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.”