Friday, August 05, 2011

Memorial to my Sister

I'm trying to blog again about what has been in my heart since starting the recording of my CD Unleashed, but first I see I need to write about my sister.

My sister passed away a week ago today. She was 53 years old. She had cancer and had been battling it on and off for about 15 years. She also had schizophrenia from her early adulthood, which is nearly the first that I remember her.

I can't say that we were that close, what with her being nine-and-a-half years older than myself, and what with her having moved away as an older teen, and what with her mental illness causing it to be somewhat difficult to form what I tend to think of as a sisterly relationship. There's one big caveat to that, and that's the fact that my husband and I adopted the baby she bore ten years ago.

That was her idea, at first at least. The way we heard of our son's existence was in an email from my mother which read "Bonnie says she's pregnant and she wants you to raise the baby." Now, this wasn't the first time in her life she had claimed she was pregnant, but it was the first time that the claim came with the verification that her social worker also said it was so. My husband and I had been praying for a baby and had just begun investigating our own apparent infertility at the time. We were excited, but cautious. I had a feeling it would not be an easy ride.

And I was right. By the time my son was born, my sister had decided she would parent. Children's Services hovered over her like a hawk, and by six weeks our son was in foster care. After much kafluffle, he came to live with us when he was eight months old, first as a "visitor," eventually as a foster child, and when he was a few months short of four years, we legally adopted him. That added a special dimension to our relationship, one that was in no way magical or easy, nor was it a burden. It was a grace for me; a hard grace though.

Bonnie was the most naturally outgoing person in our family. Just like my son will do, she was always striking up conversations with people, and strangers were simply friends she hadn't yet met. She was generous to a fault (if there can be such a thing), always giving away practically anything anyone gave her. Although when we cleaned out her apartment we did find lots of stuff, her mind was constantly filled with what she could give to other people.

My favorite memories of Bonnie were of her as one of my earliest musical inspirations. The first experience I can recall of "rocking out" on a song with someone else was with her, to this song, when I was about 7 years old, I'm guessing. I can still see the scene of me cranking up the radio and us both dancing.

It was her guitar that I first snuck off with and learned to play when she moved back home with us when I was 11. Songs she wrote and songs she played were the first ones I learned.

She and I also got serious about Christianity at about the same time. I was 10, she was 20. She was living in Hawaii at the time, and began sending lots of Christian comic books and whatnot that I read voraciously. She also sent me my first New International Version Bible, which made me a progressive among Lutheran kids. It sure helped me understand what I was memorizing in catechism class.

What I didn't understand was when her mental illness kicked in. I was so young, and didn't understand at all what has happening. It has been a multi-dimensional learning process to this very day to really grasp what it means to live with schizophrenia.

Her life was very difficult in many ways, and I thought more than once that death would be a blessed relief for her. That still doesn't make her absence any easier. All I know is that every human being has intrinsic dignity, and none should ever be treated without respect, without honor, or with disdain, regardless of how much they challenge our comfort.

Through the eyes of the least of them, Jesus searches us. What answer will you give when He asks 'Where is your love?'


molly said...

the loss of a sibling is very trying,you continue in my prayers.

gnelson said...

I'm just finding out about all this! I'm so sorry for your loss, Marie. We will keep you and all your family in our prayers.