My eldest stepsister on my mother’s side is dead.
She’d had a long history of alcohol and drug addiction, but we aren’t sure whether that was her actual cause of death. Because she was found dead, there will be an autopsy to determine it. It looked to the people who found her that she’d had a stroke, which is perfectly natural, so there is no reason to believe that drugs were involved… but I cannot believe that her history was on her side in that regard. The stroke was just the last thing that happened.
I don’t think that she would mind me telling you this, because she was an out and proud AA member (lovingly calling it “high school with ash trays”), one of those people that succeeded for fifteen years right up until she didn’t.
We didn’t know each other well, and in fact, have only met each other once in the flesh… but we were close on Facebook Messenger. There were moments in time where we reached across the divide and got to know each other for our own people, without my mom and her dad, discussing secrets in the night like sisters do. There was a mutual admiration society. She was half white, half latina. I am all white, all lesbian. There was a lot of shared ground in discrimination, and our pride came from the fact that when we met each other, she was the department chair in Mexican American Studies at UTA, and I had just gotten word that I’d gotten an internship in DC writing national Sunday School curriculum for the Human Rights Campaign.
She’d ask me for help with her computer, and we’d chat away, because wisdom always comes when you’re doing something else. She found that she needed God in the same way I did, to get her ego out of the way to live life on life’s own terms. I do not know what happened next; she pulled away from me and I didn’t hear from her for several years after. I was surprised when she came to Houston for an extended period to rest and recover and didn’t want to see me, but I did not take it personally. She didn’t want to see anyone.
But what I wanted more than anything was to give her a hug, tell her everything was going to be okay, and kick her ass into next week… not because I wanted to be mean to her. It’s that when you’re so far down, you have to have someone else kick your ass until you can kick your own. I don’t know from addiction, but I do know from depression. Kicking her ass wouldn’t have been easy for me, because the ass-kicking doesn’t take place from lording above. It takes place from getting down in.
You have to be able to say, “I have been there, and I know the way out.” I would have told her about Dana and Argo. I would have told her about my depression and how it mutilated me into a person I’d never seen before. I would have told her all of the things you cannot tell someone who hasn’t been there herself, and hoped that the ass-kicking came from a resolution not to make all of my mistakes…. and the strange thing is that my own ass would have been kicked in hearing all of hers. Mutual ass-kicking and mutual admiration in two hands bound together.
Death is a different kind of knowing the way out, the kind where it is a relief, because not only are you not a worry to yourself, but no one else, either… or so you think.
Her eldest son just graduated from college, and is now tasked with making arrangements.
Goodnight, sweet sister. Let me sing you to sleep.