Thirteen years ago today I woke up and started the day with my sister just a few miles away. When I went to bed that night, I no longer had a sister a few miles away, or even many miles away. Still seems so strange, to have someone in your life one day and taken from you the next.
It was my first day back from maternity leave after my youngest son. And my first meeting that morning. I was getting the full-on data dump from my coworkers who had covered my clients and projects while I was on leave. They were happy to hand them back over.
As I sat, asking questions, taking notes and trying to catch up, the call came in. Our office manager had a serious look on her face as she walked into the conference room to tell me there was a call. I asked if she could take a message and the slight shake of her head side to side signaled to me that something wasn’t right. The room cleared.
My stepmom was on the line. She told me that my sister had been in an accident and I needed to get to the hospital, now. I don’t remember what else was said on that call but I remember the sound of her voice as the words came out and made my stomach feel sour. I can still remember the tan linen blend suit I was wearing and the black shoes that I looked down at while I was processing the words floating in the air. I found my purse and flew out the door as my coworkers offered me a ride, worried for my worry. My thoughts raced.
When most people have a car accident, they get hurt and then they heal and go home. I was prepared, we could handle whatever kind of injuries we needed to adjust to. I could help her however I needed to. All this ran through my head as I drove robotically to the hospital that sunny fall morning.
But as I walked into the emergency room and was directed down a hall, I was greeted by the hospital Chaplain. I now know that if you are ever greeted by a hospital Chaplain, you better buckle in and hold tight because you’re getting ready to hear something you don’t want to hear.
The next few hours are a blur with family members huddled in the hospital prayer room, taking turns in and out to see her. I had to hear her injuries described to me a few times before it really sunk in. Actually I don’t think it sunk in at all that day. But she wasn’t leaving the hospital. I think that’s what they were saying. I was hoping I was understanding it all wrong. But no, she wasn’t coming home.
I got to say goodbye to her that morning and I think she could hear me. I really do. No, I know she did. The nurse in the room with me pointed to the movement on the machines tracking her vitals which were connected to the machines keeping parts of her body going. She showed me how they changed as I spoke and told her what a wonderful sister she was. And what a wonderful mom she was. I told her that her daughter was going to be there any minute. I said all of this over and over, in between sobs, as if on a loop.
Her daughter made it to the hospital, being pulled from her junior high class by her dad. It was as if my sister was holding on until she could her daughter’s voice. It was right after that when even those few vital signs ceased. My niece told me she saw a bright light in the hallway outside of that hospital room. It was her Mother.
We all went home that day with a hole in our hearts that remains today. I know she is with me, with all of us, all the time. And I am at peace. But the hole remains.
My niece and parents are in town this weekend and we celebrated my sister by being together.
She loved grilled cheese sandwiches with pickles from Sonic. I’ll be making a stop by Sonic tomorrow for sure.
Today I am grateful for the wonderful memories I have of my sister that make me smile, for the time I had as her little sister, and for the joy she still brings us.