A Confession

After my youngest sister died, I took her morphine. I have never said that out loud and it feels good to admit it because it has been a great source of shame and guilt.

There is this site called Quora, you may have heard of it, where you can answer other peoples' questions. I logged on about a year ago and answered some question about the best way to avoid chafing on a run (Bodyglide), and I somehow was subscribed to their email list. Quora sends me emails with questions like why are some runners in different parts of the world faster, or what is the best way to train for a marathon, or which trail shoes are the most minimal, or do competitive runners use weight training. I haven't answered any other questions, but the emails keep coming and today the question was what does it feel like to have your sibling die.

What does it feel like to have your sibling die?

For me, it doesn't feel. It is something that is pushed down and numb. And the morphine helped. It numbed me, made me not want to hurt someone or myself or curse god. It made everything soft, fuzzy and gray. When someone dies, it's not the sharp, searing pain of a cut, it's a bruise that doesn't heal, you can forget it's there, but it never goes away, and sometimes, like today when I got the email with that question, it feels like someone is pushing on the bruise, digging their finger into the scar tissue, and twisting.

The hardest part is the way the memory fades, the pictures are the only reference points now, and a few slices of scenes that replay in my head. Her learning to drive in a small parking lot in Village Park near the community pool. Sitting underneath the kitchen bar, hiding from something. Pushing her wheelchair up the steep grade at Moonlight Beach and then going to Dairy Queen for some ice cream. Cupping my hands and pounding on her back over and over to try to loosen the sticky mucus in her lungs and trying to watch TV...I can't remember what we were watching. I remember the Metallica tape on her nightstand. I remember the time spent in her room, holding her hand and waiting for her last breath and I remember being angry at my mom for saying it's okay and giving her permission to stop her fight. I remember the painkillers they gave her, the morphine that she was too weak to swallow and I remember watching as my sisters and my mom bathed her after she died, and averting my eyes.

I tried to cry, but I was numb, and it was forced. The morphine helped. It wasn't the first time I had used hard drugs, but it was the first time I needed them.

I broke down to my mom once, crying about not being able to feel anything.

People talk about the danger of running long distance, the long-term damage, and that may just be what I have always been looking for, that self-inflicted pain. I think that is what drew me to running in the first place. There is no numbing the pain after miles and miles on the trail. The pain is there, and it's not a bruise pain, it's the pain of legs that are screaming to quit, or the pain in your throat after vomiting for the 10th time and there is nothing else coming out, just convulsions and a dribble of bile, and lungs that suddenly feel like they are going to break ribs and a heart that feels like it may just stop, that it has done enough, and sometimes, with some runners, it does stop.

But that is not what it feels like when someone close to you dies. For me, it feels empty, but it somehow helps to write it out, and to share this confession with family and friends who may read this.

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