“Can you go over to my moms house to check on her, she’s not answering the phone and I got a message that I should go over there” I knew when I got that call from my niece something was really wrong this time, I felt it in my gut. I got in my car and drove like a bat out of hell from Santa Cruz to my sisters house in the valley.
When I arrived at my sister Clare’s house, I was not prepared for what I saw. My sister, my gorgeous, energetic, funny, crazy sister lay there on her bed on the verge of death. The moment I saw her a primitive scream and cry came out of my body that even I didn’t recognize, I scared myself. All I will say about the state of her condition when we got to her is that it was so bad that one of the paramedics had to leave the room crying.
As the next few weeks unfolded, my sister was in ICU on life support, we didn’t know if she was going to live. Clare did regain consciousness after being in a coma and we went through all possible options to determine if there was anything that could be done to save her life but unfortunately there was not. This once firecracker of a woman with so much life in her was dying at 39 years young from liver and kidney failure but she didn’t know it and we had to tell her.
So my father, my youngest brother and I decided we would tell her. We would go into her room with the doctor and we would tell her that nothing could be done and that she had weeks, maybe a month to live. My father sat down by her bed and held her hand as the news was delivered. He was so incredibly calm and soothing, the same way you would approach a small child that was frightened. He showed no fear, no sadness, just pure comforting love for his first born daughter as she lay there sobbing at the news that her life would be over soon. I honestly don’t know how he did that, how he was able to overcome his own grief and sadness to ensure that his baby girl felt safe in such a terrifying moment…absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful moment.
There was a burst of energy that woke me and filled the entire house, she was everywhere around me. I knew in that exact instance she had passed away before I even found the courage to walk over to her bedside to confirm.
I lay there on the floor of the Tara Home hospice cottage that had become her home, our families home where took shifts caring for her around the clock in the last 100 days of her life. I feared that exact moment, I had mentioned to my family I was afraid she would pass on my watch and that I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
On May 4th at 3:30am exactly, that moment I feared most arrived, my sister was gone. She was gone and her daughter lay in the room next to us asleep on the couch and I on the floor near her hospital bed, I was paralyzed with fear. I was afraid to stand up and walk over to her bed and see her lifeless body. I was terrified to wake her daughter and tell her that her mother had passed. My heart was overwhelmed with immense grief for the call I had to make to my mom and dad to tell them their daughter was gone. My heart broke even more as I called each of my brothers to tell them their sister was gone and to hear these strong men I’d never seen shed a tear sob. My heart broke over and over again as I delivered this news.
Moments after my sister passed, I woke my niece and called my immediate family members, I started the Buddhist ritual I had been instructed to do once she passed and until the Buddhist nun, Drimay arrived. Once Drimay was there, the traditional prayer ceremony began . As the sun rose my niece, Drimay, and I were by Clare’s bedside with chanting and prayer. It was another one of the most profound, beautiful, and painful moments of my life, it was the moment my heart broke wide open as the pain and love poured out of me.
It took me awhile to even start processing my own grief as I was stuck in the place where I felt most safe, taking care of arrangements and worrying about others. Part of me didn’t want to be still with my grief, to process everything I had experienced, I knew it was going to consume me like a tsunami and it did.
Everything about losing my sister was traumatizing and difficult, from the moment I found her on the brink of death in her home, the moment we had to tell her she was going to die, and being with her the moment she did. And aside from all of that, my best friend, my homie, my advice giver and seeker, the one who knew me better than anyone else was gone.
In the last days of Clare’s life we had very deep and profound conversations about life, death, happiness, what she regretted, and what she saw in me and my life that I needed to change. She made me promise her that I would live life to the fullest for both of us and that I would seek true happiness, love, and fulfillment in my life.
So here we are on the eve of the five year anniversary of her passing away and the tears and grief I feel are just as raw and real as they were then. My heart is still broken, I still miss her every single day, and I’m trying really hard to live up to the promises I made to her and as I reflect I don’t know that I’m doing the best job. I’m trying my hardest and I’m living and being as real and authentic as I can, even if it’s not understandable by some. I feel everything so much deeper since her death, it’s like sensory overload. Sadness feels so much more intense, anger feels so much stronger, love feels so much deeper —-everything in life makes me feel so much and sometimes it’s overwhelming. However, I would much rather live life honestly, real, and raw because anything else now feels suffocating.
Clare in her death gave me life and I intend to honor her and pay tribute to her life by being exactly who I am truly and authentically and to love those in my life like there’s no tomorrow. No regrets, live, love, laugh, cry, and surround yourself with people who feed your soul.
Much love Clare, your little sister misses you like crazy and she’s trying her best to make you proud. Thank you for in your death bringing so much life back to our entire family and so many friends that love you. ❤️💛💚🙏🏽