|December 27, 1958 - March 19, 2004|
Losing my sister Margaret has been the greatest loss in my life. Part of me wants to forget, so I block out the images, I squeeze back the tears and do not allow myself to feel the blinding pain. I imagine that this is all a bad dream and that she is back home in upstate New York and simply hasn't had time to call.
The other part of me wants to scream out and ask this insane world how it is managing to go on without her! This part of me is afraid of forgetting her, afraid that my memories will not be enough.
Margaret was 45 years old with a 15 year old daughter, a 25 year old son, 4 sisters, and a family that loved her deeply. She was a warm, loving person who always had time for a hug, always had time to talk on the phone, always had time to listen. She was birth mother to two, but a mother to many. She helped raise her sisters because her mother was often ill. She was the only real mother her sisters ever knew.
Her love was real. Her love was profound. It meant something. You could always count on it. She was warm, huggable, lovable, she hugged you back. She exuded warmth, acceptance, generosity, love in its pure form. She had many faults, but every last one was melted away by her love. She was a constant in our changing lives. The glue that held us all together. Margie was always trying to hold on to tradition and family. Both our mother and father died in the past few years, so Margaret was the head of our family.
Margaret wasn't feeling well for about two days prior to going to visit her doctor. She thought she had the flu. She went to the doctor on Friday complaining of flu-like symptoms and pain in her groin area. She thought she had the flu and maybe a urinary tract infection or something similar. The doctor told her she had the flu and did not have an infection. He sent her home and told her to get rest, plenty of fluids, etc. Saturday she felt worse and went to the emergency room. They kept her due to dehydration and what they thought was a blood clot in her lung. We spoke to her Sunday and she said she was okay. She was breathing heavy and we were concerned. We asked if her if we should come up. She insisted that she was alright. That night she was in CCU and on a respirator; she wasn't any better on Monday. We got up there as fast as we could. By Tuesday morning she was on a respirator, sedated, had water poisoning from over hydration. Worst of all, the doctors were already giving up hope. This was a rural hospital but more like a glorified nursing home. They were half-heartedly trying to get her transferred to a larger facility. They couldn't figure out what was wrong. They knew that her kidneys were failing, that she had 104 fever, low blood pressure and some sort of a massive infection in her body. We felt so powerless! We made it perfectly clear that we were not going to let them give up on her and that they had better find a facility to take her. She was transferred the next morning. We met with the doctors at the new facility early Wednesday afternoon. They told us she had a flesh eating infection that had taken over a large portion of her groin and had moved into her abdomen. They could not tell how much flesh had been affected and without surgery she would die very shortly. They basically questioned the value of her life and wanted us make sure that living would be worth the suffering that she would have to go through. They told us that even if she did make it, it was going to be a long, arduous journey of surgery after surgery, and that we had to be sure that this would be something that she would be willing to go through. We were dumbfounded. How could this be happening? How could these doctors think this way? We assured them that her life was valuable, not only to her, but to us and many others. We told them to save her "Whatever it takes." They operated on her on Wednesday to remove some of the dead flesh and she made it through. They gave her dialysis on Thursday and she made it through. We really believed that she was going to make it and show them all. That would have been like her, to prove all the doctors wrong.
They operated again on Friday and came and told us that she was not going to make it. Her heart was too weak after the second operation. It felt like someone had shot me through the chest. She passed away shortly afterward. We never even got to say goodbye. They let us see her after she was already gone. We hugged her lifeless body begging for one last glimpse of life. One final word. One final smile. But she was gone.
I am so hurt. I am furious with God, this infection, the doctors, everyone. It is not fair. I am never going to believe that this is for anyone's good. How do you explain to a 15 year old that her mother is gone? That she can never talk to her mother again, never ask her for advice, never giggle with her again? Margaret will never see her children get married, never see the birth of her grandchildren, never get to grow old with her sisters.
Death and sickness are unfair but life is so precious. If there is anything that I have learned it is to enjoy your life, take any chance for happiness, savor any love that comes your way, always say "I love you", always hug the ones you love, because you only have today.
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April 22, 2004