How did she?
She had been unresponsive for almost a week. Her visions were all turned inward and although emotions would show on her face occasionally, for the most part she was unresponsive with only shallow breathing and an eyelid twitch now and again to show she was still alive.
I shared her eulogy with you before, on previous anniversaries...but today, on this fourth Anniversary of my sister’s death, I want to share the story of the event with you.
Because I still find much of odd...
Because I still find much of it humorous...
..and because I think I am finally ready to tell the story.
Understand that this is my story. I may not have all the medical parts of it correct...I’m not a nurse or a doctor. Just a sister.
The thing is, though, that I was with her when she died. Alone. And she died within minutes of my turning the last page of an epic book my husband had given me to read when my sister’s death vigil began.
My sister suffered from something similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease from her teenage years until her death at the age of forty. She was quite a bit younger than me and although we loved each other and shared a common love of rock ‘n’ roll and crafts we had never really been ‘sister friends’.
As her disease progressed, my parents finally made the difficult decision to place her in a full-time, residential care home.
While she still had coherent speech, she voiced her displeasure loudly and often, but as her disease progressed her vocalization became less and she expressed her displeasure by a disgusted roll of lips or eyes.
In the years prior to her death it seemed that our family was ruled by her health. My memories interweave every holiday and occasion as considered to be ‘her last’, and sadness was always entwined with the joy of celebration.
She fooled everyone, though, and continued for many years...slowly degenerating until it finally came to the ‘last’ last.
Her organs began shutting down.
Hospice and doctors and nurses agreed that she had just a short time to live. Possibly just hours.
Everyone gathered in the hall at the nursing home and wept and lamented and said goodbye and spent final moments with her.
The only problem with that scenario was that she wasn’t willing or ready to go yet. She made it through the night.
In the morning, hospice and doctors and nurses agreed, again, that it would just be hours, but it wasn’t. She made it through the day and the night again.
So our parents set up a schedule so that someone would be with her around the clock.
My husband had just finished reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. He handed it to me as ‘reading’ material as I headed out the door for my first scheduled vigil.
I dismissively tossed it onto the front seat and left it in the car.
Settling into the uncomfortable chair beside my sister’s bed, I found that time passes slowly when you are talking to someone who can’t respond. I brushed her hair, held some violets under her nose that I had picked from my garden, read her some poetry, opened the window, sang to her, put lotion on her hands and arms, and attempted to watch daytime TV.
After all that activity I was astonished to see that only an hour had gone by.
Remembering the book on the front seat, I told my sister I was going to be gone for a minute and then I sprinted to my car. Okay. Technically, I’m not much of a sprinter but I hurried as quickly as my old, fat body could go and returned to chair at her bedside.
I opened the first page of the book, certain that it would offer no distraction, but I was soon swept into the world of civil war, famine and religious strife. I wiggled unsuccessfully around in the chair hoping to find a comfortable spot and finally ending up leaning at an angle toward my sister’s bed so that I could keep a hand on her forearm while I held the massive book in my lap.
I shared passages with her. I talked to her about what I was reading. I talked impatiently to the nurses as they came in to check her...how dare they interrupt our reading. I was transported and I used all my powers of communication to take my sister along on the journey to the past with me.
When my Dad showed up at the room to take over, I was shocked to see that three hours had passed. I was dismayed to find I could barely stand up after pretzling beside her beside for so long.
I put the book into the bottom drawer of my sister’s dresser. I told her I would be back later and we would read some more.
I will finish this story tomorrow, Tuesday March 20.
I'd like to do a little giveaway in honor of my sister.
I will be giving away two (2) $25.00 e-gift certificates to Barnes and Noble so that you can get your own copy of Pillars of the Earth...or whatever book your heart desires.
You can enter twice...once today and once tomorrow by leaving a comment here telling me if you have a memory of a loved one associated with a specific book.
I will use Random ORG on Saturday morning to post both winners. Winners will have 48 hours to send me their e-mail addresses. If you don't respond, I'll select a new winner(s) on Monday, March 25th.