A Trip to France Begins with a Shock

My sister Molly and my niece in happier times.

My sister Molly and my niece in happier times.

Those persons then, who have passed from the world

are not non-existent, but they are absorbed in the attributes of God,

even as the star disappears in the presence of the sun. -- Rumi


Rob and I are just back from a two-week trip to Paris and the south of France. I had intended to blog during our travels, and also to post additional excerpts of my memoir, Face. But we got news upon touching down at Charles De Gaulle that my younger sister had died overnight.

It was a shock, and though we decided to continue with our trip, I felt an overshadowing of grief throughout. I said it was a shock, but it was not entirely unexpected. Molly had struggled with chronic pain and pain medication addiction for more than 20 years. She was rear-ended all those years ago while working as a rural route carrier for the Postal Service. Neck surgery to repair the damage actually caused more injury—and the chronic pain she battled for the rest of her life. The doctors had recently been trying to wean her off of the pain meds. It appears she died of a withdrawal-induced seizure. She was only 55.

I have to say we didn’t have an easy relationship. Her life was drama-filled, and I (unfairly) judged her. We had hardly spoken the past few years, though I always loved her dearly.

Two days before she died she sent me a Facebook message—one of those ubiquitous memes about admiring someone in your life, and if you agree could you send it to 10 (or 12 or 15) people in YOUR life whom you admire? I remember being a little surprised, and sent it back to her with a clipped “back at you, darlin’.” In retrospect, I wish I had said more, and I’m also glad at least I said what I did.

Since we’ve been home from our trip, her death has hit me harder. I’m so sad for the struggles she had, and particularly grief-stricken for my niece and nephew, who lost their dad 17 years ago.

My niece, Jayna, who lives in Nashville, flew back to California and my other sister and her husband drove down from Oregon to help make arrangements. My heart goes out to Jayna, who with her younger brother must now pick up the pieces of Molly’s shattered life.

She was such a beautiful young woman, bright and sprightly in the best sense of the word. Loved horses and her pets, and was beloved by her friends. Despite the hardships, she always had a ready smile and a willingness to help others. I only wish she could have helped herself.

As I think about this loss, and remember other losses—my mom and dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles—I consider how fleeting our time is upon this earth. The plane of existence may or may not be the only one we’ll know, but I’m reminded, once again, to let go of judgments and intolerances, and to try to embrace loving kindness—toward myself and all beings.

We are all worthy—we just have to remember it.

(The mortuary in San Luis Obispo has put up a web page with Molly’s obituary, for those of you who knew her. A memorial service will be held sometime in coming months.)