What in the world? I knew something was wrong immediately. It was 3:30 am., late August, 2005.
Who calls at that time of the morning? My husband handed me the phone, watching me freeze and melt simultaneously as my mind was being bombarded by news that was too slippery to grasp.
“She’s gone, Betsy.” I heard her say through the controlled sobs.
Kathy? Gone? What did that mean? I asked myself, even though I knew.
The place that feels covered by my face, the mask, that chunk of matter from behind my eyes to the back of my mouth was numb. No feeling.
My husband took the phone from me as I lay my body down, careful not to twist my middle. Maybe I could get a few more hours of sleep. The baby wouldn’t be here for a couple more months. But sleep was rare and uncomfortable at best.
I’ll say it for you. “What normal person goes back to sleep after news like that?”
It took about four minutes before a new thought poked through a chink in the armor of my consciousness, relaying an urgent message from my heart.
“Your sister is dead. Your mother just called crying. This is serious. Get up. Go to her.”
I kissed my children goodbye as I told them one by one that Aunt Kathy had died, leaving my husband to get them ready for school.
Minutes later, hair brushed, makeup on, I lumbered up my mom’s driveway and into her house, obedient to the police’s instructions to look left, not right.
I looked right.
I wanted to touch her and to say goodbye and I love you one last time. But I didn’t want to seem strange. So I didn’t. I hugged my mom instead as they looked on.
That is one of my few regrets in life.
Who was going to tell Dad? I was. How? Through tears that were for me and him both; his being suppressed for years and unwilling or unable to see the light of day like the dawn that was fast approaching.
His little girl, just 45-yrs-old, his personal shopper, constant companion for Red Sox and Patriot’s games and sole occupant of his living room couch during her all-day visits, wasn’t coming to visit today. He took off his ring and told me to bury it with her. He patted my hand, and assured the both of us that she had been so unhealthy for so long.
He looked at me with big eyes, wondering, “But what really happened, Bets?”
“Either a heart attack or she tripped. Broke her neck. They aren’t doing an autopsy.”
I hugged him briefly, knowing that when I promised to see him soon I’d have to keep that promise or no one would know if he’d run out of food or made it through the night. I crossed his apartment’s threshold wearing the new hat labelled “caregiver”, perplexed with how I was going to find time to wear it.
I made my way back to my mom’s, spending the rest of the day making “final arrangements for the body”.
Moments that morph into “days like that” are on my mind today.
I had been given an opportunity to show up.
And I had almost missed it. Why?
My mind couldn’t grasp my value in, to, and for the relationships that I had with my mother, my father, and my sister. I had become self-centered and self-absorbed to the point of neglecting the people who were my first link to life and human relationships.
My relationships didn’t grow deeper that day. I did.
I wonder if I’m showing up for ALL of my relationships these days.
I know that sometimes my presence is lacking.
You’re kind to accept my excuses and apologies.
Now when people call, I talk. When I read your blog, I tell you how your post affected me. When you laugh I want to know the joke. When you cry I want to comfort you. If you come to visit you will be welcomed with a hug and a comfy chair to sit in while we talk.
I still have one foot in that world that revolves around me. The one that keeps tripping me up as it drags me away from what’s most important.
And what is THAT, you ask? What is the most important thing?
It’s the thing you just called to tell me. It’s the email you sent last night, and the post you wrote this morning. It’s the project you want to share with me, the one you’ve worked on for so long. It’s whatever you want it to be.
It’s your soul.
Thank you for sharing.