Some people skip this ingredient on their grief sandwich. Many folks only have a couple angry spaces they have to pass through in their mourning, and some of us get extra. This ire can be directed at the universe, oneself (with regret and remorse for things done, or left undone), or (in my case) the deceased.
When someone’s death is a direct result of their action, earth swallowing rage is hard to avoid. When someone dies in a completely preventable, foolish manner that anger is multiplied, but must be dealt with all the same. My dear sister decided (sober) that since she was locked out of her room, the obvious plan of action is to free climb between stone balconies over 30 feet in the air. It had been raining all that day and the easy looking free climb for an experienced, lifelong climber was too slick.
She could have woken someone up to get a spare key, slept in the common areas or bunked with someone else, but no, scaling a mountain side hotel in the fucking middle of the night is the only reasonable thing to do. When I was first told what happened, there was not a single cell in my body that thought this choice was odd or out of character. There was not a second when I entertained an alternate scenario. It was simply something she would do, an activity in a category of activities mom and I were sure would eventually lead to her death.
When we saw, or caught wind of some venture she had participated in that was more a ‘prayer to death’ than a ‘Sunday afternoon activity’ we would caution her, admonish her, yell at her, get super fucking pissed at her, but it came to nothing. She had grown deff to our words. We were burnt out from saying them. The only thing it seemed to affect was the amount of time she would keep these adventures secret, often only revealing them when some other circumstance necessitated it. For years, whenever she would call one of us after a long period of radio silence we would yell into the phone “proof of life! Proof of life!” A thing she did not appreciate. We thought it was an even trade for the constant and intrusive anxiety over her safety we experienced, especially when the time between calls could be counted in weeks.
For me, dealing with Sara’s death has many layers, things that can complicate the treatment of this heartbreak. In plant medicine, the treatment for the injury is often found near the cause of the irritation. For example, jewelweed and poison ivy love the same spaces and so the solution for poison ivy exposure is often close to hand, likewise I often find the balm for my anger is bound to the cause.
I had to go back years, and reference our photo library to figure out when our last hug was. It was Christmas 2018, sadly I have no clear memory of it, though I know it happened.
These realities inflame my soul wound with outrage and sadness. The medicine for it can be found in my clear memory that on that trip I embraced her clinginess and cuddled her every time she wanted to, until she pulled away. A thing I was not often prone to do in our history, a sisterhood filled with my attempts to escape her affections and her holding on, often whining loudly “LOVE ME!” as I tried to squirm free.
It hurts that during the time between then and now, she was able to go on multiple trips to far off locations, but Maine, me, and the kids were never on the itinerary. Even when I had gone home during those years; she wasn’t there, she was off swimming with sharks, making new friends and watching the sun set on distant islands.
This had been my major issue with Sara in our adult years, not that she was missing time with me, but with the kids. In that space between, the boys have all but grown up. She was there for PJ’s birth, but in the four years that followed only saw her once more, at that now long ago Christmas. The medicine for this insult is right there in the sad, but simple fact that we are used to her being gone. There is very little about our daily life that her death has changed. While the kids have love for her, the reality of their relationship was through stories of adventures and trinkets from far away, not Sunday dinners and frequent family holidays.
I am most angry for the needless way she died, this was not an adventure accident, but rather a death by misadventure. Something wholly in her power to prevent. It was not an equipment failure, facility maintenance issue, procedural oversight or foul play in any way. It was simply her erroneous sense of immortality meeting a slippery rock face in the middle of the night. The beautiful resort where they were staying is built into a stone cliff, her injuries from her fall were akin to that of a car accident with no seatbelt. The teens who had been sitting and talking with her minutes before were some of the first people to come and help, something I’m sure will affect them the rest of their lives. This is a thing I wish I could take back, or make better, with all my heart.
My anger for that collateral damage is cooled by the thought that she was surrounded by people who knew her, who talked with her and tried to comfort her as she died. I am forever in debt to all of them; especially the two people who were in the ambulance with her, subjecting themselves to the gruesome state of her final contorted form. She died on the way to the hospital, but she was not alone, or with strangers. The rage I feel for the damage she caused herself and others, is completely wiped out by the gratitude to those who took that horrific ride with her, talking to her the whole time and loving her till the end. I wish it could have been me, it seems that should have been my burden to perform those final rites. I wish that I could have sheltered others from that trauma, but far off adventures don’t happen at home with family close by.
This was the logical conclusion to a life of wanderlust and risk taking far from home.
When it comes to the base of this spicy pepper anger sauce on this particular shit sandwich, I am overwhelmed with loneliness at the loss of my other half.
It’s like losing the only other person on earth who spoke your native language. Or being last two members of an isolated tribe.
The only other person who could speak fluently in movie quotes, and a lifetime of shared experiences. Ours was a relationship expressed entirely with inside jokes and statements that didn’t have to be articulated to be felt. Whole books could be conveyed with a shared look.
Here again is the medicine for this most salient point of fury; that we were close, that we loved each other so fucking much.
In just skimming her lifetime of journals it was stated over and over again, in all the phases of her life, that I was often the only person she was sure loved her unconditionally. Even in her darkest times and most private thoughts she knew I loved her. Yet another thing that hurts as much as it comforts, but this spicy pepper anger sauce is also sweet. Ferocious chillies tempered with the sweetest honey life has to offer, making the whole thing surprisingly palatable. Since this is a dish I can’t avoid eating, I am grateful for it all. This is our last meal together and parts of it are surprisingly tasty.
It’s still a shit sandwich, but at least it has some spice. Like she did.
I have 4 daughters who are very close, so I get ‘the book in a look’ reference…. Thank you for sharing this great love, dear Ember, amazing story🙏🏼💜
What precious time you shared….
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That you do 🙂 I’m glad that they are all still an unbroken set. That time really is precious and we all only get a finite amount, some more and some less. The fact that sisterhood exists at all, for however long, is some powerful fucking magic. Please give my love to your family and thank you for your continued support, it means the world.
“Powerful Fucking Magic”….Thank You for that!That sums up exactly what I had with my sister.Again,your words and experience is helping me cope with the loss of my sister?(Someone knows what I feel like?)Thank You for sharing that MAGIC you had with your sister too….it is so precious and sacred….the whole sandwhich!Someone said to me,”Do not be sad it is over,be glad it happened”?The process is still a struggle…..all rooted in unconditional LOVE!!!!!Sending YOU some…..oxox
Thank you Les. I think that’s the quote that keeps coming up over and over again. I am so glad it happened, pained it’s over but I keep on thinking “we did good, little one. We did so fucking good. I miss you” I feel like she hears me and agrees. In the end, we get what we get. It wan’t perfect, but it was authentic and I’m beyond grateful that I had such a creature as a sister. LOVE to you both!
A beautifully raw portrait of true love and loss through words. Ember, I am so so sorry she’s gone.
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Thank you Hollis, me too. I have loved watching your family grow over the years 🙂 lots of love your way!
Your emotions, thoughts, and writing are brilliant and deep. I’m sorry this situation is so tragic and difficult.
It’s simply the human condition 🙂 But, yah it sucks sometimes
Thank you for reading!
It was a warm day when I asked the rehab center to take Sara’s Grandmother to an isolated area outside as I had some very bad news. After the storm that only She was capable of, She looked up and said, “And look, the world just keeps on…how is that possible?” Her Grandmother died on November 16th. I am not sure that she internalized the loss.
As for me, I thank God that I was born! And that She was born! To have been loved by Sara, to have loved her, a very special person. I have had my portion of the “shit sandwich.” Thank you Ember. We have an incredible family.