Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My New Normal...that started 16 years ago

I have a million things to do today and I was focused.  I was going to go through this day just like normal...we have a schedule and we were going to keep to it.

My day stopped in its tracks after I read an e-mail from a day care mom.  I scrolled through my other messages quickly as the kids were working on their craft and then the reality of this day, what I was trying to avoid facing, was right in my face:

16 years ago today, a very precious young lady was released from her pain and sickness and ushered into the presence of her Heavenly Father whom she loved with all her heart. We learned so much from Jaclyn in the short time that we knew her and our lives are forever changed for the better. Our thoughts are with you today John, Jennifer, Jessica & Josh ... and all the J's

That made me take a moment and just remember...remember the day, remember her.

I don't ever forget about her but life just seems to move forward.  It is hard to believe that it has been 16 years since I have seen my little sister alive.  The memories are always there but the grief of this loss comes in waves still today.  Some days...I just miss her.

Today, my thoughts are of my own kids.  Sid is the same age as Jaclyn when she was first diagnosed.  I can't say that the thought of cancer doesn't cross my mind at times when I see Sidney get sick or notice that she is a little extra tired some days.  I doubt that those thoughts will ever go away either.  Sidney has many similarities to Jaclyn actually and I have heard many times from others how she either looks just like me when I was younger or how she looks just like my sister.  The latter comments...I never really know how to respond.

Although the specific day when Jaclyn first went to the hospital was over 18 years ago I can remember it very vividly.  I was getting ready to go to my senior dance.  My friends were at my house and we were getting our pictures taken on our stairs as my sister was screaming in her room.  She was septic at the time (which we didn't know) and every move that she made felt like little needles poking her all over her body.  After I left with my friends my mom took her to the ER.  I was watching the clocks at the dance and called home several times to see if there was news with what might be wrong with my sister.  

Time became very apparent to me this day and for the next 2 1/2 years.  Our years were broken into treatment schedules, doctor appointments, hospital stays that lasted weeks and also trying to do everything else that people thought was normal day-to-day stuff.  Our normal was temperature checks, giving shots of medicine through ports and watching energy levels go up or down...and appetites.  Time was a measurement but it was also our reality.  If we could make it through week __ we could get to the next step of treatment.

I also remember that last day and the last few hours that we had with Jaclyn.  I don't want to remember but I always will.  The specifics of what happened in the end are more of a story for me but I saw the effects of the stroke that she had and knew that the sister I once knew was no longer with us.  Jaclyn was only alive because of machines, nothing else.  If she was taken off, the time would start slowing down for her and she would be at the end of her physical life.  The decision was made to take her off life support.  I actually chose not to be there at the hospital those last two hours...and I don't regret that decision in any way.  I saw what the illness had done and I heard the sounds of death approaching.  That was enough for me.  

I went many years not being able to come to terms with what had happened in our family.  The death of any close family member is hard...but a sibling, that is younger than you, is just not supposed to happen.  I still don't have the answers as to why it had to be her or why our family.  I won't fully understand that while we are on this earth.  

Today, I am thankful.  It's taken a long time to get to this point but through the sad moments I can actually say that I am thankful.

I am very thankful to the friends and family that were with us, drove with me to Des Moines to see her in the hospital numerous times, those that stayed and ate pizza and played cards in the hospital (when Jaclyn was on steroids and actually ate an entire pizza herself).  

I'm thankful to whoever it was that actually took me to the hospital that last day.  My car was in the shop and I lived in Ames at the time so I wasn't with my family when the news came that we all needed to be by her side.  I remember getting a phone call from someone but that is the last memory that I have until I saw her.  There are bits and pieces of the next few weeks as well but most of my memories are of the visitation, the funeral and sleeping in Jaclyn's bed for a few nights.  

I'm thankful to those that encouraged me to continue on with "life".  My life wasn't going to return to normal for awhile and it took some time to get enough strength just to go back to school.  My new normal started when I got a phone call from my college roommate and it dawned on me that at some point I needed to keep moving...what I had left was still moving forward and was going to continue.  Some of my professors had made that very clear to me as well and I even had to show an obituary to one of them.  Leaving home again though meant that my sister was truly gone and that she wouldn't be coming through that front door again.  That was tough to come to terms with and move past.  All holidays, birthdays...everything was going to be different.

I am thankful for Josh.  My oldest biological brother.
...and for my adopted siblings...Jonathan, Jacob, Julie, Jenna, Jordan, Justin and Josie.  

I'm thankful for my parents.  They were pretty strong people throughout all of this and I learned a lot from them.

I am thankful for the time that I did get to know Jaclyn.  I will always be her big sister.

Our family is unique.  We have happy times.  We have times that are also very interesting.  Our family is still trying to figure out who we all are and how each of us work as this new unit...but, we are family.  We are a family, that in my opinion, would not have been made if it wasn't for my sister.    

1 comment:

Cori said...

I have often wished I could go back to this time and be a better friend. There was so little grace in the college schedule and we were all clueless as to how be "normal" and help our hurting friend.