My Sister Maggie

I had a dream last night. It was about my sister, Maggie. It’s been almost 9 years since my sister passed away but every now and then she comes to me in my dreams. Last night, she met up with me in a room filled with people and asked me to sing with her. I am a singer, though sadly, my sister never heard me sing.

In my dream, we sang together, a beautiful melody. She smiled and laughed with me, her face filled with happiness. I could feel her arms embracing me; I could hear her angelic voice harmonizing with mine. A dream so real, I could almost taste it. I was aglow until I awoke and realized she was gone and there would be no more singing.
To awake to the reality left me feeling empty and filled with sadness.

I wrote a song about my sister called “Maggie’s song.” It was my way of coming to terms with the immense loss of losing my sister. A sister I loved so much and knew so little about. Ours was a complicated relationship. Maggie and I shared the same father but different mothers. It was our father who abused both Maggie and myself as children and into adulthood. Though she seldom ever spoke about her experience, she did share it with me before she died. Her disclosure affirmed to me that I was not alone.

She lived a complicated life, filled with complex relationships and a continued cycle of violence. In many ways, she and I were very much alike and in many ways, very different. Those who have seen Chris and myself speak will know Maggie’s story, as I speak about her often. She has become a constant in my advocacy and holds an important place in my message to other survivors of abuse.

For many survivors of abuse there are questions that remain unanswered. Many of us are unable to speak with our abusers because they are out of our lives by design or by circumstance. For those whose abusers are still alive, there is often no conversation to be had, due to a complicated list of reasons. That list can be endless and so we go through life making sense as best we can of what happened to us and why.

When it comes to my sister Maggie, there is no answer good enough. I was tasked with going through Maggie’s things after she died. What I saw was a life of addiction and isolation. The newspaper read that she went to sleep one night and never woke up. That’s what the autopsy says and so that is what people admit. Though, most of you know that the nature of abuse is not as black and white. Far too many victims of abuse, including myself, will find themselves searching for reprieve through addiction. After years of this, Maggie lost the fight and with it her voice.

Many people have asked me why I continue to talk about an experience that brings up such upsetting emotions. My answer is always the same. I tell Maggie’s story because her life had meaning, more than I think she even realized. Through her story, others will know that they are not alone and that there can be life after abuse.

We must fight for each other and ourselves and never stop believing that change is possible. We must do the work and break free of our addictions, tell our stories and allow healing to take place. I believe that this is what Maggie would have wanted. I believe that she is up there looking down on me, joyous in knowing that people will learn from her life and that she will never be forgotten.

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Our Beautiful Chihuahua

I turned the key and pushed the door open.  It’s usually about this time I see the little squirrel run to the babygate, tail wagging vigorously.  She emitted a high pitched noise that sounds like car tires squealing on the street. It was one of my favorite sounds ever.

But today, there was no little squirrel, no squealing, no Ms. Moneypenny.  It reminded me of when my wife is away on business and I get home from work and the entire apartment is this dead space.  You never know how much life they give it until they are no longer there.

Money Penny

I’d sit down on the couch.  Moneypenny would run around and scramble up furniture.  Her body was so erect it was like she was on the summit of some mountain.  She was a tiny Chihuauhua, but she always managed to climb high enough to look you in your eyes.

Her favorite thing was to be rubbed on the belly.  Even when my hand got tired I continued rubbing because I knew that she had been waiting all day for this moment.  With every sweep of the hand her eyes would slowly close.

Each night Ophelia and I would settle into bed, and after a few minutes Moneypenny would    prance up and find a nook to tuck her little body.  It was usually behind my knee or against Ophelia’s belly.  A couple of times I almost rolled over her in the night, but she never moved.

I never had a dog that trusted me so much.  I’m not sure I ever trusted anyone so much as she trusted me and Ophelia.

For three nights we watched and waited.  Penny didn’t eat.  She didn’t drink.  So we handfed her, and used a syringe to make sure she drank.  She was too tired to walk to her favorite pillow.  So we picked up her weakened body and placed her nice and comfy in her favorite spot.

I watched as Ophelia fed Penny saliva out of her mouth, at times the only water Penny would take.  From her mommy.

Penny would sometimes lift her body into a sitting position, fighting to get herself upright.  I imagined she must have trouble seeing with her weary eyes.  It was in those weary, sagging eyes that Ophelia knew that it wasn’t good.

We weren’t prepared to let her go.  We couldn’t afford the surgery needed to save her life, but the vet did it anyways because she ‘really liked that dog.’

Before the surgery, they brought Penny in to see us.  Her tail wagged vigorously, just like it always did.  If I had a tail, I would have wagged it too.

Her eyes were bright and clear, and she looked like she was going to make it through.  So I hugged and kissed her.  I swept my hand over her belly, and her eyes started to drift off.  We handed her back to the nurse.  She was so happy to see us.  I reached over one last time and kissed her on her little forehead.  Then she was gone.