When my sister passed away, people were so unbelievably kind. They sent notes and text messages and voice mails and letters and flowers and food and probably some things I can't seem to recollect. It came from everywhere, too. From the close, close friends. From the acquaintances. And even from the people that I didn't even realize knew much about my family at all. It was pretty amazing.
All of that kindness will always stand out for me. Like, in the midst of all of that sorrow, it showed me that there is a whole lot of good and compassion in this world. There truly is.
But that's not the point of this post.
The point of this post is something else that I distinctly remember that happened during that time. And it holds such a memorable place because it so sharply detoured from everything I was hearing.
So this friend of mine who knew of my sister and how close we all were heard the news. And when she did, she picked up the phone and called me up. Yup.
"Is it true? Say it's not true."
"Man. I wish it weren't."
"Deanna died? She passed away?"
"It sounds crazy even saying it. But yes. She did."
"Kim! You are shitting me!
"Damn. Deanna died. Deanna. Cool ass Deanna. That's fucked up, man!" Then she paused for a moment and repeated herself. "Damn! Deanna? That's SO FUCKED UP!"
And okay. I get it. That's a ton of expletives. But I need you to hear it because that's pretty much verbatim what she said.
Some might think that was an insensitive thing to say. But not me. Something about her pointing out the obvious -- that thing that no one else had actually said to me yet -- felt good. Cathartic even.
I laughed out loud. "You know what? It IS fucked up."
"She picked your kids up everyday, man. And y'all are a tight knit family. I hate hearing that shit, man. That's so fucked up."
Not "I'm sorry for your loss" or "I'm praying for you." But instead, this raw, true statement. One that described what it felt like to lose Deanna perfectly. It was fucked up.
I can't say the F-bomb is always my go-to expletive, but on this day, it was so soothing for my soul to hear. This unfiltered description of what was right there in front of us. No profession of how it is darkest before the dawn or how the Lord knows what He's doing--all of which may be true. But what was truest of all for me was that having my sister with me on a Wednesday and then not having her on a Thursday was . . .well. . .fucked up.
So I remembered that. This person making a choice to simply call it what is was instead of finding the prettiest shiniest words she could find.
I told a patient she needed dialysis today. A young patient, too. Looked her straight in the eye and explained that her kidneys had weakened to a point of needing a machine to do their job. Three days per week.
And she asked me questions and I gave her answers. She wanted to know all of the logistics of going to a dialysis center and the cosmetic appearance of an AV graft. And so. I answered. I told her all those answers and a little more on top of it. And she just took it all in and listened.
But then I remembered. I remembered how good it felt when someone kept it 100% real with me.
"I'm sorry about all this."
"I won't even lie. This is messed up. Like, being young and having to go to dialysis three times a week is a crappy hand to have been dealt."
She just stared at me for a few beats and then turned her head sideways. One edge of her mouth turned upward and then, for the first time since we'd been talking, she smiled. "You know what, doc? That's real talk right there."
I took a breath and gave a subtle shrug of my shoulders to convey that I agreed. There was no sugar coating it. Being of child bearing age but having kidneys that don't work is. . .well. . .messed up. And fucked up, too.
Let me be clear. I do believe that people rise out of the ashes of unfortunate situations. In fact, I know they do because I see it every day. And what I do for a living is help them do just that, you know? But I guess what I'm realizing is that sometimes you just have to call something what it is to form your strategy. Like, look it square in the eye and say, "I see you for what you are. And now, I'm gonna fight like hell." Nope. No sucker punches. No pirouettes around it. Just straight up, hand-to-hand combat. But you have to see the target to do that, man.
At least that's what I think.
It's November. And this month will mark four years since one of my favorite people in the whole wide world left for good. The air is crisp and fresh and so is the harsh reality of my sister being gone. And you know? I walk into it eyes wide open, fully recognizing that a life without Deanna in it will always be kind of . . .well, fucked up. And it just is what it is.
But you call it what it is. And when you do, some piece of it feels just a little more manageable. No. You aren't a victim. Or maybe you are. But either way you're aware and not hiding. You give yourself permission to keep going.
Then you shadow box in the corner. And you come out fighting.
Happy Hump Day.