One Year Later and the Pickle Jar Still Hasn’t Settled Yet

An update to The Pickle Jar Hasn’t Settled Yet.

One year later and life’s still a bitch. One year ago, my younger sister lost her life to a ‘rare’ (I hate the word rare and I don’t like using the word hate, but this is definitely when I need to use one of my ‘strong words’ for emphasis) form of lung cancer, as I wrote about here. One year later and it still feels like she died yesterday and some days it feels like she’s still suffering and yet to succumb. Grief and loss are bizarre.

So what’s changed in a year? Do you really want to know? That’s the real question.

Griefus Interruptus

At first, I thought I was the one dancing at insanity’s edge as of late, but it’s not actually me for once. In the very few, limited moments of clarity and silent contemplation that I rarely get to indulge in, I realize that my grieving process has either been interrupted or I’ve managed to take a path through it in a most unconventional way. A slow walk through a thistle patch while being sprayed with lemon juice seems to be an accurate description. I’m a little different, so I suspect that it’s the latter…not to worry, it’s normal for me…I hope.

Honestly, this is uncharted territory that I’m navigating without a compass or a map and I’ve discovered it’s full of landmines and deceptive tourist traps. One minute I’m all good, and the next I’m not. There are quite a few days where I even catch myself lying to my very own damn self. Some days, it’s the only way to keep motivated to keep moving forward but I end up paying for it down the road. At the very least, I feel like I’m moving forward or standing still, which is better than sliding backwards. I count that as progress.

I’ve read and done the ‘things’ from the so called ‘experts’ and was making sure to take the time to levitate daily, ensure the cleanliness of my magical top hat, feeding the bunnies regularly and maintaining their…wait…wrong topic. Sorry. Anyway, I had been taking the time when I thought I needed it, often in private, only to have that privacy and time swept out from under me in March. My future has become a little more intriguing.

I can sincerely say that having nowhere to go and nowhere to run has drastically affected this humanly process we call grieving. It’s like my everyday moments of sadness have been picked up and placed beside me in a heaped mess, just awaiting the time when I can pick it all back up again and deal with it. It’s all piling up and more shit has been added. I see a few uneaten and moldy tidbits and some dirty socks within the pile now too, ick. Who wants to deal with that? Gasoline and a match have never been more appealing.

Still missing her

If Lea were still here, I’m certain that she would’ve already ripped me 6 new ones and sent me off and running with the taste of fresh knock off designer Hoochie Goochie boots from Wallez Marte (Walmart, but in chic fashion speak) in the back of my throat. With a stern lecture, she’d be the one boosting me back up onto my stick pony and encouraging me to show off the pink rhinestone cowboy hat that I love so much. Hell, she’d even help wrestle me into the pink ass-less chaps and remind me to blow the shit out of the annoying pea whistle that came with my Texas Mickey. I miss her more than anything.

I’m trying, I really am, but the state that the world is in right now, is raining on my pity party parade and my route has been altered. I feel like I’m somewhere between the funny farm and the dump. It stinks and I’m terrified of what I’ll find at either end. Decisions, decisions. The dump or the funny farm, what a decision to have to make.

I’ve written and re-written this post quite a few times these past few weeks, and have resigned myself to the fact that my sister’s parting request was that her loss not be mourned sadly. Alas, my mind wanders into the depths of sorrow when I think about her being gone, but I figure I should stay true to who I am and write from the heart. Life is full of tragedy but I always seem to find humor somewhere. That’s probably a tragedy in itself. Other times, it just is what it is.

One year and what’s changed

So, one year later and I still don’t feel much by way of closure. The anger I’ve had, seems to have been heartily stoked within the last couple of months and fuel seems to be pissed on that fire daily. The questions that I had before (that I felt would never be answered), seem to be becoming somewhat answered in a murky and hazy fashion. I’d always hoped that my inclinations were wrong, but this is blatantly clear. It’s become a bit of a nightmare for me. Why anyone has to go through what Lea did (Lea included) blows my mind. Advanced civilization and medical care my ass.

My fears have all changed which isn’t surprising because I am no longer the same person I once was. My fear of death has been replaced by the fear of a long, drawn out and painful course of disease where death would be more humane, and being forced into the path my sister experienced. Not death. Death may have finally been solace and peace compared to what she had to endure but I haven’t died before so I wouldn’t know. My fears are now of those who are overly fearful and I dreadfully fear living a life not lived. Such a change from who I was before, that I don’t even recognize myself.

Speaking of which, I find my thirst for knowledge and understanding to be unquenchable. My feelings of compassion for others has never been stronger and I find myself reading things that are so far from anything like me that I wonder if I should commit myself today. Tolstoy…who would’ve thought?

I have become exceptionally reclusive, yet I seek a certain connection and yearn for a specific type of company, that I fear I may never find. I may invest in a few Wilson volleyballs to aid in filling this gap…it’s a start. I see they’re making them with assorted designs and colors now. How exciting that my new friends will have such colorful personalities! Lots to look forward to in the coming year!

Grieving is so unique to each of us, it’s hard to nail down whether I’m making progress, or if this is just truly what it is. Most days, I feel like I’m just moving further away from her death. Other days it feels like I have some kind of permanent rain cloud suspended over me, showering me in spurts of melancholy. I often wonder if I’m breaking some kind of protocol or breaking away from the script as to what I should or shouldn’t be doing. I realize that a ‘mourning’ script doesn’t really exist, so I just seem to try to let it happen as I go along and not dwell on it.

Her wishes for us included boulders and bees

My mother and father on the other hand, seem to have jumped right on in to my sister’s last wishes for them. She told them to get a rock big enough to sit on and place it in their yard, and when they wanted to sit and think of her, that’s where they should go. So, my folks took that order and are now the proud owners of a fucking massive boulder, weighing in at over 10,000 lbs which also happens to be ugly as fuck.

The previous owners of the rock, told my father so, which prompted him to go get some heavy machinery and move it to his yard immediately because he felt it was a ‘sign’. My sister had an eye for ugly things, so the rock fits right in. Now, my parents are supposed to sit on the rock and wait for a (hopefully smaller) heart shaped rock to drop from the sky and hit them on the head. Lea said that’d be her sign.

The funny thing is, upon further inspection and a bit of a washing, the rock has some peculiar areas of beauty and possibly fossils embedded within. Definitely a reflection of Lea. We always joked that she was like a raven, picking up shiny or distinctive, one of a kind objects. I look forward to seeing it the next time I visit. I may take the opportunity to sit and ponder, as it may offer a different perspective than my patio swing.

Lea told me she’d send me a sign via honey bees. I’m hoping that her sick and humorous ass didn’t mean that she’d send a swarm of killer bees one day. My ears really pricked up when I‘d heard about some kind of murder hornets coming this way. And now, I’m a little paranoid.

She understood how passionate I am about the small things that keep this world going round, and decided on these precious little pollinators as her messenger. Needless to say, I tend to find myself on my patio swing in the backyard near my flower gardens searching for bees and butterflies. Sounds ridiculous I know, but I always wonder if it’s her energy dropping by for a visit. Sadly, I don’t see too many bees these days. My robust dandelion crop seems to have failed to bring all the bees to the yard, and I’m like it’s better than…I know, I’ll stop. That song is catchy man, seriously.

One year of holidays and family gatherings

We’ve had one full year of holidays and gatherings without her and it never fails that we notice immediately that we are one shy at our table because there’s no yelling. Yes, she used to yell…a lot. She was fluent in yelling if you consider it a language.

I also noticed that our plates remained firmly intact at the table during each family meal, and we were able to eat at our own pace without the threat of Lea grabbing them before we were done so she could do the dishes. It’s kind of sad to see actually. Clem misses his dish washing partner and his dish pan hands haven’t been the same.

The eating of holiday meals without the constant swooping threat of my sister, just isn’t the same either. There’s something to be said about scarfing a 7 course meal in 5 minutes flat while swatting her away the entire time. The food seemed to taste way better (if you actually had long enough to savor the taste) and the memories of those meals are hilariously unforgettable.

She sits atop our minds constantly when we assemble, often spurring reminiscent memories of her during our conversations. She often begins our stories with, remember when Lea, and ends our telling with she should be here or I wish she was here to see this. She should still be here to see and experience all of this. It doesn’t just make me sad, it also infuriates me.

So many firsts this year without her. So many one lasts I wish I could have again. So many things we thought we still had but the reality is, there are zero guarantees in life.

All the one lasts I wish I could have again

I can only wish that I could have one last hug and one last I love you for my sister. One last laugh, one last cry, one last moment of indifference. One last lunch date, one last salon day and maybe even one last shopping trip at the mall. One last wild and happy trip to the candy store of hair products (a beauty distributor) and one last trial and error haircut and coloring gone awry. One last drop in and say hello, one last debate and one last sibling joust fest in Mom’s old kitchen between the 3 of us (our childhood home has finally sold and a new family is set to make memories of their own within). Time moves forward.

One last family holiday, preferably one for each major holiday. One last family vacation with her boys. One last phone call, one last disagreement and one last family dinner. One last family photo on the beach, by the mantle, or in our adult onsie pajamas at Christmas that Mom bought for all of us. One last kick at the can, one last hurrah, and one last ‘you only live once moment’. One last I love you for her boys, one last hug, and one last chance to make up for an unfulfilling goodbye, even though I know all goodbyes suck.

I’d like to forget the one round of chemo and one round of immunotherapy. The one visit/phone call to many a medical person countless times over for no help in her most desperate of times, with one stupid, shitty response given over and over. One less excuse for other’s ineptitude and we’re left with one damn good reason to not trust and follow blindly.

One round in hospice and less than one week later she’s dead. One. The number one and I seem to be at odds with one another and now I am down to zero. Ones and zeroes, I find that interesting, don’t you?

I think about the families who were unable to be with their dying loved ones a few months ago, to have their one last goodbye. I think about the families who never got their one last hug and one last I love you. I’m thinking about the families who never got their one last moment together. You never get a one last twice. My heart hurts for you, please accept my condolences.

Adapting to and accepting the change

I feel the change within and wonder if it’s forever. I struggle to accept it or even like it and wish sometimes that I could go back to the days of not having a worry or a care in the world, but keep all of the lessons I’ve learned. Even then, I know it still wouldn’t be the same.

It’s fascinating to listen in on the world around me. So many lives, similar to my old life, that I wish I could go back to and enjoy the way I once did. It’s just not in the cards for me. It’s a cold harsh reality, but one I know that I will eventually accept, embrace and make my own.

I’m now left to wonder what life has in store. It continues with the journey through another year without her, that’s for sure. Will this life I call the pickle jar ever settle? Or will I have to adapt and learn to swim within its unsettled environment? It doesn’t sound as glamorous as dancing in the rain instead of waiting for the storm to pass, but it’s me and my life has been all about the pickles as of late.

I can only hope that my jar is left alone for a while to settle before being picked back up, shaken violently and inverted again. Maybe I’ll just have to emerge and leave that old pickle jar with its broken seal behind. Who knows?

I may just take up residence within a jar of the feisty, pickled hot peppers I’m beginning to remind myself of, spicy and not for everyone. Hopefully, my new friend Wilson and I will have lots in common and he will help to fill the void in my need of a certain connection and assist me in accepting what is. No pressure Wilson.

Here’s to another year of firsts without Lea, learning how to adapt and really moving forward with my life. I can only hope that my reflection back, a year from now, will be drastically different from this one. Again, no pressure Wilson.

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