A Separation of Souls

I have not yet told Eilis that my mom has died.

Shortly after 10:00 PM last December 23rd, my sister called to tell me that the hospital had just called to tell them my mom died.  I hung up the phone, crying out loud, and called my family to me.  Eilis, instead of joining Jim and Granuaile next to me, raced away from the room yelling, “I don’t want to hear it!”

And I think in that outburst, she found a place in her mind where if she didn’t hear it, it didn’t have to be real.

Eilis and my mom were fast friends.  We moved back to New Jersey when Eilis was four months old, and from the time she was just a few months older, she loved spending nights at Dram’s.  At 18 months old, she would pack her own bag, anxious to have even just a few hours in my mom’s company.  They would play for hours, exhausting each other with laughter and songs, and my quiet, reserved Eilis came into her own with my mom.  She seemed more animated, more outgoing, more loving.  Eilis wasn’t a huggy kind of kid.  She would sooner hug a tree than a grown up, but with my mom, she was so different.  Eilis was her true self with my mom, and the two of them were like soulmates, destined to find each other on this earth and complete each other.DSC01864

 

The day my sister Bean died, my mother took Eilis home with her.  Instead of going home to fall into the desperate pit of her own grief, she wanted Eilis to be with her, and my tiny two year old was anxious to go.  She didn’t leave my mom’s side, know ing even at this tender age that she had a job to do, making sure her kindred spirit survived the first few devastating days after Bean’s death.

One weekend, during one of their infamous sleepovers, my mom got sick.  holakxmas2An ambulance had to be called, and Eilis was there as they lifted my mom’s pain wracked body onto a stretcher and into the glowing cavern that was the back of the emergency vehicle.  The police came, there was a cacophony of dispatching calls coming over the squawking radios, and the lights and sounds were just too much for my sensitive kid.

It was the end of the sleepovers.

Eilis was afraid to go spend the night after that, and my mother knew.  She talked to me often about how guilty she felt over Eilis being exposed to human frailty in such a traumatic way.  I had a hard time getting Eilis to even go visit after that, and she was more than happy to pass on the mantle of best sleepover buddy to Granuaile as she got older.  Eilis didn’t get over it, silently lamenting the loss of this precious bonding time, and I think it impacted her more than we ever realized.

 

Today, after one of her increasingly rare visits to my stepfather at the home heshared for nearly 40 years with my mom, Eilis and I were driving home.  We were talking about our annual visit to Walt Disney World this coming Christmas, the first one we are taking with my sister, her husband, and my stepdad.  In between conversation, she was singing along to theCD she had popped into the car stereo.  And then she was crying.  The tears were silent, yet they poured as if a flood gate had been opened down her cheeks, dripping onto her shirt.  Quietly, acknowledging for the first time the loss she suffered last December – if not those many years ago – she said, very simply, “I miss Dram.”

I can do nothing with my own broken heart except pray that this is at last a step toward healing for Eilis.  Perhaps this is the beginning of her heart accepting – or at least understanding – the loss she has suffered.  And even though they can’t be together, maybe this is the point where Eilis lets the memories be of some comfort.  Maybe she can focus more on the bond they had than the separation they suffered.

And maybe she’ll find peace.

March 7 – Our Day That Will Live in Infamy

On March 7, 2003, I woke up, got Brighid up for school, got Eilis up and dressed, and got ready to drive Brighid to school.  My sister Bean lived with me, and she was still sleeping when I left.

When I came home, I went in to wake her up.  She had gone to bed early the night before, complaining of a stomach bug.  We had just gotten back from Florida two days earlier, and although Bean hadn’t gone with us, we fought a stomach bug throughout the vacation, so I naturally assumed she picked it up from Brighid.

I opened the bedroom door, found her laying in bed, and yelled at her.  Yep, I yelled.  She had promised to make Irish potatoes for Brighid’s Brownie meeting that afternoon.  The girls were going to have a bit of a St. Patrick’s Day party, and Bean volunteered to make her delicious candy treats.  When she told me she didn’t think she could get up to make them, I was furious.  I already had a full day stacked up, and now I had to run to the grocery store, pick up all the ingredients, and make the candy myself.  And, god damn it, I didn’t know the recipe.

Bundling up Eilis, I headed back out to the store.  I can’t really repeat all the nasty things I said about my sister, as I’ve already “god damned” once in this blog, and I’d hate to go overboard with the language.  Let’s just say there weren’t thoughts of sunshine and rainbows as I gathered up the ingredients, thinking of the burden my day now held with the added responsibilities of “Candy Maker”.

When I came home, I didn’t hear the shower.  She swore to me she would get in the shower while I was gone, and I had even gotten pissed enough to call my mother, put my mother on the phone, and make her tell Bean to get a shower.

I took Eilis downstairs, put her in her walker, and went upstairs, with all the venom of 1000 rattlesnakes waiting to spew forth at my sister.  I shoved open the bedroom door, and she wasn’t there.  Well, what the hell?  I knocked on the bathroom door, but I got no answer.  So I opened it.

While I will never, ever, ever, ever forget what I found when I opened the bathroom door, the thing I will remember forever and a day is the bitterness and anger I had for Bean that whole morning.  My last words to her were mean, hate filled, and nasty.

And I never got to take them back.  Or make up for them.  Or let her know I didn’t mean them – it was the frustration speaking.

The best I could do to take back the things I said was to write her eulogy, reminding myself as I reminded everyone else of the good person she was.

Bean is still the best person I have ever known.  We got along like oil and water sometimes, but honestly, there is no heart bigger; no soul gentler; no person kinder than my sister.

And I miss her as much now as I did the first minute I realized I didn’t have her anymore.