Saying goodbye to 2010

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is important, because
I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes,
this day will be gone forever,
leaving in its place something
that I have traded for it.
I want it to be gain, not loss;
good not evil; success not failure;
in order that I shall not regret
the price I paid for it.
–Author Unknown

I wasn’t going to write a “last post” of 2010. I haven’t felt inspired to write for a while and figured I’d just start off 2011 fresh — as fresh as I could anyway. However, as I reread past blog posts and thought about it some more, the more I felt like I should write something if only to have it to look back on later and for posterity. So here I am, writing something/anything with three burned fingertips.

I discovered this evening it’s NOT a good idea to grab a cookie sheet out of a 350 degree oven without an oven mitt. I’m 35 years old. You’d think I’d have learned that lesson by now, but that’s how my life has been lately. My brain is distracted — trying to process other things — and I’ve been making stupid mistakes like burning my fingers or thinking I’m taking a shortcut somewhere only to discover I’m going very much out of my way. It’s been weird and a little alarming.

But that’s my life — weird and a little alarming. Yet it’s also been pretty amazing too.

The past year was quite wonderful until the last quarter when all hell broke lose and life as I knew it was forever altered.

Some of the good things (though many nerve-racking in their own way) included:

  • Doing home improvements on our first home in order that we could…
  • Sell our first home.
  • Packing and moving to our new home.
  • Taking the kids hiking by myself.
  • Going to my second BlogHer conference…
  • which happened to be someplace I’d never been before — New York City!
  • Julian weaning completely on his own (a few months before he turned 4).
  • Starting home schooling with Ava.
  • Canning and preserving a lot of food.

And then tragedy hit when my little sister Carrie was killed in a car accident on Oct. 25. The day of Oct. 26 — from the time I received the news from the coroner (somewhere around 3:30 a.m.) until I went to bed many, many, many hours later that night — was the. worst. day. of. my. life.

The end of October and month of November are mostly a blur for me. I know somehow I helped orchestrate two memorial services — one here in Colorado and one in Michigan. I buried my sister. I somehow managed to get my kids and myself to appointments, classes, school, etc. I traveled to Michigan. I did a little catching up with some old friends, extended family members, and even my brother (whom I’d pretty much been estranged from for 15+ years). I’m not sure how everything came together, but with the help of amazing friends — both mine and Carrie’s — and supportive family members (and my higher power), it did.

My therapist is encouraging me to start moving more toward acceptance with regard to Carrie’s death, but it’s so very hard. I still want to deny that any of this happened. I still want to wake up from the nightmare. Yet I don’t. And I won’t.

And so I’ve started reading books about grief — about surviving the death of an adult sibling, about sudden loss. And I continue to see my therapist regularly and listen to her suggestions about how I can begin to accept this tremendous loss and soothe and support myself.

In the book I’ve been reading about a sudden loss, the author explains that anyone who receives news of the sudden loss of a loved one should treat themselves as if they are in intensive care for two weeks. While that sounds like a really good idea — I would’ve loved to have hid in bed for two weeks — with all of the details and arrangements that need to be made — as well as caring for one’s family — it’s not very realistic. That’s why my therapist wants me to do things that allow me to care for myself and really nurture myself — even though it’s been two months since Carrie died — during this time.

While billions of people around the world are celebrating the end of 2010 and welcoming in the new year and new decade tonight, it’s not something I feel compelled to do this year. Yet Jody, the kids and I still had a little celebration of sorts tonight. (I find that I have to carry on with some things like Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s — even though hiding under a rock sounds more appealing — just because I have kids. And honestly, that’s probably a good thing.) With wine in Jody’s and my glass and blackberry Izze in Ava’s and Julian’s, I gave a toast — to making happy memories in the new year — and we all clinked glasses. And then I proceeded to spill my wine, not once, but twice, and that was only after a few sips. (It’s that brain distracted thing again, I’m telling ya.) I’m happily drinking water now.

After cleaning up the spills and thinking about it a little more, I feel like the memories we create with one another are really the most precious gifts we have. It is through shared memories of my sister that she will not be forgotten. Even though my kids are only 4 and 6, they will hear so many stories over the years of the silly, courageous, funny, absent-minded, amazing, and inspiring things my sister did — not only from me and Jody and family members, but I hope also from her friends, that they will not forget her. Carrie’s spirit and memory will live on. Honestly, I don’t know how it couldn’t. When someone lives as full, amazing, determined and inspiring life as Carrie did, their spirit lives on in everyone who’s life they touched. And knowing Carrie, that’s a whole lot of people.

To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.

–Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground

While I don’t look forward to starting a new year without my sister physically present in my life, I know she is still around. I also know she would want me to continue to follow my passions and dreams. She was very supportive of my blog and my many causes. There were often times I turned to her for help with wording in a particular post and I’ll miss her fresh perspective (and so, so many other things). But I know she would want me to continue my blog, even though there are days I wonder why I still have it.

As I say goodbye to 2010, I wish you all a new year of happy memories — of cherished moments with those you love. Take the time to mend broken fences (or broken hearts). Take the time to enjoy the little things. Take the time to say I love you. Better yet, make the time.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo via: David Paul Ohmer

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Grieving the loss of my sister Carrie

Thank you all so much for your condolences regarding the loss of my sister. It helps a lot to know so many people are thinking of and praying for me and my family during this difficult time. Love, Amy


A sister is a gift to the heart,
a friend to the spirit,
a golden thread to the meaning of life.
— Isadora James

Living a Nightmare

It’s been two weeks since I received the devastating news in the middle of the night that my sister died in a car accident. As the coroner said the words over the phone, I felt like I was living a nightmare. Through the seemingly never-ending river of tears that night I had to ask my husband Jody, “Is this really happening?

I waited about two hours before calling my parents in Michigan. I wanted them to get as much sleep as they could before I uttered the words that would turn their world upside-down.

That was the worst night of my life.

Some days I still think that this all must be a horrible, awful dream and I pray that I will wake up. Yet I don’t. I am already awake.

The Reality

It doesn’t seem possible that my little sister Carrie Scislowicz — my only sister — could be taken from this world at the age of 31. She was just really getting comfortable with who she was and she was making a difference in the world.

The truth is she’d been making a difference in the world for years. Carrie entered into Narcotics Anonymous at the age of 19. Throughout the years, she’d overcome many obstacles in her life and inspired those who met her. Narcotics Anonymous became her second family and she was instrumental in so many people’s recoveries.

My sister — who earned her law degree three years ago — had been working as an advocate for people with developmental disabilities and she was great at her job. She not only advocated for the people who were her clients, but she also helped friends and friends of friends to get the assistance they needed for themselves or their loved ones.

She was compassionate, silly, intelligent, passionate, fun, witty, sarcastic, daring and loving. She was so amazing.

Emotional Rollercoaster

In the past two weeks I’ve gone through the gamut of emotions — sadness, anger, rage, confusion, disbelief, guilt. I expect this to go on for a while. It still feels so surreal. Although I’ve seen her totaled car, read the accident report, talked to the coroner, planned her memorial service, delivered her eulogy, buried her cremated remains, and packed up and moved her belongings from her apartment to my garage, I am still having a hard time accepting this is real.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

The Broken Puzzle

I spent some time at the cemetery this morning talking to Carrie. It felt so foreign to sit there in the grass, talking to the ground while the tears poured down, down, down.

I’m trying to make sense of it all, but it doesn’t make sense. It’s like trying to put together a puzzle with pieces belonging to several different puzzles. They just don’t fit.

A Long, Winding Road

In less than two weeks there will be another service to remember Carrie, this time in Michigan. Until that is complete, I don’t feel like I can truly begin to heal. I can only process so much at one time.

The sadness washes over me in waves. I grieve until it hurts so much that my mind must turn it off for a while. I take a break. I try to do normal things. Today I played in the leaves with the kids. And that was good.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I am thankful for the so many yesterdays I got to share with Carrie throughout the years. She was so much more than a sister to me. She was my best friend.

She won’t be forgotten.

Carrie, Ava, Julian and me – Halloween 2009

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May She Rest In Peace

Guest post
My dear friend Heather from A Mama’s Blog wrote this beautiful tribute to my sister Carrie who died unexpectedly this week. At this time I am unable to form coherent sentences, so with her permission, I am reposting it below.

If you read my blog regularly, you know one of my best friends is Amy whose blog is Crunchy Domestic Goddess.  In the last post I wrote about my friends who I have been friends with since our children were born.  Amy is one of those friends. I’ve written a lot about Amy over the past few years.  She has been there for me in every way possible and then some when I was fighting cancer, going through a divorce, and dealing with my mom’s sudden illness and death.

I received some heartbreaking news from her yesterday morning.  Her younger and only sister, Carrie, was killed in a car accident Monday night.  She was returning from visiting friends in the mountains, the roads were icy, and the weather was bad.  Carrie lost control of her car and was hit head on by a truck.  She passed away instantly.

Over the years I’ve gotten to know Carrie too and she was always a joy to be around.  She had a beautiful smile, and I can’t recall ever seeing her not smiling.  She helped all of us out with our kids when she could.  For our surprise going away party for Julie, just weeks ago, she watched several of our kids, so we could have an adult party.  She was a terrific aunt to Amy’s two children, and she was an amazing sister to Amy.

When I first heard this terrible news, I started to cry, and cried all day off and on. So did my friends.  We are all in such disbelief, shock, and grief.  Carrie was only 31, had recently finished law school and had a job advocating for people with disabilities.  It is tragic her life was cut so short.

I visited Amy briefly on Tuesday, and it is not often I am at a loss for words.  But I was, and still am.  I wish there were magic words I could say to make this terrible situation go away.  Nothing anyone can say or do will bring Carrie back to her family, or ease the pain and anguish Amy and her family are in.

I think about my friends, and my own two sisters and brother.  While losing my mom was awful, in some aspects I think it is more “natural” than losing a sibling so early in life.  Parents age- our siblings and friends are supposed to live long lives, and certainly not die in terrible freak accidents.

And it brought back many feelings of my mom’s death- again.  All the feelings- the intense pain, and the sense of helplessness.  I had a few friends who told me they could not attend my mom’s funeral service, because they had lost a parent, or a loved one recently.  I understood, and could imagine how they felt, but didn’t really “get it.” Sadly today, I do.  And part of me wants to forget this happened and not think about it death, dying, accidents, funerals, moving on after a loved one is gone, what to say or what to do, anymore.

There will be a service for Carrie on Saturday, and I am going to attend.  It meant so much to me to see the people who had come to say good-bye to my mom with my family and I, and Amy was one of those friends who was there for me on that very hard day.  I hope I can be strong and be a help and a comfort to Amy and her family instead of a hindrance while I try to keep control of my own feelings and emotions about my mom.

I wish I had some clever way to wrap up this post, but I don’t.  Death leaves more questions than answers.  The only thing that does seem to help is time.

To Amy and her family: My deepest sympathies, and may Carrie rest in peace.

Carrie & Amy, May 2010