A few weeks ago, I got a feeling that it was time for me to go back to Wyoming. However, I didn't see how I could justify it. We're just starting an addition and remodel of our house, which we're doing mostly ourselves since we don't have much money. I've maxed out vacation time from work to accommodate that, and financially it just didn't seem possible, or reasonable. Still, it's been three years since I've been back, and I wanted Jenny to meet Seda.
It seems that the Universe had other plans.
Last night my sister died.
Jenny fought off many hardships in her life, but the last seven years were the hardest. In February of 2002, she was in a car accident, and she almost died. She had head injuries, and her back was broken in six places. She was in a coma for three months. The doctors said it was a miracle she survived at all, and that she probably would never regain much cognitive ability. Yet she did. Physically confined to the care only a nursing home could provide, she regained much of her language, memory, and thought processes. Though dealing with periodic medical crises and depression, her sense of humor and willingness to live made her popular among the residents.
Recently another crisis came. She stopped eating, and last night she slipped away.
Jenny was my older sister, two grades ahead of me in school. She first taught me to read when I was maybe five or six years old, and, when I started school, she protected me on the playground. I didn't fit in with the other kids, and I did not easily make friends. Her presence there was a blessing. After she graduated to junior high, my last two years in elementary school were miserable.
We were close as children, but somehow grew apart as adults. Not that we didn't get along – we did – but contact and communication became less frequent. Jenny moved out, and later on got married. She had two children. The young family struggled to get by, and her husband became abusive to the kids and eventually abandoned her, leaving her with two children and no means of support. Her next husband was worse, and a third child came into the world. Jenny dealt with bouts of poverty and abuse, and, in her mid-thirties, finally began to really get her life together. She worked her way through college. She tended bar, she logged, she got a job with the forest service and worked as an archeologist and wildland fire fighter. Finally, just a few years before her accident, she met a responsible, quiet man, and they got married. She had a fourth child after her 40th birthday, and worked for her local power company. But just as it seemed that things had turned for the best, disaster struck. My brother died in a logging accident on Oct. 4, 2001. Jenny and Frank had always been close, and they had grown closer over the years. His loss hit her hard. Four months later, she was in the accident that changed everything.
That brief summary does not do justice to Jenny's life – to her endurance, her sometimes biting humor, her joy-of-life, her toughness, her love, her generosity, her courage. I don't know how to do justice to that, and there isn't space here anyway. I'm just glad she's my sister. I love you, Jenny, wherever you are, I love you. And I so hope and believe you are at peace.
After Jenny's accident, I felt helpless. I did what I could for my mom, but with two small children and a family to care for, I had to make them my priority. What could I do for my sister? I found something in July, 2004. I started writing her letters. Every Saturday morning from then until last week, I made it a priority to write a letter to her – keeping her abreast of my life, explaining my transition, encouraging her, sharing my thoughts and my fears, my hopes and my love. The communication was one-way – Jenny no longer had the ability to return it – yet in some small way, it connected us. During my last visit, in 2006, she said that she didn't think she could have gone on without them.
Last Saturday, I forgot to write. I forgot to write the letter that she never would have received.
Oh, Jenny, my heart is breaking. I love you. Goodbye for now, sweet sister. We will meet again, on the other side.
Be well. Be happy. Be Love.