And take heart, this isn’t one of those “She was in so much pain–” (she was) “– and now her suffering’s ended!” kind of stories, (even though the suffering’s ended, but more on my end) or “It was her time,” “God has a plan”, “It was meant to be,” or any of the other ridiculous platitudes that etiquette has taught us to say when someone is in pain.
By the by, all of those last few statements are damaging. They’re not even worthless, they’re Express Delivery Pain, and they wreck a person who is grieving. Better to say nothing when you don’t know what to say. Moving on.
Naomi was an artiste.
She participated in yoga, dance, performance arts, stage combat and renaissance festivals. Naomi practiced with a few religions and philosophies, loved to read and visit museums. She had a very exotic look (she was born in Russia, and her heritage is of Rom descent), and her tattoos were beautiful. I loved how delicate her skin was, and how her hair shone in the sun. She always managed to look glamorous, no matter what she was doing. Her face was the embodiment of Resting Bitch Face.
Only a few years older than me, but she had some mileage on her. As a teen addict and rape survivor, she’d managed to gain herself a steady income, decent living arrangement, clean and sober (apart from cigarettes; cloves, especially, were her vice). She was very ‘jaded’, as one might say (if one doesn’t have more depth than a teacup). Naomi was ever so much more than jaded; she was downright grisly. She was overripe with experience. Her font of knowledge was brackish water from a sewer system. Naomi had truly seen the underbelly of American Life as a runaway, and it stayed with her.
And yet we became friends. Fast friends, actually. I was only just twenty-ish when Naomi steamrolled her way into my world via social media. We talked for hours sometimes, and both of us liked to draw Tarot for the other. It became a regular thing for me to travel out to the East Coast to see her. I was the maid of honor at her wedding, and her ex-husband (they divorced shortly after, but remained friends) still keeps in contact with me. I met several of her friends, two of whom I have also now flown out to see, separately from Naomi, although we would send selfies to her.
The thing to keep in mind, though, is that over the years, Naomi never put away That Habit that some broken youths just can’t kick: the need for drama.
It makes you feel significant. You feel like you’re at the center of a play that’s only interesting if you’re speaking or being pandered to. When there’s drama, you feel important and like your life is far more tragic, amazing, complicated, full of hardship or whatever else is on the agenda for the day. Cultivating drama and seeking it out in what would otherwise be considered (by many, not just me) very normal, everyday encounters– that’s an addiction for some kids that have fucked-up backgrounds.
I should know. I am one.
Naomi was the kind of person that, if I was sound asleep in the spare bedroom, she would come into my space unannounced, and flump onto the mattress beside me and sigh. LOUDLY. I fell for it the first couple of times, but after she complained that an author friend of ours (who’d allowed us to stay at his home while we were visiting the township together) hadn’t made a move on her, even though she promised to fulfill his every wish, I’d had enough. I needed sleep. So I pretended to stay asleep. She bounced a little more, took off her shoes and said, “I just need to sleep in here tonight.” I made a quiet noise and turned over. “But I guess you’re asleep and not up for talking, huh?” Naomi said this at normal volume, full of petulance. With another anguished sigh, she picked up her boots and stomped to the couch.
One of the many things we talked about, as the best of friends, was nutrition and dietary specifications. We liked to experiment with replacing ingredients to either cut carbs, help out with digestions, etc. Herbs and supplements were never far from our mind to reach for, rather than a bottle of Aleve. We’re not hippies (hippies don’t hate the way we do), but we try to listen to our bodies and respond to small cues. We exhaust other avenues before seeking out a doctor.
She’d had a hard time kicking a bout of thrush, and had had no real success with a limited-ingredient diet. One morning, she called and said, “Uh… my skin is orange?” and I knew, immediately, that she was extremely ill. “Go to the hospital,” I breathed out, “and call me once you’re there.”
Naomi had a very rare form of neuroendocrinal cancer. It essentially starts in your brain and blooms into a tumor in a random part of the body. And the cancer was choking her pancreas. The mass was inoperable, but it responded to radiation, and we hoped to direct the radiation to shrink the mass away from this badly-needed organ just enough to allow for a surgeon to cut away the cancer. Instead, it started to shrink right where it was, and after a shunt was implanted to allow her pancreas to work, Naomi’s body threaded a new artery *through* the tumor, and several other veins as well, so the pancreas could still receive blood flow and remain intact and functional. It was almost as if her body wanted to hang onto the mass, regardless of malignancy.
Once the tumor measured at about the size of a tennis ball, they began chemotherapy. I would fly down to be with her during the week at the suites, and we would lounge with the television for hours together. I’d make her curry, she’d help me craft mocktails, it’d be a nice time. But every single time I visited, she and her husband were fighting. Once, in the middle of a dinner with another friend at the beach, she called me to say that they were getting divorced and she needed me to take my things and go to a hotel. But by the time I arrived home, they were quietly ignoring each other and behaved normally with me. Everything was apparently fine. They divorced shortly thereafter.
When it came time for the annual oncology review, the tumor was still present in the same position, but it also wasn’t getting bigger. As most of her organs were functioning perfectly fine in spite of the tumor, she was cleared to move up the coast to Brooklyn. She invited me to her parents’ house in the country, but I declined. I had just become pregnant with my daughter, and I didn’t want to travel. Naomi said she understood, but there was an edge to her voice.
Within a few months, I can tell you what the vast majority of our conversations were about:
-NYC is filthy
-her roommate is awful
-there are no pretty, single goth boys
-cancer is stupid
-hating her bosses
-hating her job
-hating her new roommate
-hating how she has to beg for attention from a guy she’s dating x6
-hating that nobody is nice to her
-hating the new job
-hating the other roommate, but only slightly less than the newer one, and never saying a thing about it to either of them
There was a notable shift in who she was as a person, and how she interacted with me, after I became pregnant. Perhaps it was because I was no longer available and had had her linked with my Emergency Contacts so my phone would always ring if Naomi called me. At some point, I broke my phone and never set up the Always Ring contacts in the new one. This lead to many impatient messages on the morning after, increasing in resentment the longer it took me to respond.
When my darling baby was born, cheerful and healthy, Naomi asked to be called the witchy godmother, and cooed at my wobbly infant. She sent me pastries from her favorite Jewish bakery, and shipped blankets with chewy spots for the baby. One day she told me that she felt much more attached and close to me and my child than she did her own sister and nephew.
Therein lays our friendship, at its core. We admired and adored the other from a distance, and shared intimate details of our love lives and inner feelings. I had been friends with Naomi for so long, when it became more one-sided, I chalked it up to the cancer and let it go. But I realized that it was just who she was as a person. She would always be the victim, the one who has it worse, who hurts more, who feels things so deeply no one could possibly understand what she’s going through. I began to avoid her questions of, “Do you have time to talk?” and only respond later when I could be more attentive, but by then, the moment (and the drama) had passed.
Finally, when my daughter was 4 months old and I was at the peak of my exhaustion and postpartum depression, Naomi’s gall bladder turned septic and she had to have an emergency surgeon to remove it. I knew she’d been at the hospital for about a week, and her boyfriend was making updates as best he could, but if I’d ever felt the energy to start texting or talking to anyone– not just Naomi– I would always stop before the first sentence left my fingertips. I wouldn’t have time for a conversation, or the energy to listen. I was pretty broken, and my gurgly baby was delightful and adorable and easy to handle but… postpartum depression is a monster. Perhaps I was wrong to think our friendship could survive a month without contact. Maybe I should’ve just sent the one or two-sentence text messages, just to let Naomi know that I was thinking about her.
But I didn’t. And for the better part of 6 weeks, neither of us reached out to the other.
And then she messaged me one day out the blue, opening with, “I am upset and I need to tell you what I’m feeling.” So I settled into Best Friend Mode and prepared myself for an hour or two of new/old complaints with minimal commentary on my part. But I was not prepared for what happened next.
“I almost died!!” she raged, “and you couldn’t even pick up the phone! But I’m just expected to remember every stupid detail about your kid!” and that’s about when she lost me. I’d heard about other people saying crazy things when their cancer gets to late-stage terminality, but I had also become (unfortunately) too experienced with people fighting cancer and then dying. And I don’t find this to be true.
My kid had nothing to do with this fight we were about to have. I tried my best to shelve the comment and look for what was underneath: she was in pain, she had no way of expressing it beyond rage and lashing out. I tried to commit to this conversation with everything I had, and I am still grateful that my kid was napping at that precise moment in history.
I listened and took in all of her words. I filtered out some of the hate and attacking phrases, and sent back a heartfelt apology, with a promise to do better in the future and to at least keep Naomi abreast of where I was emotionally. I apologized again, and said that I would understand if she needed to stay mad at me for a while, but I just needed to say the words “I’m sorry” first.
I’m not sure how everyone else on the planet receives apologies, but for me, all I want to hear is:
-acknowledge the pain that was caused, without excuse
-empathize as to how this could have affected you, were the tables turned
-admit fault, apologize sincerely
-have a plan for what to do differently next time (and/or how you intend to make it up)
Pretty sure I’d checked off all those boxes in my reply, but apparently, that’s not how Naomi liked her mea culpas, especially without a genuflection. I had ended my letter with love, but she instantly shot back, “Spare me diplomatic bullshit.”
I bristled, but was more hurt that she thought me insincere.
“I can see you are still very angry,” I responded, “so I’ll leave you be for now.” I was trying to just give her space to be angry without being more hurtful to me, and I thought I had conveyed that it wasn’t in my intention to block her out or turn away from her. I hoped my words had been received with love on some wavelength. That’s not what happened.
“I’ll leave you be for now.”
“what else is new”
That was over a year ago, in May of 2019. A lot has happened in the last 18 months.
Last week, I discovered that Naomi had been found dead in her bedroom by her parents. The cancer had progressed, she had had another emergency surgery, and she succumbed within a month. Her fight was finally over. Our mutual friends were sharing stories and crying over the loss of such a beautiful person, and what must I be feeling, as the very best friend of olde?
Well.. I felt relieved. I felt a tremendous weight fall away from my body.
Ah, yes, yes, I’m a horrible person, I know. Luckily, I also don’t care what anybody else thinks.
Was it surprising? Yes, of course. I hadn’t been in contact with Naomi for over a year.
Was *I* personally surprised? No, not at all.
Part of being the Best Friend meant helping her plan her will, her final wishes for rites and burial, for palliative care and, in case the worst of it came to pass, her plan for suicide. I had promised to assist. More than once, she used the phrase, “I don’t want to live like this anymore,” and I would comfort her as best I could, without asking if she was ready to die. One day, she told me she was ready, because the pain had become too much. I asked her to give me a day to get my affairs in order, and I’d get on the plane to NYC. By the end of the night, she’d messaged to say not to bother coming out, that she was fine.
When I found out Naomi was dead, I felt a deep pain in my heart for the relationship that we had shared. For the actual friendship, the late night talks, snuggling with her dogs, sharing costumes and garb for holidays and vacations. We loved each other, truly. But not everything is made to last forever.
As I scrolled through the memorials and testimonies that people were contributing in her honor, I felt mildly amused, thinking, “I doubt Naomi ever told these people the things she told me.” And it hit me– I’m glad she’s dead.
No more drama.
No more unnecessary calls.
No more seeking out the worst-case scenario and *betting on it*, in every situation.
No more shrieking, no more “Okay, but just five more minutes–” stretching into an hour every time.
No more pity party the size of Houston.
No more of any of it.
As it would have fallen to me, eventually, to untangle and sort through the mess of feelings she’d stirred together and dumped on me in that final conversation, and try to make sense of our friendship going forward, it still wouldn’t have been enough. Naomi always needed grandiose gestures to make her believe that a person was being honest and truthful. And I have never been the person to do that.
It would’ve been my job to fix that mess, because that’s the way it had always been. Helping her to see another’s perspective, and not assuming the worst intention of her lovers. Reminding her to breathe before she speaks, and never say the first thing that comes to mind. These are behaviors that every grown adult must learn to master for themselves, so they can be contributing members of society.
I was 35 years old before I realized that Naomi was completely dependent on me. I had never realized that our friendship had taken that turn, but looking back, it was so obvious.
I’m so very grateful that she is no longer suffering from migraines, nausea, aching all over and weariness. I am happy that Naomi has passed. Her body was terrible to her. But the emotional hellscape in which she lived, every single day, was the real demon, not the cancer. And it was largely her own doing, because she could never back away from being the center of attention. She had to repeat everything she heard or suspected about a person. There was no irritation too small that she couldn’t launch a full-scale critical review, complete with scathing commentary. If nobody had told Naomi that she was pretty at least once a week, she would post a new selfie with a comment: “felt cute might delete later” and then praise every person who complimented her. The reason I know she did this intentionally is because she told me.
I’m glad she is dead. I am relieved that my friend has died. I am happier because she’s dead; a tremendous burden has been lifted from me.
I don’t even know what her family intends to do with Naomi’s remains, but I’m not going to call them and ask, or insist on carrying out her final wishes. That was a promise I made to a friend. The woman who called me names and vilified me at my lowest point is not my friend.
I’m not obligated to fulfill anything on her behalf. I’ll never have to unravel another one of her messes ever again. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m glad she’s dead.
Post Script: if this kind of thing truly makes your insides twist, I am pleased that there are still people out there who have only experienced wholesome relationships that are full of goodwill and reciprocity. But since finding my voice about this and learning to say how I feel without needing to justify it, it has been made clear to me that many, many other people feel this way about now-deceased people from their pasts, and for far worse reasons than the ones I claim against Naomi. So to those people who’ve only experienced equitable relationships, I salute you. For everyone else, go ahead and say it out loud. I give you permission to say “I’m glad they’re dead,” and then reflect on any good times you may have shared, or at least share why it is that you are glad they’re gone. It has given me tremendous closure. Maybe your family or mutual friends don’t or won’t understand, but that’s okay.
You can say it to me, here, or you can write about it on your own, or you can tell it to The Band. We are here for you. But either way, go ahead and say it, see if it helps free you the way it did for me.
Please share this around – we are none of us alone; we are all connected. You never know who’s lives you’ll change with your words.
Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.
If we are to believe in the afterlife, we believe that they are already in a better place, A place where the beauty of the flowers, the churches, and the songs pale by comparison. The love they feel far outweighs the love they feel from those in attendance of their comital.
Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.
If we are to believe that there is no afterlife, then they are already gone. The end. Fin. They will not feel the love, appreciate the flowers, or hear the songs. Those in attendance will tell stories, feel the sweet release of a good cry, and maybe – just maybe – gain some semblance of closure. But those who have died will reap nothing.
Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.
Today, we gather to celebrate their contributions to the enrichment of our lives. We are there to comfort each other; to try to make sense of the loss of their light in our world. We fortify ourselves against the pain of their passing with hugs and sweet words of our loved ones, and words of our faiths.
Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.
My aunt passed away today and amidst the concerns for the containment of CoVID-19, we are not permitted to attend the funeral. We want everyone to be safe.
Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.
I love you, Aunt Netta, and I will always miss your light.
His name is John; hers is Yvonne. He is 76 and she is 74. They dated all through high school. Then they broke up and married other people, had kids and grandkids, and all was well.
Then John’s wife got cancer – ovarian or cervical – either way, doesn’t matter. He took care of her, always believing he could do more. Then she died.
John got on with his life. He was sad, but dealing.
One day, John’s son looked up Yvonne and found out she lived only 30 minutes away. She was married to someone and had kids and grandkids and even a great-grandkid.
Some time later, John’s son showed him the obituaries. Yvonne’s husband had passed. Cancer. John went to pay his respects. After all, he and Yvonne had once dated. They talked a bit and promised to keep in touch.
John and Yvonne were married two years later.
They have been married about six years now.
Two years ago, Yvonne was diagnosed with cancer, cervical or ovarian – doesn’t matter. It was the same cancer that killed John’s first wife.
John said NO!
He wanted to fight the cancer. He wouldn’t let cancer take his wife again.
John goes to every doctor appointment. He keeps track of every medication and dosage and when and how she is supposed to take it. He sat with her while she went through chemo. He shaved her head – and his – when she started to lose her hair. He isn’t letting her go without a fight.
They don’t know what the future holds, or if the cancer has spread.
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My daughter Katy was always a challenge – she’d not left the Terrible Twos – and when she got older, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). As much of a challenge as she could be, she was also very pretty, smart, and funny. One of my favorite memories is how she loved to eat so much that she’d eat in her sleep – sometimes she’d fall asleep and wake up and continue chewing. No one came between her and her food.
My very favorite Katy moment was right after she was born, they laid her on me, and she lifted her head and looked right at me. Crazy, right?
I still hold that moment close to my heart – has gotten me through a lot of tough times.
Morphine turned into methamphetamines and our relationship began to crumble.
By then, I’d gotten remarried and my new husband didn’t want her to live with us when she asked to move back in. I enforced my previous statement, telling her that she couldn’t come home.
Shortly thereafter, she moved back in with her dad.
In 2007, she married a nice guy; one who complemented Katy well. She was very manipulative and he was able to deal with it. Unfortunately, after he joined the Army Reserves and was deployed to Egypt, which left Katy alone with my newborn granddaughter, Rae. Her daughter’s birth, of course, was crippled with complications; she developed a uterine infection and a week after discharge, her uterus burst.
After her major surgery, the doctors told Katy that she probably couldn’t have any more kids.
Katy was a fierce mom. She was a good mother – very firm but fair. Rae still has excellent manners and is very well-behaved because of her amazing mother. During her ten day hospital stay, she fought the nurses to make sure she could nurse Rae. Once home, she was in huge amounts of pain. This is when I believe her addiction to opiates began.
With her husband away in Egypt, Katy got involved with an old friend and with her pain pill prescriptions used up, she turned to heroin. Our relationship was still very shaky – when I told her she wasn’t allowed to come to Easter, we didn’t speak for over a year. Even still, she let me see my granddaughter.
Drugs had rotted her teeth and beautiful smile. The poor thing had to have them extracted and get dentures. I was with her and it was gruesome.
For my own mental health, I had to distance myself from her. I couldn’t deal with the drama in her life – especially the drama with her father. He, and I believe Katy as well, had borderline personality disorder. She was a difficult person – always talking, needing help, wanting something, craving love, starved for attention, and it drained my husband and son. I’d try to avoid getting drawn into her drama, but she’d sense me pulling away and she’d draw me back in.
When Mike, her husband returned from Egypt, Mike began using heroin as well and the three of them moved in with my ex-husband.
Both Katy and my son, Chris were very relieved when their dad died because he was so cruel to them. Katy replied to someone who said that “he was in a better place” by saying that “no, he was in hell.”
In 2017, Katy began the process of getting clean and sober and had moved to a city with a friend to get away from her husband who was still using.
I thought she was faking it and using the lymphoma as a way for us to take her in. We had a huge blowout and she turned around and left my house.
Thanks to the heroin, her husband Mike had a bad heart valve and needed open heart surgery, and, being a caregiver, she moved back in with him.
That summer, she ended up staying with us in our cabin in Pennsylvania and I noticed she was tired. Always so tired. She slept so much and so often that I wondered if she was on drugs.
Concerned, we took her to a hospital in Pittsburgh on Father’s Day 2017 where she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
I remember staring at those three awful words written on a whiteboard in her room. She had been within days of dying. Days.
And I hadn’t believed her.
The hospital started her treatment and we had her transferred to the Cleveland Clinic closer to our house. From then on, I was on auto-pilot.
I was a caretaker too: my mom was bipolar which meant that I had to take care of her when I was a kid.
I was the oldest of four and my parents divorced when I was 15, so becoming her caretaker fell into my lap. She’d made numerous suicide attempts and was in and out of the inpatient psych ward multiple times a year.
My dad had a stroke 12 years ago and was in and out of the hospital and nursing homes for seven months before he died. I went multiple times a week to visit, it was nice to spend time with him.
I was raised to be a caretaker.
I stayed with Katy constantly from the moment she had been admitted until the day she died. There were a few nights that her friends would spend time with her so that I could rest. Otherwise, I slept on a chair that converted to a bed. I showered in the family showers and drank coffee from their family lounge
Katy’s first treatment course lasted five weeks and she was stuck in the hospital for the entirety of it. The staff was awesome. They didn’t even mention the track marks on her arms or asked if she’d done drugs.
During the month of August, Band Back Together is going to be publishing posts about loss and grief. These losses can be perceived or real as we know that loss is universal. We welcome you to share the stories of what and who you’ve lost – parents, children, animals, sisters, brothers. Please share your posts with us by clicking here.
This morning on the way into town, I had a flashback of a phone call. A phone call I’d had with hospice, seven months ago.
She’d lived far longer than the doctors thought possible. She’d outlived the projections of every website and message board I’d visited in my obsessive need to understand what we were up against. Her CEA (tumor marker) numbers stayed low and nothing showed up in her monthly exams for a long time.
Then, the numbers started to creep up. After three years of nothing, they’d found a new spot on her liver.
It only took four months to go from finding that small spot to being in that back room on the phone with a lady from hospice.
Mom had been getting intravenous fluids the week before. As weak as she was, we would help her get dressed, get her to the car, one of us on each side to keep her from falling, drive her to the hospital and wait the two to three hours to get the fluids and then repeat the process to get her home.
We’d done this every day for a week, but the benefits of the fluids were starting to be countered by the difficulty of the journey. She was getting too sick to make the trip anymore. We’d talked to her doctor, the hospital, to anyone we could think of to figure out how to get the fluids to come to her. We felt certain there had to be a traveling nurse, or someone else who could administer the fluids. If the problem was that insurance or Medicare wouldn’t cover the cost, we were all more than willing to pay for it.
We just needed someone willing to do it.
When I asked the lady from hospice if that was something she could help us with, instead of answering my question, she asked some of her own: What did I think was really going on? What did I think the fluids were going to do for my mom? Would it be better to keep her going as long as we could, as she got sicker and sicker? Were we doing this for her, or were we doing this for ourselves?
We discussed that Mom’s body wasn’t benefiting from the fluids as well as we’d hoped. Her liver and kidneys had already begun to shut down, and we knew she was experiencing fluid retention. In fact, the fluids we were fighting so desperately for may have been doing more harm than good.
I had one of those moments when the blood thunders through your ears, the air is sucked from your lungs, and time slows down.
She was so sick. Every day she was getting sicker. Of course we knew she was going to die. But until that moment, I’d been in fight mode.
This was the first moment I realized the fight was really over.
The lady on the other end of the phone waited until I stopped crying, and we made arrangements for her to come over to talk to the rest of the family. We’d been fighting this disease aggressively for over four years. It was going to take some professional help to transition from that all-consuming fight to helping our Mom let go and…die.
She came over and we all gathered around the couch where Mom was laying, and we talked about the fact that she really was dying.
It was singularly the saddest discussion I’ve ever been a participant in. Everyone left my sister and I alone with Mom. We talked about how this was really it. We told her how much we loved her, how we would be there with her through it all, and how we would be there to see her on the other side.
I wonder how she felt at that moment.
I think about that moment a lot. I regret that moment sometimes. I wish we’d stayed in denial about her death so we’d never have had that discussion. Once it was out there, it seemed like any fight she had went away. She was ready for it to be over.
My sister, my grown niece and nephew, my aunt and I all took shifts staying with her and Dad. At first we gently tried to get her to eat and drink, but in retrospect that may have been a lingering need to fight for her life. Eventually, even that stopped.
I’d stay for two days, then leave for one or two. I would go to work on the days I was away. Work became a sanctuary where my mind was otherwise occupied. As I drove the hour and a half back to my parents, I felt the heaviness increase until I had to drag myself up the steps and into their house.
We’d brought a hospital bed into their living room so I’d see her the minute I opened the door. Every time I opened that door, I wanted to recoil in horror. Our mom was laying in that bed dying! It couldn’t have felt more surreal.
By then, she was drugged and asleep, and unable to talk much even while awake. It was a living nightmare.
A strange numb detachment descended upon me. I’ve never been like that my whole life. It was like my brain just shut parts of itself off. I felt made of stone.
We held her hand. We brushed the hair out of her face. We put chapstick on her lips and swabs of water in her mouth. We told her how much we loved her over and over and told her we were going to be okay. We promised that we would never stop talking about her to our kids so they would always remember her. We talked about our hope for the future when we would all be together again and she would be healthy.
I hope that she felt some comfort from us being there with her. I know she was scared; her brow and face would be scrunched up with anxiety and pain, even though she couldn’t voice it. The best we could do was give her the shots of pain and anxiety medication that hospice had left for her.
The last time I saw her alive, the truth is, I knew it would be the last time.
I should have stayed. I should have stayed. I should have stayed.
But when my niece came over for her shift, I left. To escape the horror, the impending doom, and the despair, I went back to my house. The next morning, I talked to my niece and she told me that Mom’s hands were getting colder, and I knew I should go back. I knew the signs of impending death by heart; I’d read them over and over in hopes of preparing myself.
But I didn’t go back. I went to work instead. My sister called me at work to let me know she was at Mom’s. She held the phone to Mom’s ear so I could tell her that I love her. She couldn’t talk, but I could hear her breathing loud in an attempt (I choose to believe this) to communicate with me. My sister then called my brother and they had a similar interaction.
My sister was on one side of Mom holding her hand, and my Mom’s baby sister was on her other side holding her hand when it started. They told her it was okay to let go.
Perfection isn’t always attainable and the cost may be too high.
Talk to your loved ones:
My sister P has an unrelenting drive to pursue perfection.
In the 70′s, she started working as a file clerk. She worked and worked, harder and harder until she was Vice President of one of the biggest banks in the world. All without a college education. remember as a child, she’d get up at a ridiculous time every morning to iron her clothes so she was perfect for her day. On the weekends, she would wash and detail her car so it was perfect, too. She was meticulous about everything she was involved with.
When someone gave her a gift she liked or someone did something well she exclaimed in a high pitch voice, “PERFECT!!!” I gave up on her level of perfect a long time ago, knowing I was never as driven as either of my sisters to keep up appearances.
She was nicknamed, after Olive Oyl, the character in the Popeye cartoons who was tall and slim with dark hair just like hers. My sister and I always struggled with our weight as children and adults but not P. She vowed as a junior high school student she would never be fat and she never was.
When P discovered she had cancer she fought extremely hard. When she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 20 years ago, the survival rate was much lower. Her treatments were hard but she kept her spirits up. After her bone marrow transplant she got out of the hospital faster than anyone else had before.
Year after year passed and P remained cancer-free against all odds.
Yesterday, my sister K and I drove 3.5 hours each way to see P. It was a tough visit. She’s not breathing on her own, has 5 tubes down her throat, has had a heart attack, and her kidneys are working at 25%. She is being kept alive on machines because of an infection anyone normally could get at home. Part of this is because she had a bone marrow transplant and will forever have a compromised immune system.
After talking to P’s doctors we also discovered she partially did this to herself.
P didn’t eat enough and when she did eat she didn’t eat healthy foods. I can remember for years now if she ate a normal meal she would be in the bathroom with diarrhea or throwing up.
We found out yesterday along with all the medical issues P is facing she is suffering from long-term malnutrition.
This is a woman who has money. She can afford to eat but she chose not to. We know now she didn’t eat enough for a long time. In her search for her version of perfection she is fighting for her life and on life support with an infection that you or I would be in bed with mildly inconvenienced .
She always had Cosmo or Glamor magazines in her home and strove never to be bigger than a size 6. She was forever losing just 8 more pounds.
I hope all the women I know read this and take it to heart.
P will always suffer the effects of her long-term malnutrition. It is not too late for your daughters, it is not too late for anyone reading this who struggles as P does with food. It sickens me that my sister who I love so dearly is malnourished.
Talk to your daughters. Talk to your friends. Before you skip that meal to fit into that new dress think of P and eat something healthy. Trying to be some unreal version of a woman can kill you.
I have no words for the anger I feel about this. I have always hated the unreal images of women and the shapes I will never be, but this event takes my anger to a whole new level. If women as a whole don’t buy into the magazine image of a woman then the image of the size 0 woman as perfection will have to change.