I have been absent from writing for a few weeks due to a sad and surreal turn of events in the life of myself and my family. I hope you bear with me as I sort things out both mentally, emotionally, and physically in the months ahead.
A few weeks ago, my oldest sister, Judi, who lived in Los Angeles suffered a minor stroke. She was taken to the hospital when we heard the awful news. Judi was the only one of us three sisters who lived away from Illinois. My youngest sister, Donna, felt she should fly out to LA to see if she could help Judi get back on her feet and assist her returning to Illinois to live with her. Donna was in LA for a week or so while Judi was in the hospital and then recovering in a rehab facility. While Judi was making progress with her therapy, Donna worked at trying to wrap things up in California in order to make the transition to bring Judi to Illinois.
I stayed behind and spent the week at Donna’s in Illinois to get her house ready for Judi’s return to the Midwest. Cleaning and fixing and making room and adding homey touches and remembrances of California to make her feel welcomed.
Donna had been texting me all day saying she was overwhelmed, feeling down, exhausted, the temperature had been over 100 degrees that day she was trying to pack up Judi’s apartment. I sent her pictures of the delicate pastel tea roses from her garden at home that were just starting to bloom, her rather large brown and black tiger cat lounging lazily on the couch, and telling her I hoped that picked up her spirits some, and she would be back home in a few days to enjoy them in person. She said thank you for everything. By now Judi had been released from rehab and they were both staying in a hotel while the apartment was being closed out. I told Donna to please stop working for the day and go back to the hotel and get some rest. There was nothing in that apartment that couldn’t be replaced. I said you can buy anything at good old Walmart back home if need be. She said she would get her purse and leave right then, but she needed to pick up some food on the way back.
Then it happened…
I received a text from Judi that Donna had passed out at Denny’s. I was like what?!? Thinking she may have fainted or had an attack of heat exhaustion, I called her phone.
“Hello?” I heard on the other end from a voice that was not Donna’s.
“Hello. Who is this?” I replied.
“Who is this? was the response.
A little annoyed I answered, “This is Sandy, Donna’s sister. Who is this?”
“Erica,” was her reply. “Can you come here?”
“To the hospital.”
“The hospital?! No, I’m in Illinois right now, why? Who are you Erica?”
“I’m her nurse.” Is there anyone else who can come to the hospital?”
“Nurse?!? I have a sister there, but she just had a stroke a couple of weeks ago. Can I talk to Donna?”
“Oh, no. You can’t talk to her.”
“Why not?” I asked rather impatiently at this point. “Is she unconscious or something?”
“She’s in a coma, ” Erica replied.
“A coma?!? What?!?”
“Well, yes, she’s had a heart attack. They’re working on her now, but they don’t have much hope.”
“A heart attack?!? What?!?!?”
“Please give me your phone number so we can contact you if we need to,” the nurse said.
Up until then, I thought Erica must be a friend of Donna or Judi’s and Erica thought I was calling because I already knew Donna had had a heart attack. Neither of these were true until that very minute.
A half hour later Erica called to inform me of the sad news that my sister had passed away and that she was very very sorry for my loss. She was 59 years old with no history of heart problems.
I sat there in the dark not knowing what to do really. I notified my husband and the kids, they came right over for hugs, and support, and to lend any support they could possibly give. We collectively packed the car, our oldest granddaughter insisted on driving (THE WHOLE WAY, bless her heart!), We were provided traveling money, everyone got together to figure out lawn mowing, cat duty, etc., and we were on our way driving to California.
She walked in Dennys and had a massive heart attack in the doorway and never knew what happened. There are no words that can adequately express how wildly surreal the sudden passing of a person you were just talking to can be. The person you least expected this to happen to. Never seeing them again. She left on a plane, and came back as ashes in a box.
Judi is now back in Illinois, and we are trying to figure everything out which we’re finding is a long, complex, frustrating, and exhausting, and expensive process.
Sad, surreal, and ever life changing. Enjoy your life while you have it, and for God’s sake; if someone who cares about you tells you to rest, relax, or take it a little easy, please please listen to them… Sandy