Christine Annette Bertolina
My sister was five years younger than me and always looked up to me. I took her to the Rolling Stones Concert when she was 11 as I was her chaperone. She looked older than her age which can be a curse. She ended up pregnant at 15 and gave birth to a beautiful daughter. When the father of her child was found with a marijuana roach in the car, she claimed it was hers. The day that they went to court, it was made clear that they would put her in jail, so she, her husband and daughter fled to Canada to make a new life for themselves.
Everything went fine for five years, but her husband came down to California and got caught at Disneyland with a joint and they put him in jail. My sister wanted to get her Canadian citizenship, but couldn't with this hanging over her so she made arrangements to give herself up, the case would be dismissed and she could return to Canada with her daughter. Her husband would join her in six months.
The day she went to court her case was postponed as her lawyer didn't show up, so my parents told her to go back to Canada, pack everything up and return and live with them while they took care of her daughter.
When she called me and told me that she wanted me to come up and see her, I was planning on calling her anyway as I had found out that our parents had her daughter and she really didn't want to leave Canada ever. I asked for her number to call her back, but she said that she would call me back in a half hour.
I waited anxiously for her to call, and five minutes past the half hour deadline she called. She sounded like she was in a "white room," there was no noise in the background and she just kept repeating to me that everything was alright.
When she didn't meet me the next day when I flew into Vancouver, I knew something was wrong and called the police. After begging them, they said that they would meet me at her apt. When I got there on the bus, there was an ambulance in the front. I rushed up the stairs. When I got to the floor she was on, two men in white uniforms met me and asked if I was Brandi. I said yes, I figured that they were going to tell me that my sister needed to go to the hospital and that she had overdosed. Instead they said, "Your sister is dead." I told her that was impossible, " I had spoken to her last night." They replied, "She died last night."
I went out of my mind. I wanted to see her, but they wouldn't let me. I called my father in California hysterical and he asked to speak to the police there. He spoke to them and then told me to find a place to stay. Some neighbors who were friends of my sister took me in.
The next day, a grief counselor, paid for by the government, called me on these people's phone, picked me up, took me to the hospital and I got something to calm me down, for Free! I was shocked and told him that would never happen in the US. I was so impressed with this service and it was what saved me. I could see that the Canadian government really cared about people, not just their citizens and could understand why my sister had been so happy up there and had made a life for her family there and would not want to go back to the US.
I found out she died of an overdose of ecstasy. In those days called MDMA.
I still miss her, her daughter was adopted by my sister, the husband was allowed out of jail to come to his wife's funeral and many years later reunited with his daughter. I lost 10 lbs in the month following her death, I could't sleep. My father went to her grave for many months after her death and talked to her, my grandmother died six months after my sister, we all believe it was from grief. My mother never got over her death and wondered all of her life, what she could have done to help her. Her daughter still struggles with the loss of her mother.
How could this have been avoided? To me, a big part of the blame goes to US law's severely inflated penalties for marijuana. The lawyer who was supposed to be in court and never showed up, shares part of the blame.
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