Today I am grateful for you, TS², and the time, though not long enough, we had together. TS² is the nickname I had for my friend whom I referred to as “Quality” in a recent post. TS² is at peace now after a lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis. I know in my heart of hearts that she is dancing with the angels, free of her pain, free of her limitations, free of her wheelchair.
TS² stands for Twisted Sister Squared. It is a spin off of the nickname she had for me, Twisted Sister; TS for short. Twisted because of my brand of humour (imagine!) and sister because neither of us had a sister. We were family, no ifs, ands, buts, or maybes and we did not need biology to prove it. We talked like close sisters do, behaved like close sisters do, and shared all our secrets with one another. We celebrated one another’s successes and picked each other up when one of us stumbled (usually me). Sometimes our antics (mosty mine) got us into trouble and other times we escaped (mostly me) just by the skin of our teeth. She was the yin to my yang; the Felix Unger to my Oscar Madison; the good angel to my bad. Most times we were content to just be. Be sisters. Be friends. Be us. We didn’t need to be road runners; we were content just hanging out together. We had expected that we would be twisted sisters for the rest of our lives. I just didn’t know that it would only be for the rest of hers.
I cannot believe that she is gone. I cannot get my head around the fact that I cannot pick up the phone to call her and tell her about my lastest escapade. I cannot tell her how I couldn’t figure out how to get my arm in my jacket yesterday and how I almost started spinning like the Tasmanian devil while trying to line my arm up to its matching sleeve. I cannot tell her how I dropped the one and only deposit envelope I’m allowed to have at my bank’s ATM drive thru and how I couldn’t pick up the envelope because it had fallen too far underneath the jeep. I cannot tell her how I drove ahead, put the jeep in park, got out, walked back and picked up the white envelope which now had a huge tire track across its front because I drove over it when I pulled ahead. I cannot tell her how I finished my bank transaction standing at the ATM drive thru all the while hoping that no one saw me bumbling around like Lucy Ricardo. I cannot tell her how I couldn’t think clearly about how I could have easily solved my dilemma without looking like Lucy by simply cancelling the transaction and starting over because I haven’t been able to thinkly clearly since she died. I cannot tell her how much my heart is hurting and I cannot tell her how much I miss her. But what I can do, is remember.
There is a saying that was found many, many years ago etched on a headstone in Ireland. (Right now TS² is grinning and telling the angels around her, “I knew she’d have to put an Irish spin on this. I just knew it.”) While the author is unknown, the saying goes like this:
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
It is a saying that I think summarizes death perfectly, at least for me. My heart is aching beyond measure and, logically, I know that there is nothing out there, not a magic pill, not enough hugs, not enough “I’m sorry for your loss” sentiments that will heal my broken heart. It is a grief so strong that it has the ability to single handily rip me apart and bring me to my knees in an instant. I was driving to town the other day not really thinking about anything in particular and, the next thing I knew, tears were streaming down my face. This grief of mine catches me off guard. It comes out of nowhere and slaps me across my face. It knows no boundaries and it does not care what I am doing at the time it hits. It just blindsides me whenever and wherever it wants to.
I know that, over time, my pain will lesson but it will never, ever go away. I know it. I understand it. I feel it. And I respect it. This is the price we pay when we love someone with all our hearts. This price reminds us that we are human and how much we valued and continue to value our loved ones in our lives. This price is how we express our grief and show the incredibly deep love we have for our loved one. And it is a price I would gladly pay a thousand times over just to have the honour of saying that I loved someone with all my heart.
Thankfully, our twisted sisterly love leaves many wonderful memories for me to recall; memories that no one can steal because they are etched in my mind for as long as I remain on this earth. These memories come in my thoughts, my sentiments, my keepsakes, my photos. They are in my hugs, my tears, my smiles, and my heart. They are there at the ready for whenever I need them most. And, while it has taken me several weeks to get to the point where I could even think about writing this post, I am truly grateful for all the memories I have thought of, the photos I have looked at, and the keepsakes I have had to hold on to while I come to terms with my loss.
Even though it will hurt beyond measure, I will remember how every year on my birthday and again at Christmas, TS² gave me another angel for my Willow Tree Angel collection which, of course, she started for me some twelve years ago. She was always quick to remind me how I walk around this earth oblivious to my sense of self and to the effect I have on others. She understood how uncomfortable I was/am at receiving compliments of any kind; yet she admired how easy it was for me to compliment others. She marvelled at how freely I gave of myself, my time, my compassion and my love to others; yet was also perplexed at how I did not give freely to myself. The Willow Tree Angels were her way of complimenting me without having to say a word as well as her way of providing reminders for me of not only how much I meant to her but to those around me. She knew, she just knew how to handle me.
This past Christmas there was an extra present tucked in beside my Willow Tree Angel. As it was handed to me she said, “This is a ‘just because’ gift. I know of no other person who needs this as much as you do.” It was a Dammit Doll! Oh, how I laughed when I read what the Dammit Doll was for …
And, oh, how I have whacked it, slammed it and dammed it! I cannot help but think that she knew back at Christmas just how much I was going to need it once she was gone. She knew I was going to need something to whack, slam and damm when I got angry at how this horrible disease, multiple sclerosis, took my twisted sister from her family, friends, me, and especially from herself far too early. I also think she knew that I was going to need something to hug which reminded me of her when I was hurting badly from missing her. And, hug it, I have.
When I had my hysterectomy some twelve years ago, I was going on and on about how I was going to have a party to celebrate. I kept talking about how I was going to be so happy to have that part of my health history behind me. TS² laughed at my antics and told me that I had the right attitude about it. “Some women grieve over the realization that they will not have any more children,” she said, “but not you. You’re the only person I know who has said ‘let’s get this party started, baby!'” (See how much more polished she was than I could ever hope to be? I would have said ‘let’s get this party started, bitches!’ and then she would have given me that look like she did in that previous photo of us at the MS Walk.) And party we did. And laughed until our sides hurt. And enjoyed the best darn ice cream cake I have ever had.
(The funny thing about this cake is that, at the time, TS² was unable to drive to pick out the cake herself so she sent her husband with note in hand to our local Dairy Queen. Imagine her husband having to hand that note to the DQ assistant. I bet they have never had a request for a “Happy Hysterectomy” cake before.)
These are just a few of the memories I have in the forefront of my mind. The subtle reminders come in the repetition of her favourite words and phrases (“Well, fine then” and “get er done”); in the televisions commercials for her favourite shows (Murdock Mysteries and the Young and the Restless – damn you, Victor Newman); in seeing her favourite colour (blue) as well as her favourite flowers (roses); and especially when I see someone in a wheelchair. These are the subtle reminders that, when they come out from nowhere, blindside me and bring me to my knees.
But without them and this terrible grief I am experiencing, I would never have known a friendship so true nor a sisterhood so twisted. I find comfort in these memories as well as in the fact that I know that her struggle is over. She is now enjoying a quality of life that most of us just dream about having. I am sure that by now TS² has organized all of heaven, has touched base with her pre-deceased family members, and has cuddled all her beloved pets. I am also certain that she has sought out my father, my beloved paternal grandmother, and my treasured maternal grandfather to share with them all that was our twisted sisterhood. And what a comforting feeling it is knowing those certainties.
While TS²’s death does leaves a heartache that no one could ever heal, the love I have for her leaves many memories that no one can ever steal. That love is so much stronger than any grief I could ever experience; and, for that, I am truly blessed and eternally grateful.
Always remembered and forever in my heart; rest in peace, sweet TS².