put on a good face for family and friends but it's just a mask. I am heartbroken and need to share how great my sister was. My life is now before her death and after. I can not bridge the gap. Can anyone help me. I am the youngest sibling and no one is left. I miss her and my heart is shattered. HELP
Posted by: Laurie | November 05, 2016 at 06:47 PM