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Loss and Grief

I hardly know how to begin this post. The past month and a half has been gone by in a haze, and everything pretty much stopped for me. It’s been that long already, and I figured I should write about this as I’m trying to get back to doing things. A month and a half… it feels like both a very long time and no time at all. I still can’t believe I’m actually writing this.

A month and a half ago, before dawn one morning my dad got me up telling me my younger sister wasn’t doing well. She was barely breathing and her oxygen was dangerously low. We called an ambulance, but she lost consciousness before reaching the hospital. At the ER they managed to revive her and stabilize her, but she was still in critical condition. She was transferred to a different hospital with an ICU. My dad and I stayed at the hospital all day, praying, waiting for news of her condition, while the rest of the family prayed at home. Finally, after they told us they’d managed to give her some plasma, they sent us home with a phone number to call for news.

The next morning at 4 AM they called to tell us that she wasn’t responding to the treatments, but they were going to keep trying and would keep us apprised. We didn’t go back to sleep after that. We were already fearing the worst. I don’t remember how the time passed. We spent some of it talking and some of it praying. When the rest of the family was up, we started praying the rosary together. Before we finished, I suggested maybe we should go to the hospital, even though visiting hours were not until much later in the day.

They let us in to talk to the doctor on call who told us the same thing as the morning call. Then they told us they would let us in to see her in groups of two for a short time. But then they allowed all six of us in, and we stayed there talking to her and praying. She was unconscious, but we talked to her anyway, telling her how much we loved her and appreciated her and all the things she did for us and all the things we loved about her. We stayed for more than an hour before we finally had to leave.

Back at home again, we had to eat something. Nobody had eaten since the night before. I wasn’t hungry to eat much the night before, despite not having eaten all day. I forced myself to eat, even though I still didn’t feel hungry. We prayed some more. My youngest sister spent a long time by herself praying when others were doing other things. My dad took a nap since he hadn’t gotten much sleep. I was tired but I was too worried to sleep. On a video call with my boyfriend, he convinced me to play a game for a little while to relax since I was so strung up. We prayed again, and finally we went to bed. I slept fitfully, waking up multiple times from dreams where I thought I heard the phone ringing.

In the morning there had been no calls. No news is good news, as my dad said. We all prayed again, until around 10 we got a call. They asked us simply to go to the hospital. The drive there took about 20 minutes. The doctor there told us that her condition had deteriorated and there was nothing more they could do. They then told us again that they would let us see her in small groups for 20 minutes each, but suddenly they told the rest of us we could go in at the same time. Again we talked to her a little bit and we prayed again. I had brought my missal, and we were going through some of the prayers in it. At the end of the renewal of baptismal promises, we lost her.

We had to make arrangements for a wake and funeral, which is something I never imagined we’d be doing. The wake was the next day in a small funeral home. The next morning my dad and I went to a cemetery to do the necessary paperwork, and the rest of the day we spent in the funeral home. The burial was the day after. The cemetery is a green grassy place with trees and fountains, and we picked a plot for her near a statue of Our Lady. I know she would have liked it.

I was surprised and touched by the support shown by our neighbors and my dad’s friends. Many neighbors sent messages of concern starting from when we called the ambulance. Some friends visited us in the hospital when we were making arrangements, and then many neighbors and friends went to the wake and the funeral and offered their condolences. Since we don’t know the neighbors very well, I was not expecting it. I wanted my boyfriend to come, but they would only give him leave for his own family members.

After the funeral we went home, stopping at a store on the way. There was a Papa John’s nearby, so we decided to get some pizza so we wouldn’t have to cook. Somehow then I felt different, like everything of those last few days was done with, and there was no more worrying. I didn’t cry anymore on the way home or that night. Not that I haven’t cried since then, often at night, and every time I think about what happened or the fact that she is no longer here.

I miss her dearly, and her absence is keenly felt in all the things we do. Slowly things are getting easier, and we can talk and laugh and do the things we used to, but nothing will ever be the same again. Her chair at the dinner table is empty and her computer sits on her desk where she left it. Our 5-player team for League of Legends is broken, and I have lost my crafting and planning partner.

Now we have started the task of documenting our memories of her; collecting all our pictures of her, collecting pictures of all the things that she made for herself or as gifts to other people, and writing up anecdotes of things she did or said or things we did with her. We cut locks of her hair, one for each of us. I planned to make some kind of memento with them, but I have yet to do anything about that.

Even though it has been a month and a half, writing this now I’m getting emotional again. I never thought I’d be visiting the cemetery and seeing her name there. Since she was 8 she suffered with a chronic health condition, and she never complained about taking multiple injections every single day. We took care of her as best we could, and we knew that there were many complications, but we didn’t think that it would come to this so soon. Nevertheless, we know that this life is not meant to be a paradise, and though mortality is hard to face, we all know that our time here is limited. Now every day we pray for the repose of her soul. And somehow we have to learn to get on without her.

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