This might be a bit of a sad post, so if you are feeling a bit emotional and in a public place, you might want to hold off and read it another time. Today is the ten year anniversary of my sweet sister Anna's passing. She was 15. It is amazing how much time flies and life changes, but stays the same. Sometimes it feels so recently that we were putting a masking tape line down the center of our room to keep mark our territory. And then it feels like a whole life time has passed without my friend.
I remember exactly what I was doing ten years ago this weekend. The 18th was a Saturday, the day of my junior prom. Bubba Bollinger, the zany kid, asked me to go with him. We were pretty good friends and he was way fun to goof around with. That week we had been moving to our new house. Anna was so excited and had been pushing to get everything moved in. The nice weather helped with the move too. She came home sick from school with what we thought was a bad cold on Thursday and had been lounging in bed since then. Saturday morning, I walked into her room to ask if I could use her red fleece vest and I knew she would say yes because she was kind of sleepy. And she did say yes. And then she asked me to get her some chapstick because her lips were so dry. I got it for her, told her thanks and ran out. I didn't realize that would be the last time I would see her in a conscious state.
I went to the day activity and dance and had a great time. Such a great time, in fact, that I didn't get home till around 1:30. I walked into the house where amazingly, everyone was still up. Spencer had three of his friends over and they were all just chilling talking to Alana and Craig. They asked me how it was and if I had a good time. Then Craig told me that Anna was in the hospital so I needed to get changed so we could head over to Primary Children's. I ran upstairs and put on my blue polo with some fleece moose pajama pants my mom had made. Spencer's friends left, we got in the truck and started driving. Craig was pretty somber and then he told us that Anna was in a coma. I didn't recognize the seriousness of what he had said until he said "People die from comas." I started to panic and started crying a little bit. We got to the hospital and I walked as fast as I could through the halls. I remember specifically feeling like Sally Field in Steel Magnolias when she rushes to the hopsital after Shelby is taken in. We weren't able to go see her right away. She was in the ICU and only a few visitors are allowed in the room at a time. We had our own little room to wait in which was a really good thing because she had two sets of parents, my grandparents, and Spencer, Alana and me all there. I got to go in and see her. I was so scared. I still didn't understand what was going on though. She had an iv and a respirator and all sorts of tubes everywhere. But she was so still. So still. I kissed her and left so someone else could have a turn. I went back into the room they had for us and we waited.
Then came in the social worker. I was so mad. I didn't want that woman there! What was a stranger doing in our room?! Then Dr. Bohnzack, Anna's specialist for years, came in with another doctor and sat down by the door next to the social worker. He was hesitant, but said finally, "There is nothing we can do." Pure chaos broke out in the room. People were yelling. people were crying, but the worst of it was seeing my mom collapse into Craig's shoulder. I can't imagine the pain she felt. I pretty much just melted in to the corner in a silent daze. I just could not believe it.
Anna had a disease called Lupus which is a disease that destroys the immune system among other things. She had been diagnosed when she was in 2 grade, I think. Many times it affects just the joints, or just the organs, but it affected both for Anna. She had rheumatoid arthritis that badly affected her knees and hands and she had had a condition called water on the heart which weakened it as well. I didn't realize how painful things were for her. I had always been healthy. She had been hopsitalized twice before for different things. I figured that this time was kind of like the last times. But it wasn't.
It turns out she didn't have a cold after all. She had pneumococcal meningitis. As I understand it, she had a severe chest infection which sent infection throughout her body. With her lupus, her immune system was working against her. The infection made her brain stem swell and cut off circulation to her brain sending her into a coma.
The rest of my siblings came to the hospital. We huddled together on the floor outside our waiting room crying, and fell asleep. I remember waking up with two of my sisters laying on me and seeing my new bishopric. The chaos seemed to lessen. They were such a source of support, love and strength and I knew things were going to be all right.
Different extended family members came and went as well as close friends. Everyone was in a state of disbelief. Heck, sometimes I still can't believe it happened. The doctors kept running test after test. They were wonderfully patient with us. I remember her cute little pregnant nurse. She was so nice and just wanted to help us get through this. Sometime in the afternoon, they got all the sisters and both of the moms to help wash her hair. They had a tube running out of skull so there was some blood. I was glad I got to help.
They ran a final test around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon to see if she could breathe on her own. She couldn't. They brought my entire family in to have a few minutes with her. They all crowded around her touching her, but I couldn't do it. I just sat in a chair toward the foot of her bed and watched. The automatic doors kept opening and closing, opening and closing. And all I could do was sit there in silence. She was prounced dead at 4:58.
Craig took us home and it started to snow. Kind of like it did last night. My mom said she thought the weather was fitting, that it was right that people weren't outside playing while we were hurting so much. I tend to agree.
The following week was filled with visitors bringing comfort and expressing love and support for my wonderful family. I watched moves. A lot of movies. And Alana and I started sleeping together. The viewing was held the following Thursday. It went for an hour and a half longer than it was supposed to, but people just kept coming. I felt like my family were the ones giving comfort this time. The funeral was the next day. The church was packed and even the stage was filled. It was nice to see that so many people loved her and honored her by coming. I was glad that that week was finally over.
I often used to try to think of the things that Anna would be doing if she were alive. Like, "Oh, she would probably be at BYU right now." And "She would probably be serving a mission right now." But none of those things make sense. She was never meant to do those things. She left this life at the perfect time in hers. At the funeral, my mom read a poem she wrote called "So Much Joy." In it, she thanked Heavenly Father for the time she was given to spend with this wonderful girl. She didn't curse God and ask why. She simply thanked Him for the time.
So this weekend, we are remembering the life of my sweet sister. We celebrate the life she lived and the time we had to share with her. But that is not all we are celebrating. That week in our lives brought my family closer together than any other time. We started telling each other "I love you" whenever we saw each other. We hugged each other every time we left the house. We spent more time with one another. And we definitely loved one another more.
So if you ever wonder why I am so obsessed with my family and am so adimant about spending time with them, you know that it's because I understand that family is what it is all about. That time is so fleeting, and building relationships with family is the most important part of this life. Relationships and knowledge are the only things we take with us. So I hope you all take a minute to realize how blessed you are to have the family that you have, and tell them each how much you love them. And that you thank our Heavenly Father for the time we have together.