Ten years ago today my only sibling, my sister Kelly, was hit by a drunk driver and put into a persistent vegetative state due to severe head trauma – she passed away from a kidney infection on March 7, 2012. Today as I remember her, and the wonderful person she was, I wanted to share some of my fondest memories of her…
Kelly, like me, was adopted as an infant by our two awesome parents. So adoption was something we both shared. There were times we would talk to one another about finding our biological parents, but every time we would I’d ask, “Why? We have two incredibly loving and supportive parents. Why do we need to find our biological parents?” She just shook her head and shrugged. I felt like she wanted to know more than I did. In May of this year as fate would have it, I found my biological family and I couldn’t be happier.
One day Kelly and I were in the kitchen, she was making one of her favorite non-alcoholic drinks: KOOL-AID! She was stirring the mixture in a large Rubbermaid pitcher and singing in a strange voice as she did. She then took a spoon and took a taste to make sure it was mixed, she shuddered and told me it wasn’t ready yet. She continued to stir and then finally poured a glass full of the Kool-Aid. She downed the glass in a few gulps looked at me and let forth the deepest, most incredible, belch! No one I know could ever top my sister in a burping contest.
On July 24, 2004 my sister came down from New York City, where she lived at that time, because we had made plans to see KISS together at Nissan Pavilion. I had been sick as a dog a few days before this, so there was some concern I might not be able to go, but in her usual style my sister just hugged me and told me to “suck it up!” We went to the concert and I remember we were standing in line for refreshments and after Kelly got her beer, she drank it and looked at me with this scrunched up face, and said, “I waited in line that long for shitty beer?” I just laughed. We were fairly close to the stage and could see the KISS members very well. We stood there singing the songs together and it remains one of my most cherished memories of Kelly.
About a month later, I had to make a business trip up to New York City. My company put me up in the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan. My sister called me a few minutes after I got to my hotel and told me she would grab a cab and meet me outside in a half-hour. Thirty minutes later I stood outside at the front of the hotel and here comes this van cab flying up to the front door. Before the cab even stopped moving, my sister popped open the door and jumped out and into my arms. She kissed me and said, “Let’s go!” We got into the cab and headed down to Union Square. We went into a restaurant called the Union Square Cafe. It was a very upscale restaurant, and the food was amazing. I remember Kelly ordering some expensive wine and we enjoyed talking for a while. I covered the check and then we decided to walk back to her place in Chelsea. We walked and took our time as we talked about a number of things. That walk on that warm summer evening is another one of my most cherished memories. I truly enjoyed spending that evening with my sister.
In November 2002, Kelly joined us up in Tomkins Cove, NY for Thanksgiving dinner and it was a great time. Since she was going to be coming back to Virginia with us the next morning, she suggested I drive with her back to New York City and spend the night with her. So we drove down there and I parked my car (which was amazing since finding a parking place in NYC is impossible). We went out to a restaurant, I don’t recall the name of it, but it was like a bar and grill kind of place. We went back to her place and chilled for the evening, watching a movie on TV and then she inflated an air mattress that she had and that would be my bed for the night. We went to bed around 11pm, well more accurately my sister went to bed, I laid on the air mattress wide awake, the sounds of the city and being in a foreign place just was making it impossible to sleep. I have hypersensitive hearing, so I can hear things in greater volume and detail than most people. So I laid there and then suddenly I felt anxious and didn’t feel well. I got up and upchucked dinner into my sister’s toilet. At that time I was still having anxiety attacks which would hit me out of nowhere. So I drank some water and went back to bed. I didn’t fall asleep until sometime after 3am. Then I woke up again at 6, when we had planned to get up. I told my sister I didn’t sleep at all and she hugged me and said, “Okay, that means I get to drive first!” I was so thankful to have such a great sister who was compassionate and supportive. She drove the whole way back to Virginia instead of waking me up.
Sometime in the early 1990s, I can’t remember the exact date or year of this, my sister went out partying and drinking as she often did on Fridays and Saturdays. She went up to Baltimore that evening, partied and I assume club hopped, and then on the way home, she hit up another party in our town. There she just was hammered and then left to come home around 2am. On the way she stopped by Taco Bell (her favorite fast food place) and grabbed some bean burritos, no onions (she wasn’t fond of onions). Well several hours later, I woke up and walked down the hallway and into the hall bathroom, without turning the light on first. As I walked in I felt something under my feet that didn’t seem right. When I turned on the light, I was horrified to see the entire bathroom covered wall to wall in regurgitated Taco Bell. At some point in the early dawn hours, Kelly got up, ran into the bathroom and didn’t make it to the toilet, and puked all over the place. Then went back to bed. I nearly puked myself but there wasn’t anything in my stomach. I just ran down to the kitchen bathroom and took care of business, then went into my parents room and told my Mom what had gone down in the hall bathroom. It’s gross but it’s one of my fondest memories of my sister.
Thanksgiving Day 2002 again. Kelly and I were standing in the dining room of our Great Aunt Genevieve. They had just carved the turkey and had placed it on the table. We just were waiting for everything else to be taken care of before we sat down and ate. My sister absolutely loved the skin on the turkey and would spend time picking away at small bits of skin on the turkey. In fact, I have a photo of her reaching over to pick off some of the skin, as she made a crazy face. One of her dearest friends was a young girl named Rhiannon, Kelly talked about her all the time. Rhiannon was the first daughter of our cousin Cathy. The two of them enjoyed time with one another during Thanksgiving, picking at the turkey, grabbing some olives and just having fun. This is another one of my fondest memories of my sister.
I have a lot more memories of her, but I think that will do for now. Today I celebrate her life by remembering these things. Kelly was a loving, supportive, sister who would give you the shirt of her back. She loved to give more than to receive. In honor of this day I designed a poster featuring some of my favorite photos of Kelly. The blog I created on that fateful day ten years ago is still online as a memorial to her. And now I’d like to write a short letter to my sister – as if she were still with me,
Kelly, how are things? I hope you are doing well. I just wanted to write you this short letter to tell you how much I love you, how much I appreciate everything you did for me. For being my confidant, allowing me to entrust you with my inner most secrets and feelings. I thank you for being my counsellor, for giving me advice when I needed it most. And also for all the good times we had together. I can’t make anymore memories with you because now you are so far away. I hope to join you there someday. For now, I must stay here and just tell you I love you and that it won’t be long, we’ll meet again.
I love you,