Janeen Veronica Kavaney (1954-2009)
My dear sister, It was one year ago that you silently slipped off this planet. There was no plaintive death rattle, only a soft, faint exhale and you were gone. I had sat vigil for nine days and nights holding your hand, always surveying your semi-comatose face for the occassional, precious sign that you were still there. It had been the middle of the night when I arrived at your bedside and you were still seizing repeatedly. Yet I saw you try to focus with all your strength as you attemped to say my name but all you could manage to say was "mo...mo...mo...mo." I knew then you were still there.
Years before I had become helplessly co-dependent on you as I tried everything I could think of to save you. But I couldn't. Only you could do that. But you never did. Sobriety terrified you. Over the years you had lost so much of yourself and your life in your freefall that I could not leave you too. Along the way I had to accept that addiction was going to be your life, and I would love you in spite of it. But I also had to distance myself enough so as not to lose myself too. But we stayed in regular contact and I followed the tragic path of your life.
In the end, the doctors kept saying you would only survive another day or two, but after a while they stopped trying to predict the hour of your departure. They were repeatedly surprised by your tenacity, but I wasn't. You always were the most stubborn one of all of us. You had to be, that's how you survived - that's how we all survived. And I saw it in the end from you too with the frequent periods of agonizing frustration like a maddeningly redundant silent scream, realizing all you wanted to do was to get out of that bed and leave to resume your dying in a place of your own choosing - but you couldn't. So I would request more frequent medication to ease your agitation knowing with each added dose you were leaving me more and more. But it would be selfish to try to hold on to you. The last few mornings I was awakening always at 4:30 AM in the chair beside your bed from the few hours of sleep I would take. As I did so on that last day I knew things were different; the feverishness was gone, your skin felt cooler already and your breathing was barely perceptible. At 5:00 AM you slipped quietly away as I held your hand. Incredibly, you had survived 12 days without any nourishment or IV fluids. You did not want to go but you could no longer stay. As the sun rose, a slight whisper of a breath was your last farewell. I realized long ago I could not save you, but in the end I discovered I could help you in the leaving of this life. I did the best I could. I made many mistakes along the way, but I think I got it right in the end. Your death changed my life. I will always miss you my little sister. Love, Maureen