Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout April & May I have dedicated to guest writers.
When Sharon first contacted me about writing a guest post, I was unaware of the story she and her sister shared. As I read through the post, I was reminded just how powerful love can be in the life of another.
Interest in submitting your own guest post? Email me for more information.
On February 11th I wished my sister Mary a happy birthday.
It is a miracle we thought would never happen.
In the early part of 2006, she was assigned to hospice care with the diagnosis of death pending and liver failure (her liver score was 800 a normal liver score is about 25). She was wheelchair bound. Her legs would no longer hold her up because her starving 90 pound frame had no strength. She was slowly leaving us and the only way I knew to get her under the care of a doctor was to ask for a hospice diagnosis. It also meant she had less than 6 months to live. It grieved my heart to know this truth but I felt there was no choice in order for her to receive the care she needed.
On July 26, 2006 an early morning phone call brought news to us that her husband died unexpectedly in the night.
My sister who was dying just became a widow. In the midst of our shock and deep sorrow we brought her home in silence, my husband and I drove home in our own thoughts as she slept with her head leaning against the window. Within hours our family room became a resting place for the dying as a hospital bed took the place of our couch and drapes were pulled for ‘ease of her eyes.’
As we anticipated and planned for her death, her ‘will’ was forming deep inside a desire to live.
In the process of saving a life, we entered a journey none of us would ever want to repeat.
My sister was drowning in the sea of alcoholism and, like lifeguards, we jumped in and saved her. It was especially hard for me since I slept by her bed on a cot for six weeks, and gave her medications every two hours around the clock. The process of detoxing is very difficult and her hallucinations and convulsions were more than we could stand at times, but we continued to stay focused on the goal to keep her comfortable.
It was an incredibly hard experience, yet in the midst of the difficulty, we had some comedy relief.
Remembering one time in the middle of the night, when I was too exhausted to take her outside to smoke, I gave her an unlit cigarette.
Resting in her bed, she smoked that same cigarette for four days. I would lean over her hospital bed and say, “Dump your ashes,” and she did. I watched her inhale and exhale the pretend smoke. I was relieved she never knew the difference and thankful I did not have to take her out in the dark. The hospice team thought I was amazing for thinking of the idea. I was just a desperate care giver.
Her hallucinations were hard for us as she would pick imaginary ‘ants off her arms, and ask why we had flying spiders in the room’. Every day we had more issues to deal with and every day we pressed in together to process the tasks ahead of us. My husband would rock her in our outside swing and sing hymns to her so her spirit would calm down. She was like a vulnerable child resting on the shoulders of one who protected.
In six weeks we were able to reduce the amount of vodka in her system, to two small doses prescribed by her doctor. One cannot stop alcohol abruptly. It has to be removed slowly for the detox process to work. (She had been drinking a fifth of vodka daily which is almost a half gallon)
Her doctor was wonderful as he walked us through many difficult moments. The hospice team was incredibly supportive, especially the chaplain. We were walking such a thin line so many days I am still amazed we made it. We were challenged in ways we never thought we could be. We had no idea what we were doing or how we would do it. Yet we did it and stayed sane in the process. God gave us the strength and wisdom to ask the right questions and pursue the right avenues for her. We had to teach her how to walk and how to eat and how to manage herself eventually without our help.
It has been five years from that day we brought her here to die. She is now alcohol free, living and thriving in an assisted living home for seniors. She weighs 160 pounds and her brain is coming back. The liver healed itself and she actually enjoys her life now
I am thankful we can say happy birthday to her.
To have her live is a gift of a lifetime, and hers has been a miraculous journey for us all.
It is a story of sisters and life and love.
It is our story.
(Update: Mary continues to be healthy and enjoys life. She is almost out growing her need for an assisted living facility.)
Sharon has been married for 37 years, has two grown children and six beautiful grand children. She has been blogging for over a year now, and you can contact her for an invitation to view it at firstname.lastname@example.org.