Friday, January 18, 2008

Goodbye Carla

My sister Carla.

She passed away very unexpectedly on December 22, 2007 and her memorial service was held on January 5th, 2008--on what would have been her 59th birthday.

I've spent so much time crying and feeling restless and numb, that I don't know what household duties and 'things to do' I've missed or forgotten. I'll start to do something, then wander off and forget about it midway through. Most nights I don't sleep, because the minute it's quiet, with nothing left to do but go to bed, as soon as I lay down, my mind starts running over what happened. I'll lay there for a bit and invariably start crying again, then get up and go out into the living room so I won't keep J. awake. I turn on the TV, because anything is better than just sitting there rehashing her death and how horrible the world is going to be without her. Any distraction helps.

Carla and her husband avoided dying in a fire that burned their home to the ground on December 13th. They weren't home when it happened, and the house that they built themselves burned to the ground along with everything they owned. I spoke to Carla for the last time on December 19th, when she called to thank me for a Target gift card and some money I sent her to try and help replace some of what they had lost in the fire. She told me that they were moving into a furnished condo, provided by their insurance company, in two days. She seemed as chipper as she could be in such circumstances, and had a slight cold. She had epilepsy for many years but had not had a seizure in several years, and was on medication for it. She even joked about the nickname they had come up for their burned-out house--'Ash Manor' or some such. I wish I could remember what it was, because typical Carla, it was as funny as Hell. Before I hung up, she promised to call on Friday with the new telephone number at the condo. I felt better knowing that I'd talk to her again in two days.

Two days later I got a call from my oldest sister, telling me that Carla had suffered an epileptic seizure that day, and had fallen in such a way that her airflow had been obstructed and she had quit breathing. By the time it was discovered and help arrived for her, she was already gone. They had resuscitated her, but she was in the hospital ICU on a respirator and had not regained consciousness.

She died the following day. My brother was already on his way to our mom's house in Northern California, where he would escort her to Idaho. They decided to continue on to Idaho anyway to see if they could do anything for Carla's husband.

Between Christmas that was just a couple of days away and a massive winter storm that had descended on Idaho, it was a miracle that my brother and my mom even got there. There simply wasn't an available airline seat for me, and had they waited until there was, it would have caused needless delay. I hated not being there but felt it was more important to get my mom there quickly.

Right now I'm flip-flopping between sadness, loss, guilt and anger. The guilt comes from the fact that rather than send money and call, I should have made the trip up there to help her get settled in her new place...I had the time, since my daughter N. was off school for the holidays, I had the money...and lastly, I've been trained in CPR for almost 30 years now. If only I'd been there, I possibly could have revived her and kept her going till the paramedics got there.

I suppose all this will get better in time, I don't know. I guess, in a way our family has been pretty lucky--the only other family member to die was my father, back in 1981.

I have so many great memories of Carla. Spending a day with her and her husband was better than going to Disneyland for us kids, they were so much fun. Carla introduced me to old books (and used bookstores), Steinbeck, vintage children's books, old movies, cult movies, anything and everything quirky and weird, antiques--too many things to count, which I continue to love. She was a guiding force in our childhood, always fun and loving but at the same time witty and clever--everyones favorite.

When I was little they tell me that I couldn't pronounce her name, so I called her 'La La'.

Goodbye La La, I love you.

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