I've felt this overwhelming desire to write for the past few days. Sometimes that little voice instructs me to get these things onto paper (or this generations version of paper which is now a backlit screen with autocorrect and spell check built in).
The past few months have been challenging. I've been questioning a lot. I'm still questioning now.
Four years ago, I rushed off to Idaho when my big sister went in for a check up and they found some abnormalities near her stomach. From the very first phone call, which I can remember every word and detail of even to this day, our family embarked on this journey of Crystal's battle with cancer. I was in Lake Tahoe for work. My sister told me that she was going down to Boise because they wanted to see her at the Mountain State Tumor Institute. I asked, "Do you need me to come?" She replied, "Well, I don't NEED you to." Which is Crystal code for get your ass in the car and come here because I am scared. And thats exactly what I did. I drove like a bat out of hell, straight through the night with only two changes of clothes straight through to Idaho and then woke up only six hours later to head to Boise.
I was one of three people who sat in the room with a doctor right after that first surgery, and looked at images of large tumors and internal organs. Somehow I knew the right questions to ask. What does this all mean? What are the treatment options? The doctor looked me dead in the eyes, and he said, "Look, I am speechless. Honestly I've never seen this is anyone her age, with her health. I am scared for her. If I have to give my honest assessment, I would start preparing your goodbyes because I believe that she only has a few months left." As the very kind and compassionate Dr. Perez said those words to me, his eyes actually glazed over and he was teary eyed. And even then, I remember that I was keeping it together while a doctor that had just met my beautiful, vibrant, dynamic sister that day was nearly losing it.
For the last four years, thats right YEARS, my sister has transformed her life into a story of survival, determination, and endurance. She tried everything. Flights to Mexico to see alternative doctors, diet changes, supplements, chemotherapy, radiation, blood transfusions, herbs, traditional medicine, alternative medicine, in between medicine.
In the meantime, her charismatic and witty daughters flourished into young women. You see, when Crystal was first sent home to die four years ago, she simply wasn't ready. She had two very young girls who needed their Mom, and she took each day by the balls and lived it like it was her last. Mainly because it quite possibly could have been. Rilynn Grace and MeKaty Rose kept my sister alive these past four years. They are a testament to her willpower to survive. They are smart, funny, not to mention gorgeous children who needed to see how to treat other people and the only person in this life who could REALLY show them that was my sister. From the time that she was their age, everyone whose met Crystal feels like they've known her their whole life. Her Mom always says, "she's never met a stranger." Its remarkable, in a world where everyone is in such a hurry to get on with their lives and stays in their own bubble or circle, Crystal has always somehow found a way to get right in there with them. Even the most shy and timid people immediately strip away their shell upon meeting her. And that type of personality is so hard to find. Somehow, BOTH of her children have inherited that.
So here we are. Four years later. And the time is coming to say goodbye to my sister. It's hard to even write the words. Sometimes when I think about it, I have to somehow step outside of myself and pretend as if I am a spectator watching this happen to another family or a person I don't know.
I've screamed out to God. WHY? Of all of the serial killers, murderers, rapist, and despicable humans out there are you choosing to take this simple, kind, young single mother? I know there is a reason for everything. I just wish I could know what it was. Someday I am confident that I will.
A few of my favorite memories with my sister are recording a video at Magic Mountain and calling our group name "KWV" for Kids With Voices instead of Sistas With Voices. Learning to line dance to Garth Brooks when her country bumpkin behind came to visit from Idaho and spent those summers in Las Vegas. Her crush on James, a stinky neighbor boy with frosted blonde tipped hair. Her convincing our father at 14 years old that her farm drivers license gave her the ability to drive in Las Vegas on the freeway and taking Katie and I to Dairy Queen every night that summer while saying, "I've never been to a real drive through before!." Her flying to Tennessee to watch me in a high school play and asking for my autograph afterwards saying that she was going to keep it in case I was ever famous! Her doing a keg stand at one of my crazy college house parties and all of my friends saying, "is your sister single?" I remember going, "She is married and has kids crazy!" Showing up to her house and her telling me I was going to be her second shooter on a wedding photography package she booked (mind you, I don't even know how to work the zoom on my cell phone!). Walking down the Vegas strip and watching her freak out because the wheel on her baby stroller broke off, and her sitting on the edge of Las Vegas Boulevard saying she was not going to walk until someone found and bought her a new stroller. Many years at Lahontan, laughing sometimes until the sun came up and then getting angry that it was too hot to sleep in so we would do it all over again the next day. Our special "divorce trip" when she came to Chicago and we both spent money that we didn't have buying whatever we wanted and listening to music and screaming into the air about how much we hated our exes. Disneyland with the girls where she drove one of those silly moving carts so that we could bypass the line, and when anyone would stare, her saying, "I HAVE CANCER!"
I am beyond thankful for the past four years. They've brought me closer to my sister. They've brought me closer to many others as well. I've learned, through looking through the lense of Crystal, that nothing other than today, right here and right now, is promised to us. I know that my sister will be welcomed into the gates of heaven with open arms, but I am just not ready to let her go. I wont ever be. And when she does leave this life, there wont be a day that passes that I won't think of her.