Twenty years ago on April 1st, the world changed for my family. My sister Joy had an accident. I remember that night so well...
My folks had been out of town so, when I came home from a date, I was surprised that my Dad met me at the door. I remember how the air was chill. It was a Saturday night and I could smell smoke from a fire pit at a neighbor’s house. I could even hear the murmur of voices from that party.
"Joy's had an accident." My dad said.
For the briefest of seconds, I thought it might be an April Fools joke, but my dad isn't one to joke about such things and his face was the grimmest I'd ever seen it. My then fiance was already backing away, mumbling about how he had to head home (he never got along with my dad) and we went inside. My Mom was on the phone with someone in Costa Rica. I could hear her talking as my dad was explaining the accident as he understood it. I wasn't processing what he was saying after the words, "she might not make it."
Joy? Of course Joy would make it! She was the golden child! She had a plan for her life and she had been following it ever since we were kids. No... this is a bad dream. I kept pinching myself but I wouldn't wake up.
"...so we’re going to need you to be here and take care of your sisters while we fly to Costa Rica.”
I was nodding. I think that night was all about nodding and crying and hugging and nodding some more. I felt numb, a feeling that would come and go in my life for days, weeks, months, even years to come.
I only remember snatches of the days that my folks were in Costa Rica with Joy. Conversations with my two younger sisters, Jacqueline and Jessica, are blurry. I do remember the tears and the phone calls where Mom’s voice was crackly on the phone line but her tone was optimistic. It was hard to hear her, but I could hear that her optimism was somewhat forced.
“She’s still alive, but in a coma… there were two nurses in the raft behind her… they revived her… she was drowning… she almost died, but praise god, she didn’t… It’s in god’s hands.”
It’s in god’s hands, was repeated over and over again by my parents and their church friends who came over with food for us daughters. At that time, I was agnostic and angry at the god of my parents so this was no comfort to me at all. The idea of their god being in control actually made me more anxious than I already was. Why would this god, who allowed millions to die, save my sister? So many why questions… But I was relieved at the help my parent's friends gave. Even though I don’t believe what they do, I do appreciate the community that my parents had/have.
Joy has a brain injury that she will never recover from. She has to be cared for 24/7. I love Joy, but sometimes wonder if it wouldn't have been better for her if she had died this day 20 years ago. I feel bad for even thinking this and worse for sharing my thoughts, but I believe that being honest is important.
I've been trying to write about this for twenty years. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my writing about Joy, my family and my life into a memoir that I want to share with the world. But I will keep trying to write our story because there is such a story to tell.