My favorite younger sister, Andrea, died on February 22, 2019. It was sudden and unexpected with dubious circumstances. She had just come back from a dream vacation to Hawaii. Her last text to me said, “Betty Bonkers working on jet lag.” Next, I heard Andrea was dead. So many parts of this jigsaw puzzle will never be known. There wasn’t a note, she didn’t intend to die. The detective said words like- “heroin, and a pile of cash on the table.” Other stories mentioned OxyContin and chronic pain. Basically, Andy was another causality in America’s opioid crisis. She was only 56 years old.
The police are not engaged in any investigation. Their “understaffed attitude” is: “There it is. Sorry for your loss.”
As a rule, death brings out the worst in families. And mine is no exception. I am sorry Andy didn’t put her “Will” together, as my eldest sibling is taking command. It may be her reaction to grief, whatever it is, she’s brutal.
Since I heard the sad news, I generally wake up at 3:00 a.m. Time appears to stand still. Food tastes like cardboard, and my limbs are leaden. My mind is filled with questions, “Why?” There are no answers that will change the outcome.
If I can’t find answers, I search for understanding. Dopesick by Beth Macy takes a crystal clear look at America’s opioid epidemic which started in 1996 with Big Pharma’s OxyContin promotional campaign. It wooed doctors and medical professionals to peddle Purdue Pharma’s highly addictive miracle pain medication. Once the consequences surfaced with massive numbers of addicted patients, prescriptions were severely reduced or stopped. Patients were left with no alternative but to turn to the street. Opioid related fatalities are the highest cause of death for people under the age of 55. More lives are being lost now than during the height of the AIDS crisis. 130 people die each day. Beth Macy calls this a “Crisis of Despair.”
My sister, Andrea was a responsible, hard working massage therapist. She showed up at work or would definitely call in sick. Her clients loved her. Her heart went out to all animals. She owned 2 rescued dogs, Jessie and Cinnamon. She had a special fondness for turtles. They were her totem. “R.B.” is the water turtle she owned for over 10 years. Plants always responded lovingly to her green thumb. Flowers and vegetables were abundant in her garden. She loved all kinds of music. Andy was a trained chef who nurtured friends and family with her specially prepared meals. Her dream was to relocate from cold, damp New England to sunny Costa Rica. In fact, she did a fact finding visit there, just last year.
So, I lost Andy. And her best friend, Lisa, mentioned how a whole generation of artists, writers, inventors, scientists, teachers…are being lost to this crisis the government is basically ignoring. All of us are impacted. All of us are losing.
However, let me express my gratitude to the friends who have reached out to me through the mail with a sympathy card. Grief can be a lonely business. It is isolating, and oh, so personal. The cards have come in like a tap on my shoulder, reminding me that I am loved, I am not alone. It is like receiving a hug in an envelope.
Thanks to all of you who have comforted me with a card.
Thanks to Jennifer… https://www.etsy.com/shop/PaperOwlArtists
Dopesick, Beth Macy. Little, Brown & Co., New York. 2018.
Chasing the Scream, Johann Hari. Bloomsbury. New York. 2015.
P.S. If you don’t have a will, please write one.