I can still remember her laugh. She had a great sense of humor.
It's not too often you meet someone like her, completely genuine, not a pretentious bone in her body, kind-hearted and generous to a fault-- almost childlike.
She was the oldest, more than ten years older than me, and strikingly pretty. I saw a picture of her once, she was around 18 years old--- eyes green more than hazel, clear ivory skin, a spatter of freckles across her high cheekbones.
I must have been about 19 when it first happened. The first time we had to institutionalize her. The police had found her wandering the streets of a nearby city
not making any sense.
"Ok, sign here," the clerk barely looked up from the admission papers. Sure, no problem. I will sign my sister in to this scary place where she wouldn't know a soul. I wIll leave her here where she might be frightened and mistreated behind locked doors.
But there was no other way. Out of touch with reality she had left her two young sons alone in their small apartment for who knows how long.
Over the years she was in and out of facilities at least a dozen times. The siblings would take turns picking her up and settling her in, helping her financially, keeping track of her.
Sometimes I grew frustrated with her.
"..... and if you would just stay on your medication you wouldn't have all these problems. Think what your boys are going through". She shot something back at me about minding my own business. Ouch! I guess I deserved it. But hey, she still had a little spunk left-- good for her!
The ups and downs went on for years, in and out of the hospital, sometimes within months, other times a few years would go by before she had another episode.
The last five years of her life she seemed better.....a nice apartment, friends, hobbies she enjoyed.
One time we made a deal. She would buy my car for a very reasonable price and I could use the funds for a down payment on a new vehicle-- a win-win for both of us.
But first I had to teach her to drive it-- a stick shift.
"Ok, pretty good," my neck aching from the jerking motion and my stomach heaving, "let's practice again next week". We must have spent 40 hours overall practicing in a local parking lot before she was finally ready to buy it.
A few months later. "You did what?"
"I sold it and made a few thousand extra"
Another time she came into a modest sum of money. Oh good, now she can finally buy some nice things for herself. She ended up giving most of it away or lent it to friends who needed it.
Then, it came out of nowhere....
"It's cancer and it's in the bone"
It didn't look good and it was progressing quickly
It was one day on the way to her doctor appointment, "Turn it up will you? I love this song"
You sure do shine,
Glad I found you,
Glad you're mine"
came streaming over the radio.
I never knew what it meant until then but it suddenly hit me:
The last shall be first and the first shall be last.
The LAST , the LAST shall be FIRST, and the FIRST shall be last.
Towards the end she asked me, "Do you think it was the psychiatric meds that caused it? the cancer?"
"I don't know but you needed them. I guess you didn't have a choice."
Several months after she passed I saw her in a dream one night
"Christy!!! What are you doing here?" I ran to hug her. The glow emanating from her body was blinding. She didn't say a word but beckoned me closer. I looked through her eye and saw the cosmos mountains, oceans, stars, -----eternity.
I knew she was ok
**.......DIAMONDS ARE FORMED ABOUT 100 MILES BELOW THE EARTH'S SURFACE WHERE THE RIGHT AMOUNTS OF PRESSURE AND HEAT TRANSFORM CARBON INTO SPARKLING GEMS....
I think about her often and how much I learned from her about courage, dignity and humbleness.
Rest in peace, DIAMOND GIRL, rest easy
THE BATTLE IS OVER AND YOU HAVE WON
*Seals and Crofts, 1973
**How Stuff Works, Natural History Museum, online website