Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Flying With Eagles

     Hospitals never frightened me. It's where my children were born. Happy memories. Now they remind me of people I've loved who are gone. Like a phantom limb,  I still feel their presence and an ache that chews at my soul a little bit each day, hollowing me from the inside out.  When I close my eyes, I see my older sister, hiking to the top of Bear's Tooth Pass in Montana. She stands beside a meadow still patchy with snow, a camera dangling from her hand as she gazes up at a cloudless, blue sky.  She turns to me, grins, and aims the camera. I try to smile but my eyes burn from the glare off the snow. The light is blinding and my breath is shallow in the thin air, my lungs feeling as if they are sucking in broken glass.
     Her ashes now drift across that meadow. I remember smoothing the white hospital sheets that covered her cold body and thinking of the snow.
     So many nights like this one when the moon was full, she'd steal me from sleep for a drive along the beach.  I curled beside her on the seat, my head on her shoulder, and watched the stars race past our window like silver glitter scattering across a black, velvet sky. I thought she was racing against the moon. And I never knew why.
     She escaped into a world of beauty and grace behind the lens of her camera----prisms of light dancing in a drop of water clinging to a rose petal; the gilded intricacy of a spider's web capturing the muted light of sunrise; a monarch butterfly dipping is black, curled tongue into the well of a flower.
     I see her now in the hazy dreams of midnight where hundreds of photographs fan across the years, capturing the memories that linger there: horseback riding on a rugged trail carved into the mountains of Wyoming; delicate orchids blooming in her garden; the night she squeezed my hand at the Wagner Opera, tears shimmering in her eyes; licking the sweet juice of bing cherries off our lips in the streets of Seattle; Andrea Bocelli's silky voice serenading us as we cooked pasta side by side in her tiny kitchen; jumping in puddles up to our knees and knowing how silly we looked---two, grown women dancing in muddy water, embracing the fury of a storm.
 And the birds---so many of them. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of every species. For years she healed the injured ones and fostered the larger birds of prey. The eagles and hawks were her favorites; she photographed them, sketched them...and I think, deep down, wanted to be like them---fierce, beautiful, strong and free.

     My sister had an eating disorder. She was killing herself slowly, and I didn't stop her. I didn't know how.  No one did. She wore her loneliness like a heavy, winter coat and I stood by helpless as those sparkling, green eyes dimmed to gray. A storm was raging, but she was no longer dancing in its rain. Something had broken insider her, leaving her heart cracked in too many places. She became like the wounded birds she once cared for.
     I never should have gone to see her the day I was sick. It
never occurred to me that the insidious germs I carried would attack her weakened immune system. She fell ill shortly after I saw her, but refused to go to the doctor. I should have pushed, begged, driven her there myself. But I did nothing.

     When the call came, I raced down darkened streets, saw the moon spin past my window shield and wondered if she remembered its pale, yellow face peering above the ocean's rim so long ago.
     She was already in the dark sleep of a coma when I arrived at
the hospital. I touched her cool hand, felt her standing at the foot of the mountain. Monitors screamed their flatline goodbye and I knew she had already taken flight with the eagles.
     A stained- glass Jesus mocked me from the window above her
hospital bed. I wanted to smash the glass and cut the world in two. Forgiveness was gone. I drifted there for hours, the white tiles of the hospital floor cold against my cheek like snow, like the brisk air stinging my face on top of Bear's Tooth Pass where I knew she had gone.
     I never said I was sorry. I stood at her funeral in front of a crowd and delivered her eulogy. I painted a false picture of her life so that everyone could leave the church with the satisfaction of knowing she died a blessed woman. And I was a hypocrite because I knew far better than that. She had been dying inside for years. And no one tried to save her. I hid the truth from myself because I was too cowardly to feel the depth of her pain.

     An autopsy report claimed she died from pneumonia with a heart three times its normal size. Obesity does that. I prefer to think her heart was large because she loved so much.
     What I never said, never shared, was the morning after she died, a Red-Tailed Hawk circled back through my yard and settled on the pine branches above me. I looked into his dark, unwavering gaze and saw my sister watching me.
     Her ashes, now swirling over a snowy mountain top in Montana, will never settle. They'll twist inside my grieving heart until I feel the last breath of winter.
   


75 comments:

  1. I have tears in my eyes. What a beautiful yet terribly sad story. It must have taken a lot for you to be able to put it all down and tell the world some of these secrets you hold so dear.
    The photographs are so beautiful.

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    1. It was very difficult to write but it needed to be done--very cathartic for me. The photographs make it even more poignant---the birds of prey will always remind me of my sister. She had a gift with birds and animals. I just hope that she has finally found her peace. Thanks for stopping by, Lanthie.

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    1. Thank you for coming over and taking a look, Dale. Hope you'll be back to read more!

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  3. I believe your sister is watching you... And she would want you to let this burden go. She would want you to spread your wings and fly.

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    1. That is so beautifully said----made me tear up again. Thank you for understanding, Jon. I hope and pray every day for forgiveness.

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  4. Beautiful tribute to your sister. You couldn't have stopped her. It's a disease. I love the hawks. Bless your sweetheart.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. Aren't the hawks lovely? The pictures are a beautiful reminder of my sister. I ALWAYS think of her when I see any pictures of the birds of prey. Thanks for stopping by--hope you'll be back to read more!

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  5. I love the way the beautiful pictures and the prose reflect each other. They bring each other to life, and add depth.

    This is a beautiful tribute to your sister and, in my opinion, your second step towards coming to terms.

    I can't release your guilt for you, only you can do that. And I don't know if this will help, but I'm in a situation (different disease but similar situation) where I AM doing all I can, to no avail. I was told by the (5th) Doctor: "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink".

    Just because you see things you wish you had done doesn't mean they would have made a difference. People in our lives make their own decisions, despite our love for them. And we have to decide if we're doing them justice by holding onto the guilt for what we, ultimately, cannot control.

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  6. We love matching the photography to the prose--they truly compliment each other and I'm glad you like the results. I appreciate your comment---it IS hard to let go of the guilt but you are correct---people DO make their own decisions and have to be accountable for that at least. After analyzing this for so long, I also realize that holding onto the guilt is a way of still hanging onto the person--that's why it is so hard to let go---it's like saying goodbye all over again. I guess I've been putting it off for too long. And I am not sure what that final step will be to heal and find peace, if ever. Thank you again for stopping by and for leaving such a lovely comment. I hope you find peace as well.

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  7. Such a sad post and to think you held this in your heart for such a long time. Sometimes we can take the blame for things that we were never in control of, and when someone has an illness or disease there is nothing that we could have said or done to make it better or make it go away. The time you had with your sister was precious and she has left you with some fond memories, especially when you see the birds, eagles and hawks.
    Loved how you matched up all the photos so well with this post.

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    1. The photos always bring poignant memories back to me---mostly good ones, but sometimes they make me sad because they remind me that we will never be able to do these things again. That is something that is very hard for me to accept. Thank you RPD for coming by and leaving such a nice comment--always happy to see you here.

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  8. Absolutely heart wrenching and beautiful at the same time. Your sister carried on with you, through your memories, in your dreams, through your words. She is the lucky one. You are the protector of her legacy. You make it shine in ways she didn't know how.

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    1. That's beautiful, Michele. She will always live on in my heart--she is in my thoughts every single day.

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  9. Beautifully written and heart breaking. You need to forgive yourself. Your sister wouldn't want you to live half a life because you burden yourself with guilt. Imagine her reaction to reading this.

    You cannot control someone else. You could not make her do something she did not want. The only person you can control is you. You control the way you react and feel.

    The only way to go from here is up. Think of all those wonderful times you had together. Smile and be grateful for the time you had with you sister.

    Bless you,
    Darlene

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    1. Darlene, I cannot tell you how much this means to me--I never really thought of it that way. Your words have brought some comfort to me. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  10. I saw the name of your blog in a blog hop. As soon as I started reading I was hooked. Your writing style is amazing. What a sad story, reading I could feel your pain and see your sister and feel your pain. You are a wonderful writer. I can't wait to come back and read more.

    Handmade at Warratahstree

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    1. Thank you so very much! Our blog is new so it is very encouraging to us to hear that you like what you've seen so far!

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  11. You have to grant yourself forgiveness... we all have free will and you cannot take blame for someone whose decisions I don't think you could have influenced. Your sister sounds like a wonderful person and the gap in your life will never close but it WILL soften around the edges as the good memories replace the sadness...at the age of 40 I had lost both my parents and felt desolate, my mum was my bestfriend, but slowly I can smile with her memory but it is 3 years on. Allow yourself to grieve.. sending a hug x

    www.piskycoveblog.com

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    1. I am so sorry for your loss! And you were at quite a young age to lose your parents! I like the way you said things would soften around the edges. I do believe time heals all wounds--they never go away but they don't hurt nearly as much. This loss is just going to take a little more time adjusting to. Thank you Cayte so much for your kind words of understanding. Sending hugs to you as well!

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  12. Beautiful pictures! I'm a new follower (bloglovin) from the blog hop. I hope you will follow me back at
    http://butterflyintheattic.blogspot.com/2013/04/twitter-tree-plus-diy-money-rose.html
    Have a great day!
    Colleen

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    1. Thank you for the follow, Colleen and glad you liked the photographs. We'll be sure to visit your site as well.

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  13. This is a lovely touching post and I'd love to use it in the next issue of The Woven Tale Press. you can see recent issue at:
    http://woventalepress.com

    would appreciate your getting back to me at sandratyler@me.com referencing this url. Thank you!
    Sandra

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    1. Sandra, this is fantastic news and we thank you so much for this opportunity! We would LOVE to have our work represented in your magazine!!

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  14. LOVE the picture of the oak tree....;)

    Visiting from the Fun Friday Hop. Now following via Bloglovin.

    Would LOVE to have you link up on my Bloglovin Blog Hop!

    Bloglovin Blog Hop

    Take care,
    Meg
    Happy Kids, Inc

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  15. Thank you for the visit--we'll be apply to check out your site!

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  16. such a touching, raw post. thank you for sharing. new follower via the blog hop :)

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    1. Thank you so much for the follow, Brianna. We'll be sure to stop by your site as well!

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  17. With tears flowing down my cheeks and at the same time realizing the honesty in which you spoke. My deepest sympathy. Grief is never easy. Thank you for sharing. When I hear a hawk that comes around often I know it is my son telling me he is with me always. Beautiful memories will always keep her in your heart.

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    1. What a beautiful thing to say--thank you so much for your kind words. I am so sorry to hear about your son and I hope you have found peace as well.

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  18. Thank you for linking your blog to our Let's Get Social Sunday party !

    Linda
    With A Blast

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    1. So far I like it---meeting up with some nice bloggers through it!

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  19. My goodness this was gorgeous and so very visual. It would've been so without one picture. I think the hardest part to healing after the loss of a loved one is the what ifs, the if onlies, the damn, why didn't I? Without absolving yourself, you so clearly admit and accept. I hope you're able to release eventually.

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    1. I do too, but it is difficult letting go of the guilt. Being able to write about it here has been very healing. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read the post.

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  20. Your photography is breathtaking!

    Thanks for joining us for Let’s Get Social Sunday! I am now following you on Bloglovin!

    Hope you have a great week! :)
    Joy @ Yesterfood.blogspot.com

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    1. The photography flows perfectly with the words...my sister would have loved these pictures. Thank you for stopping by!

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  21. Thanks you for sharing your story and beautiful photos with such honesty. I had to say good bye to my cousin over the weekend. He took his own life by hanging. His family is at a loss as to why they could not help him. I will pray that you will be able to release yourself from the guilt and forgive yourself. Your sister would only want you to be happy. Thanks you so much for linking up with us at The Let's Get Social Sunday.

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    1. I'm am so terribly sorry to hear about your cousin. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your kind words and your honesty as well. I pray that you and your cousin's family find peace. You sound like a strong person and hopefully you can help them through the grieving process and lead them toward healing.

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  22. Thank you for your honesty about the pain and guilt of life and loss. My partner went missing two years ago after travel home to a war torn country. We found out in March that he had been killed. The relief of finally knowing is as immense as the guilt felt from ever saying "of course I understand you have to go." I don't regret it but the guilt is immense. I hope you also find release some time soon. Peace.

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    1. Oh Zoe, I am so terribly sorry to hear what you have been through--this grieving process is a long road to travel, and not one I want to do alone. It feels a little better knowing there are others out there who understand grief and who are searching for peace just as I am. Thank you for visiting us and sharing your story--I wish you the best and hope you too, will find your peace.

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  23. Beautiful, poignant and heartbreaking. I am so sorry for your loss. The photography is inspired.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment. The photography really does illustrate my sister's story so perfectly--I'm glad you liked what you read and hope to see you here again.

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  24. Hey there! I'm stopping' by from the blog hop and wanted to let you know I liked your Facebook page! Hope you'll get a chance to visit me! You can find me here:

    Blog url
    http://www.croppedstories.blogspot.com

    Facebook
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cropped-Stories/615495055132216

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    1. Thanks for the follow and the visit!

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  25. Amazing photographs and such heart felt words. All together beautiful.

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    1. Thank you, Serena. So glad you like our combined efforts here, and we hope you will be back for future posts!

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  26. Hi my lovely,

    Thank you so much for joining Friday Chaos – Hope you found some great blogs & gain some awesome new followers.
    Be sure to stop by again soon, don’t be a stranger :)

    I love your photos :D

    Lotte xo
    BericeBaby

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    1. Thank you for stopping by. Glad you liked the photos. We'll be to come by again Friday to check out the hop!

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  27. So moving. So sad... beautiful images. Thanks for stopping by the Mom's Monday Mingle. Following you here and everywhere!

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    1. Thank you so much for all the follows! Glad you liked what you saw and read here--hope you'll come back again for future posts.

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  28. Hey there, stopping by from the Blog Hop! Just wanted to let you know I am now following you via Bloglovin'! I hope you'll get the chance to visit me :o) You can find me here:

    Blog url
    http://www.croppedstories.blogspot.com

    Bloglovin'
    http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/3718883

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  29. Unable to find your name on there but we are following you via Blog Lovin.

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  30. Hi! I’m your newest follower from Thumping Thursdays. I'm following you via twitter @amomblogdesign. Please stop by and say hi when you have a chance. I'm also hosting a blog hop later this afternoon if you would like to join us :) Hope you're having an awesome week.

    April from:
    A Mommy's Blog Design http://amblogdesign.com

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    1. Thank you so much for the follow--will definitely check out your site!

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  31. Thanks a bunch for the follow back on bloglovin'! Really appreciate it! Hope you're having a wonderful Thursday :o)

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  32. Hello
    Visiting from Jean Hop. wow, I love your blog. I'm a new follower on Bloglovin, Twitter, FB. Hope you will visit my blog and hopefully follow back.
    Angel @ sewcraftyangel.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Angel. We'll be happy to visit your site!

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  33. I just found your blog through the blog hop and I'm SO glad I did. Following along now through blog lovin' :) !

    Bisous (kisses) from France!
    Patricia
    The DIY Frenchie

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    1. Thank you, Patricia! Following you back as well!

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  34. Very nicely done. I hope that you've been able to work through some of your misplaced feelings of responsibility for her illness and death. Eating disorders are insidious beasts, both on mind and body.

    So painfully honest. Thanks.

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    1. I fear this is something I will be working on the rest of my life. But time makes it easier to cope with. As far as accepting it--well, I'm just not there yet. Maybe because there is a part of me that isn't willing to let go. Not yet.

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  35. I also found your blog through the blog hop and am so glad I did. This story is beautifully sad and raw. Thank you for sharing your sister with us and I wish you peace and happiness.

    Melissa

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Melissa.

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  36. Found you thought the TGIF blog hop. Wow. that is a lot. your photos are exceptional as well

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    1. Thank you! We enjoy matching the photography with the literature--they always blend together beautifully.

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  37. Oh. My. Gosh. I'm so very sorry for your loss. I'm heartbroken for you and I can't believe you've lived with such feelings of pain and guilt. You must know by now it's not your fault. Honestly, you may have been the one who ended her suffering, and perhaps the eagle you saw was your sister saying thank you for releasing her from her anguish.

    This post was amazingly sad and touching, but I felt your raw emotion. It was well-written and I'm so sorry for all your feelings of sorrow, but I'm grateful you felt comfortable enough to share it with us, a group of strangers.

    I found you from the Link up Friday Blog Hop. I'm glad I did. :-)

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    1. It was a story that needed to be told--these are things that have been bottled up inside me for a long time. I needed to honor her memory in some way. I really appreciate that you came here to check out our blog--we'll be sure to stop by and visit your site. Thanks again for the kind words.

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  38. So terribly sorry for your loss and pain; thank you for sharing it here.

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    1. Thank you for coming by and reading the post. Hope to see you here again.

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  39. Beautifully Written but So Sad~ Lynn @ Turnips 2 Tangerines

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Lynn. We'll be sure to visit your site.

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  40. I feel so blessed to have found your blog through the "You Like Me" blog hop. I am touched beyond words. Your writing is beautiful...your heart, I feel I can see. And your sister I see so well and feel a kinship to her, am saddened that your time together this side of eternity is passed. This was a courageous share, friend. Powerfully written with startling grace, beauty. Bittersweet. Not sure if I missed it, but I wonder how long it was that she passed. I pray that you find healing, comfort and strength through your writing and for your journey. Will visit again.

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  41. Thank you so much for your kind words---I can't tell you how much they mean to me. It will be 4 years ago on October 31 that she passed. I still have the urge to pick up the phone and call her--we talked almost daily. Part of me tries not to think about her because it is so painful, and yet I can never stop remembering her. I am surrounded by daily reminders of her and for some reason, time is not healing this wound. There were too may things I needed to say to her but I didn't, and now it's too late.

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  42. So very touching, this made me cry with emotion... it reminded me of a friend that I had become so close with, the year before she died... I remember the day I found out she had died in a car accident... I wasn't sure I would be able to heal... she was just finding herself... so young... so sad. I am so grateful I had her in my life.

    I can tell how much you love your sister from this post, it emanates from the words....

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