Systir

by Julie Frayn on June 20, 2016 in  In memory of...

Six months. That’s how long it’s been since I watched you die. I’ve struggled with how to memorialize you, your life, your art, your imprint. I am still struggling.

The other day, Baby Girl and I were doing something we often do – standing at the kitchen counter, having a beer, sharing our day. I stared at her hands. “You have Carolyn’s fingers,” I said, and had a little cry. Baby Girl pointed out how her one toe was just like yours too. Just one.

And that’s where I find you. Little daily reminders of you. There’s been no earth-shattering, overwhelming sense of loss. Not yet. Maybe because there was that six-year build up. And that last seven weeks of watching you die a little bit every day.

I keep remembering the day I gave birth to Baby Girl. Lots of time, the doctor said, so Mom left the delivery room to go to the airport and get you. By the time you both arrived, surprise! Baby Girl had decided to pick up the pace and there she was, in all her gooey glory, ready to meet her Auntie. You’d missed the moment.

Hah, I really got you that time.

It reminds me of your last hours. You’d been suffering from terminal delirium, they had sedated you. You’d been “asleep” for a couple of days. I stayed with you, listened to you breathe, counted the hippopotamuses in between and fretted when it took one more before an inhale. Probably tomorrow they said. Maybe the day after that.

So some of your entourage went home to get some rest, including little J who had been sleeping in that hard chair in the corner of your hospice room and needed a real bed. Big J went to be with his babies, your beloved grand babies, fully knowing it may be the last time he’d see you. Me and middle J and that doctor girl he married stayed, opened a bottle of scotch, and toasted you. A nurse came in. It won’t be long now. Probably an hour or so.

Huh? What happened to tomorrow?

So I called everyone to come back, and your middle J went for a quick smoke. Before anyone had time to arrive, and with just me and doctor girl on either side of you, that’s when you decided to go. It was not an hour. It was two minutes.

Good one, systir dear. You really got me that time.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Smith June 20, 2016 at 7:50 am

I found this unbearably moving, Julie. It’s those ‘little daily reminders’ which can move us to tears or make us smile or both. Sometimes they cause pain, sometimes they soothe.
Thinking of you. Sending hugs.

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Julie Frayn June 21, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Thank you, Mary. I have been worrying about doing some kind of post for Carolyn. But nothing seemed right and I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down and write it. Timing is everything I suppose.

Nelson Armstrong June 20, 2016 at 8:42 am

Only one word. Beautiful.

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Julie Frayn June 21, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Thanks, Nelson :)

Susanne Kraus-Dahlgren June 20, 2016 at 10:47 am

Oh, Julie. This has me in the place where even as a writer, I’m out of reach of words. I have my tears. I want to be able to take them and put them in the comment to say what words aren’t enough to cover. Heh. The closest I have to words, the context they’re from is entirely inappropriate, but if you ignore everything else and just look at the these lines, it’s… “If I could only find the words, then I would write them all down, if I could only find a voice, I would speak. Oh, it’s there in my eyes, so can’t you see me tonight? Come on and look at me and read ’em and weep.”

I never knew the details. I never asked. In part, I didn’t feel it was something I’d a right to ask, and even if you felt I did, I do love you too, Julie, and I didn’t want to ask you to relive that. You’ve done so here — but that was under your terms, when you were ready. And a part of me wasn’t ready for it either. Just knowing she was gone, oh the times I’d started to open an email window or think “I should tell Carolyn about this…” that raw hole is still red and festering.

But thank you for bringing me into Canada, Julie. For bringing me to the hospital, to her bedside, to sit with you, to sit with Carolyn, for letting me be there.

I’ve been asked why I make friends with other metsters, why I even love them as much as I do. They’re awesome people. Carolyn clicked into a spot in my heart like she was a natural piece of it, like she’d always been there, a missing part of family that I’d found, pure serendipity. I had her for less than a year and it feels like it was all my life.

And it hurts so much that she’s gone.

I wouldn’t change a goddamn thing. Even if I’d known the way it all would end, I still would have accepted that perfect fit into my heart and loved her as passionately without reservation. She was worth it, and my life is better for it.

I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. I understand what an incredible light has gone out, such a huge missing piece that can’t be filled, an aching hollow emptiness. I want to hug you for a long, long time, and let you cry yourself out, make you a Rum Chata and Kahula ice cream milkshake, watch some movies and offer up commentary we think Carolyn might say.

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Julie Frayn June 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm

I just need to know what a Rum Chata is… :). I often think – oh, Carolyn would love that, or, I have to tell her about. . . well, shit, eh? I’m glad you found each other. She loved you dearly. I’m sure she told you that, but she also told me. Just for the record… xo

Susanne Kraus-Dahlgren June 21, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Rum Chata is… well, have you heard of horchata? It’s a South American/Latin American drink, most commonly made from rice (although it can vary in a few countries like Venezuela, which uses sesame seeds) and sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. It’s very tasty, truly. And Rum Chata is… well… it’s horchata with rum. First time I tried it, the best description I could come up with was “An orgasm for your taste buds.” It would pair well with Kahlua. Put some chocolate or vanilla ice cream in a blender, add a bit of milk to get the ice cream to change appearance from “hard scoop” to “soft serve” then add the booze till it looks like there’s enough in there to be satisfactory, turn on the blender, pour, serve, enjoy.

And man, if we were actually able to get together, one of us can pick up the bottle of Rum Chata and Kahlua and ice cream, and the other can pick up the 2 disc set of The Gods Must Be Crazy (which is stupidly spendy for some weird reason, the only reason I don’t already own those dvds) and we hug, cry, make boozy milkshakes, and watch hilarious movies and pipe up with the commentary Carolyn would surely have as well.

Julie Frayn June 24, 2016 at 11:00 am

I’ve not heard of horchata, but I’m willing to try… especially any food/drink described as an orgasm for your taste buds! The only rice drink I know of is sake. Used to drink it with my Dad, when Mom was out of town he’d bring over a bottle while my husband worked and we’d get stink-eyed drunk. Ex would have to drive him home. Ah, the good old days…

I’ve never seen the Gods Must be Crazy. Sounds like an awesome evening :). Now… I think I need to make me a paralyzer later…

Sean Farley June 20, 2016 at 11:05 am

Julie. Julie….what can I say? Do I tell you I’m crying? What good would that do? Unbelievably poignant and touching. Carolyn would be proud. IS proud. I was going through a “memory” on Facebook not long ago and there was a witty comment from her, and all I could think is she’s gone, but there’s a piece of her on my Facebook. She was lucky to have you as a sister, and vice versa.

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Julie Frayn June 21, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Crying is ok. I’m crying as I read these lovely comments. I often get asked why I bother with facebook, why not spend time with my real friends. These are real friends, damn it.

Lauren June 20, 2016 at 3:45 pm

This is a beautiful tribute. I’m so touched by your words and I can feel the pain in every one of them. It’s so, so very hard to put down what is inexpressible, yet I know how important it is to make that effort. It’s tough stuff you’re moving through right now and my heart goes out to you. And these daily reminders, your daughter’s fingers, places you’d been, laughs you shared, anything and everything … will (believe it or nor) one day be a sort of solace for the best part of you. Your “systir.”

Reply

Julie Frayn June 21, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Thanks, Lauren. I know you have first-hand knowledge. I have a couple of regrets that I am trying to slough off. How long does that take? No, don’t answer. There is no answer… xo

Len the aussie June 24, 2016 at 7:29 am

Julie I am that Aussie guy who has emailed your Carolyn for all those years .I wondered why I had lost contact and thought that just maybe. I went looking for you to ask the question and fond your Systir blog.
What a sis and those heady times will always be in the memory bank and yes she could get real toey too . We only even had one disagreement in all those years and just never made it for a face to face . We came close but she was not feeling like the visit as I did the Spirit Bear thing and the Rockies etc . Being a photographer we did have a lot of stuff in common and swapped ideas a plenty.
She would say plenty of shits and do a little cussing as yes it got the wrong girl. Julie I’m sure she got all those photos together before that bitch of a thing got her . She was so so determined to sort out the stuff and then said “well there are more important thing to do “, She made that wedding and got to play with the grand kids so ….. woopie that was a hell of a plus. What a ride….

She will be fondly remembered and her blog can be read by others to give them the will to fight as she did. No more sufferings and you write some more too and hit the Amazon best again and again .

BIG HUG

Reply

Julie Frayn June 24, 2016 at 11:03 am

Hi Len. Sorry you had to find out this way, but I lost track of who all needed to know. Shits and cussing run in our fucking family :D. Sadly, she didn’t get all the photos done. She struggled with a lot in the last months, and was hospital/hospice bound for the final 7 weeks, could barely work her Iphone or type an email. Hugs back.

Len the aussie June 24, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Thank you Julie and now maybe you need to take over that mac and do the final sort .. I have a few photos here and one is on the screen saver and randomly pops up every so often ,so the girl will be with me for a very long time .
Life is so uncertain and after a nasty we take it one day at a time and go hard . I don’t curse anymore nor get into the hard stuff .. Some of us just mellow with age :)
may she rest in peace … a very super lady that one ..

hugs

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