Why We Celebrate In Iowa

Many of us come to our blog to release.  To share our story with ourselves and find comradery in sharing it with others.  I share this piece of my story again with you.  Originally published on 3/25/10.

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The Incredible Journey

I was on my way to a home visit at work.  My cell phone rang.  I knew it was my sister because Christina Aguilera was belting out Lady Marmalade.  I answered the phone and knew immediately that something was wrong.  Her voice was cracking.  She started to cry a little.  She asked me if the offer was still open for me to come out and stay with her and her family for a while.  She said that she’d like me to stay for a month or so until someone else could come and stay.  She said that she was back in the hospital in Iowa City.  I said I’d leave as soon as I could.

I started to cry.  I called my supervisor first and cried to her.  She reminded me that I needed to be calm so that I could think clearly.  She would help me do whatever I needed to do.  I called my honey.  She said I would leave the next day.  That she’d work things out for childcare for the boys.  That she’d take care of everything – I needed to go.  I’ve always known how special our relationship was.  That day I learned how much she understood me, how supportive she is.  I learned that I was exactly where I needed to be.

I finished my work responsibilities and went back to my office.  I arranged for Family Medical Leave.  I sought support from the few people that I work with who are my very best of friends.  I left for the day not knowing for sure when I would be back.  I left for the day knowing that when I came back my sister would no longer be alive.

I hugged and kissed my boys the next morning and got on the highway heading to Iowa.  I had an audio book to listen too and my mp3 player.  I stopped occasionally and emailed or texted those close to me to let me know how I was doing.  I talked to my sister on the phone to let her know my progress.  I arrived in Iowa City after 8 hours of travel and sat on the bed next to my sister as the Palliative Care social worker talked about Hospice.

I held my sister’s hand.  The social worker left the room and I asked my sister what she wanted.  She signed a DNR.  She was ready to go.  She just had to decide exactly what she wanted for her, for her funeral, for her family.  She made a plan to discuss things with her husband so that I could support them.

Over the next few days we talked a lot.  We laughed.  We shared memories.  And we planned her goodbye.  She had a say in everything.  Family asked her permission for music to be played and scriptures to be read.  She made videos to say things to her son that she won’t get to say in the years to come.  And finally, she got her wish to be moved closer to home.

On 4/5/09 a giant storm covered the area in several inches of snow.  It was rather treacherous to make the 5 minutes journey to the hospital she was now at.  But, something told me I needed to be there.  By this time she was in and out of consciousness – mostly out.  I arrived at the hospital and her husband took a break from her bedside.  After he left I took her hand once again.  She didn’t open her eyes or even really acknowledge that I was there.  I looked at her face and told her that I would take care of her husband and son.  I would make sure they had what they needed.  I would make sure they were loved.  I saw a smile cross her face.  I stayed at the hospital for a couple of hours and then left for the house.  That would be the last time I saw her alive.

At 3am my phone rang.  It was her husband – she was gone.  He said that she opened her eyes and reached out her hand with a smile on her face.  And then, her body went limp.  I went to the hospital and took her hand one last time.  I kissed her forehead.  I said goodbye.

I played piano at her funeral.  It was the hardest and the easiest thing I’ve ever done.  It meant the world to me.  I could feel her next to me singing the song we’d sung together so many times.  I shed some tears for the special moments we’ve shared throughout the years.

One year ago today I started a journey that continues to this day. One year ago today I loaded up my 2005 Dodge Stratus and headed to Iowa. One year ago today I started my official journey toward saying goodbye to my sister and letting go.

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About Brotherly Love

I am a mom, partner, teacher and a lover of life. I have two fabulous boys who define my life as I know it. One of my children has been diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, Asperger's and anxiety disorder. I blog as much about him as I do about my life and the lives of my immediate family.
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One Response to Why We Celebrate In Iowa

  1. Debbi Henry says:

    Heather, everytime I read about your sister, and your love and support to her, I sob. I think you are a wonderful sister. You were there for her in the end, when she needed you the most. You are still there for her now, to comfort her husband and her son and to give her memory the respect that she deserves. Great big hugs and lots of love to you!

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