I think my heart might be breaking.
My sister, Christina, died on my dad’s 58th birthday — the 18th of January, 2017. Up until now, we still don’t really exactly know what caused her death. All we know, and the furthest we know, is that it had something to do with her heart; some sort of cardiac arrest. There were no significant traces of drugs or alcohol in her body that triggered it. One day she was here, she was alive, and the next — she was gone.
There’s obviously the shock and horror that comes into play when a sudden death happens so close to home (literally and figuratively), but somehow, and I think this is only positive I can pull from this, is that there was no suffering.
We’re hoping that it was quick, and painless.
Selfishly, I’m glad that it came out of nowhere, with no warning, because it means that even now, it doesn’t feel like it happened. The pain of the loss is numb and hollow — but ever present. It feels like a continuous and low hum that cropped up in your brain one day and then never quite went away. It’s always there, but you’ve gotten used to the noise and you manage to block it out.
People are always telling me that I’m so strong. “Isn’t it great that you’re being so strong?” On the surface, sure, it might seem that way, but one of the great things about being a human is that no one gets to hear the hum that lives inside my head.
What I find so strange about loss and grief is the fact that they are so wholly universal but at the same time the most lonely and isolating of sensations.
On a comparative side of things, I think I can only reflect somewhat positively on Christina’s passing because I am also experiencing my father’s current terminal illness.
In May of 2016, he was diagnosed with a blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma — one I had never heard of before. The aggressive nature of the cancer has robbed my dad of energy, and we are doing all we can to keep the collective hum at bay but I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I am strong for going through this. This is the hand we have been dealt, that I have been dealt, as a 21-year-old student who is still disillusioned with the world at large. In a world of Trump, global warming, sexism, homophobia, endless other terrible -isms and -phobias; it’s hard not to feel hopeless. It feels worse when the inner workings of your world are falling apart, too.
So what is the purpose of me writing this at all? To compare and contrast the way of which I feel about death in two different instances? Maybe. Not that there’s any good or one way of properly dealing with it. Death is inevitable and it is all-encompassing and completely and utterly devastating. But we can’t avoid it. We can’t avoid the fatigue and the restless nights and the new wealth of sorrow that seems to only ever get deeper and darker as things become more clear about their outcome. I do not know how I will cope with this. I am not trying to make myself, or anyone else, feel sorry for me. Death is a part of life, but I write to try and make sense of it.
I noticed tonight that I felt a particular strain on my heart. It wasn’t too sore, but the sensation was enough for me to notice it.
Following Christina’s death; myself and my other older sister, Nicola, were advised in the coroner’s report to get our own hearts checked, just in case. Nicola has had her tests, and they’ve come back fine. My results are still incomplete as they are going to do further testing.
It’ll probably be okay. You’re so strong, it’ll probably be nothing.
But then it’s 2am on a Friday night and you’re googling the very Real “broken heart” syndrome that comes with a lot of emotional stress, that can, surprisingly, damage the heart, you think that it might be on to something.
The hum in my head now feels in tune with the straining of my heart and I am wondering my body, too, is turning on me.