Eight years ago, yesterday, I got a phone call from my father, telling me that my sister, Cara, was in the hospital and not expected to live.
At that time, I lived 550 miles from home – Rapid City, SD. I called Norm, who made arrangements to take off work and we left the next morning, about three in the morning. It normally took Norm about ten to eleven hours to get home, but this time he made it in eight, with me pushing the dashboard all the way.
I alternated from disbelief that Cara was dying to praying that she would HOLD ON until I got there. We called the hospital from a truck stop outside of Rapid City and talked to my cousin. She met me at the door of the hospital and took me up to Cara’s room. I sat and held her hand and cried until cousin Kathy said I had to leave for a while so the nurses could care for her. Cara was in a coma and was never able to speak or respond in any way.
I went into the waiting room to find that over fifty people where there, waiting their turn to visit Cara and to support each other. Some I knew, but most I did not. But everyone was joined in love and concern for Cara and for her family. I felt L*O*V*E in that room that was so powerful it almost knocked me over.
This is not to be a play-by-play account of Cara’s last hours, but a memory of her and what she meant to me.
I remember when Cara was born – she is four years younger than I, so that memory is pretty clear. I remember growing up with a young sister in the background. We were not so close as to have her tailing me, as many people mention of their younger siblings. But we were Air Force brats and forced to fend for ourselves many times, so we played together often.
When baby sister Candy came along, the family was slightly split. Brother Charles, two years younger than me, was my companion, while Cara and Candy were paired together. Sometimes I felt left out with their closeness, but generally I spent time with them and was welcomed in their little group.
Cara was smarter, more talented and more clever than me. She got high grades in all her classes with very little effort. She had a beautiful, powerful voice – she often said she wanted to be an opera singer – if she had chosen that path, she would have been a great one! She was a talented pianist; she played for choirs in Junior and Senior High.
However, to get to that point of her talent was a struggle.. Cara was independent and stubborn, to the “nth” degree! There were many times when her piano teacher would refuse to give her the weekly lesson because she had refused to practice the scales and exercises given to her; she was much too honest to lie, so I, as the less talented but more pliable student, would get a longer lesson each week (which, honestly, did nothing to help me in MY musical career).
As we got into higher grades, we would entertain ourselves with Gilbert and Sullivan music.. Mom had a big book of their operettas that we played and sang. Well, Cara played and we sang. We had arguments about who would sing what. I felt my soprano voice better suited the female heroines while her contralto voice better suited the male leads. Cara was bored with the ‘guy roles’ and wanted to sing mine. Candy sang whatever she was told to sing, if she felt like singing!
When the Beatles took storm (yes, this is dating me!), Cara planned the songs and we mimed the words with badminton rackets – this time I got to ‘sing’ my favorite, Paul McCartney. Cara was John Lennon, Candy was either Ringo Starr or George Harris, depending on her mood. But none of us really liked Ringo, so Candy was usually George and we let the drums play in the background.
After college was over and we three sisters had husbands and lives of our own, we still remained close but in different areas of the country at times. Cara was mostly the home-body and stayed close to Rapid City most of the time. Candy and I were the travelers. But I looked up to Cara (she was an inch shorter, but I looked up to her mental abilities) and she became my mentor in many things.
Cara loved flowers; she had large flower beds in her yard. Her husband managed the vegetable gardens, large in themselves, but she did the flowers. There were many times that we sat in her flower beds, weeding and solving the problems of the world.
And now she was leaving us. The doctor asked to talk to the ‘immediate’ family and none of the fifty plus people left the room. The doctor was surprised, but we ‘true’ family told him to go ahead. He told us that Cara was brain-dead and had no chance of survival. All of us, family AND friends agreed that she should be taken off life support.
Cara was moved from intensive care to another wing of the hospital and she was allowed to have flowers, which filled the room. The most beautiful, to me, were the pink miniature rose bushes that were brought in.
I sat by her bed and held her hand through a twenty-four hour stretch until she at last gave up and slipped away. As she left us, the room filled with the scent of roses.
On our way home from Rapid City, I felt I couldn’t breath, that my heart would surely break. About the time it was the worst, a large Golden Eagle swooped in front of our car, nearly landing on the hood; at the same time, the pink miniature rose bush that I was taking home began to fill the car with it’s heavenly scent. My heart healed a little bit, as I knew that Cara was telling me that I would be all right and she was fine.
So, eight years later, I still miss her, but I dream of Cara often. She is either telling me that she is happy where she is or she is joining me in my activities. I know she is close by. When ever I see a butterfly or a hummingbird, I think of her. These were very special to Cara. I have been blessed with butterflies zooming around my head and landing on my shoulders. I have had hummingbirds fly so close that I could see their throats sucking nectar and could even hear the sucking sound. My sister is close to me at all times, giving me hope that I will see her again sometime and we will be reunited.