This past Tuesday, my sister died. She was 34; in fact, she had just turned 34 on the 8th. It hurts to type that out even though I have spent most of yesterday laughing about memories of her and over what a fucking 3-ring circus it is to die.
Like a lot of sisters, our relationship was a mishmash of some good times and years of silence, or at least strained conversation. There were assumptions made on many subjects on both our parts and it wasn’t until this last year that she called me about her eldest and that led to her just talking. And for once, wisdom took hold of me and I sat and listened to her for the better part of two hours.
We’d both been wrong, about a lot of things, and both very, very, VERY, stubborn.
We began to talk regularly. She asked me for advice on the kids – yes, me, the one who does not have biological kids. (Her eldest two are Mr’s and my “vicarious osmosis children” – people mistake them for ours when they’re with us – and we could pass for their parents on looks alone.) We could laugh and appreciate each other’s nuances even if we didn’t always agree.
Now. She’s gone.
And, here’s the thing. She always said she would die young. Why, you ask? Because she was diagnosed with Ventricular Tachycardia shortly after I was diagnosed with my own heart issues, but her’s were ultimately not fixable. So, as an 18 yr old with a baby, she was undergoing heart procedures at Mayo clinic and Mr Muse and I were watching her eldest who has grown into a young man that we love dearly. She had at least three more procedures, but by then it was discovered she’d had at least three minor heart attacks, and the location that needed to be ablated in her heart was in a location that would kill her if the surgeons tried.
So, she said that she knew she would die young.
I never saw her cry about it, though she could have in private. She accepted it. She laughed about how I had “gotten the EASY problem”, and then we laughed later on, after my initial heart trouble was fixed and I developed the same VT that she had after a case of pneumonia. But I have always felt that I’d live to see 100.
So, this week, when she died while working one of her horses, who loved her as much as she loved him, her prophecy was fulfilled.
Now, I’m not good at being vulnerable; I don’t like to be, and she didn’t either. I think it’s a family characteristic: stoicism. Buck up, stand up, and carry on.
But, strange times call for unusual behaviors – I had to “expose” myself. Modern times makes it easy for using Facebook and Twitter to get the word out, and so I posted an announcement of her passing. I made myself vulnerable.
Much to my surprise, messages poured in. I was at the office and after breaking down at least half a dozen times because people there kept asking me how I was doing, I broke down with each new message of condolence, support, and memories of who she was to people. Folks I thought didn’t really pay attention were sending messages of sympathy and inquiries how I and everyone else were doing. Old friends and family I seldom talked to were, as the saying goes, “coming out of the woodwork”. Thankfully, I’d drank some extra water the day before so I didn’t dehydrate from all of the ugly crying and snotty nose blowing.
But what struck me is on the same day I was seeing other people post how if you’re important to someone, you’ll make time for them. These messages were always accompanied with rants of how “people never call/stop by, so I’m cutting them off and out of my life!” But, that’s so final when life is far more busy and complicated now than it used to be. Everyone you know doesn’t live within 10 miles of you anymore – they stretch across the globe in different time zones. And just because they rarely call or stop at the house, doesn’t mean they aren’t listening, don’t care, or won’t be there for you when you need it most.
-Old friends from high school sent messages and called me.
-Cousins sent messages and texts.
-Friends who I’ve made through the years, though I didn’t know how close the friendships were, all left notes.
And slowly, the stoic “I’m fine” turned to “This really sucks”. The walls holding back my vulnerability cracked a bit and in the wisdom that I hope I’m gaining with age, I allowed myself to be “exposed” to these people who did care.
I sent a group email to Mr’s and my closest friends, asking for help with the animals at Chez Muse should we need to be gone, and though we were pretty sure at least one would be willing, they all sent in a “whatever you need”.
This week has been interesting. And surreal. And laughable. And frustrating. And scary. But, ultimately, it has been eye-opening. Not only has a new chapter opened up for us as a family, but I think I gained a few points on the old Wisdom-o-meter. I also realized that far more people than I imagined care about me.
The people who care about you will be there for you when you need it most. You might not hear from them for months, or even years at a time, but they will be there.
So, to those who were there, are here – thank you. Thank you for showing me that it’s okay to be vulnerable, even if I don’t like it one single bit, because you’ll be there and it’s okay to have people see your vulnerable, human, self.