“We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time.” – Steve Jobs
On July 31, 1962 (on a Tuesday… yep, Tuesday is back) my sister Kristen was born. At the time, she was the youngest of three children. For seven years, she was the baby of the family. Then I rudely showed up, deposing her as the youngest, the baby of the family. I guess you could say that That set the tone of our relationship for the next 43 years. We both certainly couldn’t be the babies. To put it simply, Krissy and I fought, nagged, picked, pecked, and otherwise tormented each other. She wanted to be the big sister, my guide and conscience. I wanted her to leave me alone. Pretty standard stuff.
Now, understand something. My family is odd. We weren’t (and aren’t) the family that had Sunday dinners together. We get together maybe once a month (Family Birthdays) and for major holidays. The four of us, in our own way but together, dealt with the trials and tribulations of most families (births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc.) as kids and grown adults. We all grew up fiercely individual, despite our ultimately following family professions as either teachers or nurses. Krissy was a nurse, the rest of us kids teachers… It’s become a family joke of sorts… I think there are 6 nurses to 5 teachers in the immediate family right now, but it changes as we add to the family… but what we consider immediate family gets strange , too… It is always amusing to reveal our familial connections to acquaintances… someone once said we put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional… But, even with all of that, the four of us are extremely close. We know without saying that all it took was a need to arise and the others would be there, helping in whatever way they could. And (barring the occasional comment or remark) whatever choices we made would be supported (or at least dealt with until we came to our senses, which of course, we knew all along was how it as going to work out). We were and are family in the truest sense of the word.
Kristen was the hardest working of the four of us. She was very much a perfectionist, a little OCD ( I mean, come on… God Forbid your corn touched your mashed potatoes. Divided plates were a God send to her), graduated Salutatorian of her class while working as a waitress and then later for Reasor’s. She married and had two incredible kids, was divorced, remarried to a wonderful man who took her kids in as his own (they changed their names on all their school papers before he had adopted them… their idea, but confused the hell out of their teachers). Kristen is also the only person I’ve known who took a pay cut to become a nurse. I think she reached her pinnacle of her being when she became a Grammy. I can’t tell you how many times I watched her load up her truck with all of her grand kids (sometimes more, including the cousins) just to stay for the night or weekend. Doting doesn’t half cover it. And somehow Krissy even found time to play match maker. To me. I sometimes wonder if it was her best attempt at making me do something for my own good. Or maybe it was a really good joke she played on me. (On A Tuesday).
On June 8, 2012, my sister Kristen was killed in a single car accident. I had posted the morning of her death about living life in the moment (Interim). And, in a moment, my world changed, without my even knowing.
Death is truly the only time we are alone. Not the one that dies (depending on your own philosophy, of course), but the ones left behind. The grieving process is one that no one can empathize with. Our connections to other humans is too unique, to filled with subtlties that can’t be grasped or explained to anyone else. One can only offer sympathies to the grieved. Any prostrations of more is unitentionally offensive. And anything less is less than human. Grief is a lonely, singularly unique process for each of us. And it is a journey we must make alone and in our own way. I’m not saying you can’t and aren’t a comfort to those who are grieving. At the times we are most alone and have suffered loss is when we desperately need to be reminded of our connections with others. But making it through the grieving process is really only possible for the individual.
As I said, our connections to others are unique, especially to family. My relationship with Kristen is and was complex. She could tick me off quicker than anyone alive. And would be the first to offer me unasked for help because she knew I needed it. She could frustrate me to no end and humble me like no other. She talked highly of me and was proud of me to her friends (only reason I can think of that The Wife became interested is Krissy talking me up), but always made me feel like I should have done better, been more, tried harder (not on purpose, of course. Chalk it up to a strange sibling rivalry where we never actually competed). She knew how to push my buttons. And I, of course, learned how to push back. She could be my fiercest adversary and my staunchest ally, sometimes at the same time (told you it was complex). I truly wish I could remember the last thing I said to Kristen. It was probably something snarky, a response to some slight or irritation or some random comment she made in my general vicinity. But I hope it was followed by “I love you, sis.” At least before I left.
We are created, in part, by the people we call family. For good or ill, intended or not, what they(we) do and say shapes us into the people we become, influences us in the choices we make. We can’t blame them for the choices we do make, because it is our choice, but the have an incredible impact (20/20 hindsight shows me many times Krissy was trying to tell me I was making a mistake… but another story, another day). I was blessed for 43 years to have an incredible sister. For those of you that expressed your condolences, I offer you a very belated but very heart felt thank you. I apologize if I failed to thank you properly at the time.
Pardon me while I say a few things to Kristen directly.
Thank you, Krissy, for being my sister. For fighting with me because you loved me and wanted the best for me. And fighting with me just because. Thank you for pushing me and being proud of even the smallest thing I did right. Thank you for all the help, asked and unasked. Thank you for being a friend to the woman I would later call The Wife and the mother of our child. I can truly say that without you, I would not be who I am. I miss you being here.
Arma Dei requiescant in pace.
I love you, sis.