My sister, Sandra, was 12 years younger than me. We had more of a mother/daughter relationship than the sisterly kind. She was a troubled soul. She was always trying to fit in with the wrong people. I was had just given birth to my first son when we found out that Sandra was addicted to heroin. It is an epidemic in my hometown. My parents (not wealthy people) sent her away to a therapeutic boarding school. She was there for 18 months. I only saw her two or three times in that year and a half. We wrote to each other. I tried to support her in getting well. When she came home from her program she seemed OK for a little bit. At this time I had moved out of state, but we were in close touch. She came to visit me for a few days. She wasn't well. Headaches/backache, short temper. She had also been diagnosed w/ Bipolar disorder. I chalked it up to that. My mistake. She had been using again, but wasn't able to bring her junk b/c she took a plane to see me. She was in withdrawal. I didn't suspect. I didn't want to. This was the last time I would see her beautiful face. It was mid-July. That September I found out I was expecting a new baby. Sandra was excited. She was hoping for a girl. I felt her drifting away. My mom and step dad (Sandra's father) had divorced. She didn't have a good support system. She was using hard again. My mother read her name in the police blotter of the local paper. Possession of heroin. She chose not to confront her. Why? I don't know. When my mother told me (weeks later) I confronted Sandra. I begged her to stop using. I told her I loved her, and couldn't live with myself if something happened to her. I didn't want her to die. She told me she didn't want to die. But she didn't know how to stop. I didn't know what to do. I was 5 hours away. I told her to stay where she was. I got in touch with my Uncle who picked her up until my mother could get to her. My mother opted to detox her at home. She was sick for a while. She went to stay with my Mother and Grandmother. My mother had a boyfriend that had no use for Sandra. She was "in the way" of him and my Mother. My mother went away for a night with him to AC. Left my 77 y/o Grandmother in charge of my raging/addict sister. Before I knew it she was stealing and running away again. My mother kicked her out of my Grandmother's house. She was missing for about a week. She finally turned up, and would stay with my step dad and his girlfriend until she overdosed and died on December 30, 2005. We were in town to celebrate the holidays with my family, and my husband's family. I would have seen her the next day. I was sitting in my Grandmother's living room. My two-year-old son sleeping in my lap. The phone rang. It was my step dad. My mother fell to the floor screaming "Sandra's dead!” The rest is a fog. I remember a horrible noise coming out of my mouth. I remember my husband trying to calm me. I didn't believe it. I wanted to see her. She was still at my dad's house. My mother went. My husband convinced me not to go. My mother arrived at the home where they raised us. Sandra had been taken away. She got to see her at the hospital morgue. She was soaked in her own vomit. My step dad and his girlfriend had gone to get some groceries. Sandra was in her room. They locked the door behind them when they left. When they returned the door was unlocked. He went to yell at her for leaving the door unlocked. She didn't answer. He entered her room and she was slumped over her laptop in a pool of vomit, with a needle in her arm. Alone. He tried CPR, called 911. She was gone. Her dealer must have dropped off some dope when the coast was clear. Her dope head "friends” and even the guy that was dealing to her showed up at her wake. Like we didn't know who they were. I was angry. They were placing things in her pink coffin. I suppose they believe she'd want to get high in the afterlife. She looked dead. The mortician put some horrible coral lipstick on her to cover the blueness of her skin. I made them take it off. Her hair had gotten so thin and broken from all the drugs. But, she was still pretty. And I remembered how cute she was when she was a little girl. She was still just a little girl. The months following were horrible. I couldn't sleep. I cried constantly. I began (privately) offering God my unborn baby in exchange for my sister. We were having another boy. I would name him Samuel. In honor of my sister, who died too young, Sandra. Samuel is now 2. He looks like Sandra. Maybe that's because he looks like me, but I like to think that she lives on in him. She is with us all the time. She looks after my boys like she promised them she always would. I didn't think that my oldest son, Nate, remembered my sister. He was only 2 when she died. When he was three he asked me (while looking at a picture of Sandra) "Mommy, where is Aunt Sandra?" I said, "She's in heaven with God". He said "Can we go see her?” I told him we couldn't, that it was too far away. He replied, "Yes we can. We can take a plane into the clouds." If only that were possible. The pain doesn't go away. You just learn where to keep it. My life will never be the same. Sandra's life hadn't even begun. And now it will never be. Not on this earth anyway.
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