My sister Mary died Wednesday night. She was four years older than I and had fought diabetes since she was 25 years old.
One of the things I remember most from our childhood was her escape from doing the dishes. When there were dishes to wash and dry, what a coincidence, Mary had to go to the bathroom every time and, wow, her exit from the bathroom coincided perfectly with the last dish being pulled out of the rack by someone else. For years I called an excuse to be somewhere else when there was work to be done, "Pulling a Mary." Another sister remembers Mary being the first in line at the doctor's office when we kids were lined up to get shots. Because she could be counted on to pass out or throw up, the rest of us could have our turn with the needle while Mary was being seen to. What an irony; the one with the most fear of the doctor's office was the one who spent her adult life in and out of them and the hospital.
She was eventually disabled by the diabetes and hypertension and had to leave her job as a social worker for the state. By 1997 her kidneys had failed to the point she was finally able to qualify for a transplant. I remember her saying they had to be functioning at just 10% before she could get on the list, and of course she'd been on dialysis for years. When she died she had one of my kidneys inside her. It too failed her at the end but it worked very well for 16 years, getting her off dialysis, for which I was very grateful.
She was a fierce advocate for her health.She had to be because she was in and out of the hospital many times over the years, but boy, did she know the system. I was counting on her to guide me through Medicare. Now I'll have to wade those waters alone. She remained in control of her care to the end, spelling out on a board several times her wish to have life support removed. She had fought all her adult life but she was done and made her choice.
We were seven but our oldest brother, Tom, was a Detroit policeman who died in the line of duty in 1972. We miss him still. And now we are five. Rest in peace and good health, Mary, and give 'em hell, whoever gets in your way. It won't be the same here without you.