March 9 – The “Ring” of Death

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

The blinking red light on the answering machine was demanding to be listened to. “Aunt Pat, this is Matt. Call me as soon as possible.”

I knew there was yet another crisis in the life of my younger sister Elaine. In spite of being an American Airlines flight attendant, and LPN, and a Chiropractor she has battled with the demons of mental illness most of her life. In recent years the illness had won; thus leaving her without employment and living in subsidized housing.

As family members, we had each made our attempts to intervene when we feared she could possibly end her life. A semblance of health often restored for brief intervals.

I called Matt. “Aunt Pat, Mom was found dead in her shower today. I feel so guilty. I had taken a break from calling her daily recently.”

“And why might you have taken a break?” I asked. He knew the answer.

We all had taken breaks, for she heard TV’s that were not on, refrigerators running in the background, and breathing that hurt her ears.

My 99 year old mother was still sending her money. Believing and hoping that a cure could be found.

I knew this phone call was inevitable. I felt relief, sadness, and grief that a life so filled with promise and potential had ended so bereft and alone.

Flying to California was not an option.

My memorial was that of spending time with my 99 year old mother and older sister as we shared photos, stories, letters and the feelings of anger and love that her behaviours engendered in all of us.

I wrote her obituary for the local newspaper in Maryland; this is where she was Miss Francis Scott Key at her local high school.

Her children and former husband came together to clean out her apartment. Recalling numerous times when she “bolted” from their lives to unknown destinations and for unknown reasons, when her sense of humour had them rolling with laughter, when she slopped the hogs on the pig farm where they lived in Missouri, and when she climbed ladders to paint the farmhouse.

Last week her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean where her mind, body and soul are free at last.

Patricia is a retired, after 23 years, Chaplain/Pastoral Counsellor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counsellor from Brook Lane Health Services. She married her high school heartthrob in 2010 after the death of both of their spouses. She loves books, playing piano, singing, cats, and nature. Patricia is “still a farm girl at heart.”

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9 responses to “March 9 – The “Ring” of Death

  1. Having had this sad experience with a cousin, with the added sadness of anorexia, I know how devastating dealing with such illness is. Hope that you are able to go forward with courage and strength, knowing that your sister is now at peace.

  2. Thanks for your consoling words. Yes, I do believe she can/will/has found peace.

  3. Well said, Patricia. So many people feel that way but don’t know how to put it into words. Free at last, indeed, in the only way she could ever be at peace. The sadness, and the courage, and the love live on.

  4. Samantha thanks for your validation regarding my words that expressed feelings. I sometimes feel that other writers do it better.

  5. What I got from your post was shock and resignation, rather than loud expressions of other feelings. By describing what you all did, you presented a drama that conveyed your good and bad memories and your exhaustion. The last sentence conveys sad relief. . . what we all feel when someone’s suffering finally ends . . . wishing it had been better, glad it’s over.

  6. Thank you for specificity of feelings. Very helpful

  7. Patricia–I am so sorry for your loss. There is mental illness in my family, too, so I am resonating with the roller coaster ride you describe. I think that your family did a remarkable job in being supportive while taking care of yourselves. I hope that all of you can now relax into peace. Caroline

  8. Your expressions of support and understanding are much appreciated.

  9. Pingback: July 4 – A One Woman’s Day Thank You | One Woman's Day

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