Saturday, September 20, 2014

Embers: A Year Without Lisa Empanada

September 16, 2013 was a very dark day.  The sun rose and my dear sister Lisa Empanada awoke, knowing that she would not see the sunset.

She planned to kill herself that day.  And she did.

She started a paint compressor in the back of a filthy paint van, laid her head on a pillow, and let the fumes kill her.

Or rather Tom did.  I've discussed this before.

In any case, it was a year ago that she died.  And on September 17 is when her Wife, Sandy, and the rest of the world found out.  The body was found by a nearby homeowner.

I won't rehash these events.  They're hard enough to think of as it is.  I discuss them in detail here and here.

So much has changed in a Year, both in my life and in the world.  It's a year that Lisa didn't experience.

No one saw it coming.  In retrospect, all the signs were there.  But we chose not to see them.  You see, that was Lisa's genius- she had us all thinking she was Happy and that the Darkness had passed her by.  Even her therapist didn't see this coming.  Lisa knew we were watching.  And she knew we'd try to stop her again.

And she was determined that no one would this time.  She succeeded.  And her prize?  An urn on a shelf in her bedroom.  Scattered ashes.  Relics spread through her friends.

Embers after the Fire of her life.

This year has been brutal.  In many ways, I've become tougher, as I didn't have her to lean on for advice and to council me out of my own Darkness.  I am transitioning without her.

I can't help but wonder what she'd think about the flowers and balloons left at the site of her death.  What would she think of myself and other wearing her dresses on occasion?  What would she think of the small urn in which I keep part of her ashes on my shelf?  What would she have said when I finally went full time?

Sometimes I think I can hear her whispering in the back of my mind.  They are words of comfort and encouragement.  Is it really her or just echoes and fantasy?  I'll keep my answer to myself.

In a year, I've found a place to live.  Linda Lewis entered my life, and is an amazing friend.  She has been a mentor and co-conspirator.  She has seen me laugh and cry.  Just as Lisa did.  But, and this is no slight against Linda, she's not Lisa.

So.  A Year.  How did I mark it?  By spending the 16th and 17th with her widow Sandy Empanada.  I took off work to be with her in Baltimore.  But she wisely decided that she didn't want to be home on that date.  The house that Lisa completely re-did for her is reminder enough.  So she decided to take a week in Ocean City, Maryland.  And she invited a small group of friends to join her.

I drove down on Tuesday, Sept 16th.  And I cried a good part of the trip.  I wanted to get it out of my system, as I wanted to be strong for her.  I wouldn't be of any use, nor any fun, if I were a blubbering idiot.  I stopped to see my parents briefly.  Mum made me lunch.  After the visit, I headed to Ocean City, and found the Carousel Hotel.

There I waited in a cabana bar on the beach.  I met a couple there from Pittsburgh and we got to talking.  They bought me shots of Jamisons.  They burned going down and set me stomach afire.  Sandy arrived with the beautiful Veronica after the outdoor bar closed, and they met me at the inside bar.   We then had dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Sandy, Veronica, myself at the hotel bar.

What Sandy didn't know was that her daughter Tiffany was coming down to surprise her.  She was coordinating this with Veronica.  When the three of us went to the Greene Turtle across the street, she missed us by minutes.  She knew what our next destination would be, so she raced ahead of the bus we rode.  The bus ride was dominated by two very drunk women in their late forties hitting on some young guys.

We were walking along the boardwalk, when standing at the side was Tiffany!  Sandy looked at her, twice, then realized that this woman was her daughter and not a random twin.  The look on her face was priceless.

Tiffany was a breath of fresh air.  She's extremely funny, and livened us all up.  Which was good, as my stomach was on fire and my brain numbed by pain.  I did my best to keep smiling and contributed an occasional comment here and again.  But I was very down, knowing that a year before, Lisa lay dying then dead.

I was failing at my job of keeping Sandy's thoughts from despair, as I couldn't do it myself.

We then went to the Purple Moose for a bit.  Then had our picture taken at one of those dress up places.  We ended the night at Dead Freddies, where Sandy and Veronica both had a huge 40 oz plus strawberry daiquiri/margarita with beer.

We finally went to bed at 2:30.  And Veronica was up with the dawn.  And a beautiful dawn it was.

We went to lunch and lurked around the boardwalk for a bit, shopping.  I bought a necklace extender.  Veronica bought an outfit.  The day was sunny and beautiful... like the day the year before when I drove like a madwoman to see Sandy upon hearing of Lisa's death.

At  Seacrets

It was a quiet subdued day.  We spent a lot of it in the hotel room, on the balcony looking over the water.

Each of us our own thoughts.

Tiffany left first.  I left soon after.  I had a long ride home, then a trip to Boston the following day.  Sandy and Veronica walked me out to my car and we hugged.  I knew others were coming the following day to keep Sandy's mood up.  I couldn't help but think that for my part I wasn't good company.  I was quiet.

I cried a good amount of the way home.  Not a cleansing good cry, but a slow stream of tears that lasted an eternity.

And for all that, there was no closure.  I wonder if there ever be.  A year ago, I said goodbye to my sister.  I asked how my heart will feel in thirty years.  I still don't know the answer to that question.  But I can say that one Year hasn't been enough to calm the storm that she left in my soul.  I still miss Lisa desperately.  Most of the world has healed, but some of us has not.  Cannot.  Will not.  Am I obsessed?

Lose your sister, then you can judge me.

I still love you and miss you, Lisa.

My Urn for Lisa

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