Saturday, August 13, 2016

A sister's memory

This year, I am captaining a team for the walk/run fundraiser in Orlando, Florida for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that is next month.  Team Amy Sue. My family and my good friends all know why. But, if you don't know me completely, and haven't read my book, you may not know the full story behind it.

I was looking for something in my email earlier today and I came across some things I had saved that has sprouted this new post. When I first started writing Little Misty: My Big Red Button, I first wrote in my yahoo email. I would just sit down and start writing about whatever I happened to be thinking about that day, and then emailed it to myself for safe keeping. I wrote in 2008, and then created and published the book in 2010. Below, I have copied some excerpts that I had written about my sister, Amy. I think this is all in the book, but I'm not entirely sure. And if it is, it may be in a different content. This was taken from the raw drafts that I had written and saved in my email in 2008. These are the viewpoints of five year old, Little Misty.

Since I'm doing the fundraiser next month, I figured it was fitting to share my story of why St. Jude's holds such a prevalent place in my heart.

AUGUST 2, 1971 - FEBRUARY 25, 1979

I often wish that I had good memories of my sister.  But in all honesty, I do not. I have no good memories of my sister, and I blame that on leukemia. The disease robbed me of the sister that I had - a sister that I will never know.
Even still, I treasure every memory of my sister that I can pry from my brain.  And trust me, over the years I have sat and tried to remember things so hard and for so long that it literally made my brain hurt and became overwhelming.
"Happiness is... Helping St. Jude Children's Research Hospital" -- this is a phrase that will forever be burned into my memory.  Not just because St. Jude tried to help Amy, but also because I'd been told the day that our father was killed, he happened to be wearing a t-shirt with this phrase on it.
All memories that I have of my sister include her being sick and being in treatment...  the many trips with Mom, our grandmother that raised us, and Amy to Welborn Clinic... Amy's school tutor coming to the house for her school lessons because she was too sick to go to school.  When Amy was with her tutor, she was always lying on the couch and the tutor would sit on the edge of the couch next to her, I remember that very vividly.  And I was always somewhere nearby.  I was told not to bother them, but I could never be too far away.  I always wanted to be near Amy, I guess.  She was my big sister, of course.

My memories of Amy and I, together, and things that happened, do hurt my heart.  But, as an adult, because I understand the circumstances and what she was going through, I accept the way that things were and why some things happened.  

When I was young, I had long hair.  Amy, going through relapse and remission and all of the chemo, had many times that her hair had fallen out and she did not have any at all... There were times she would become enraged and pull out a handful of my hair.

I will never forget the night that I was awakened by my Aunts, wearing my favorite pink "footie pajamas."  It was the middle of the night and I wondered why we couldn't wait until the morning to go to the hospital.  We drove from Evansville, Indiana to  Memphis, Tennessee to St. Jude.  I  was overjoyed to see Mom and Amy when we got there.  And then I was sound asleep again.

Waking that morning in the family room that adjoined Amy's hospital room, I sat observing my surroundings for a while before doing anything else.  In the room was a couch, a cot, and a big yellow chair.  The yellow chair is where I'd been sleeping.  There was a big window that a curtain covered.  After making my observations, I went to the window to see what was on the other side.  I was looking for Mom.  As soon as I'd gotten in just one little peek of the other side of the window, one of my aunts told me close the curtain.  The window is what was in between the family's room and Amy's hospital room on the other side.  The doctor was in with Amy and Mom and my Aunts told me to wait and that I could see Mom when they were through. 

When it was time for Amy to go downstairs to the treatment room, I would go with her and Mom. There were always a lot of kids down there, lots of them would cry, some of them would smile, but the nurses that were in there were always very pleasant.  

During my times in the treatment room, I would sit quietly next to Mom and simply observe what was going on around me.  I noticed the big toy box right away.  After the kids were finished with their treatments, they got to pick a toy from the toy chest.  And let me tell you, this wasn't a box full of the cheap stuff, these were good toys that I saw being pulled out.  After Amy was finished with her treatment, the nurse told her she could pick a toy from the toy chest and she happily sat on the floor in front of it, scoping through the contents before making her decision.  I was very surprised when the nurse then turned to me and said, "You can pick a toy, too."  I was in dismay.  It literally shocked me. 

Sure, I wanted a toy... I was five.  But, I wasn't sick and I hadn't been poked with needles like all the other kids around me had.  I apprehensively went and sat beside Amy on the floor in front of the huge toy chest.  I couldn't do anything but stare for a while simply because, like I said, this was some good stuff in here! 

I took my time to select the perfect toy that I wanted, but as soon as I touched it, Amy immediately grabbed it from my hand.  So, I sat for a moment and looked for another one, picked it up, and again, she snatched it from me. I knew that she didn't really want the toys that I'd picked and that she just didn't want me to have them.  And it was confirmed when she ended up tossing the ones that she'd taken away from me and picked something completely different.  When she had selected the one that she wanted, she picked it up and walked away. 
I still sat there on my knees on the floor in front of the chest for a few minutes.  Fighting back tears as I kept looking at the original toys that I picked.  I really wanted one of them, but I knew if I came back with it, I would be rocking the boat with Amy.  And I'd learned it was just easier for everyone if I didn't do that.  So, I dug through all of the good toys to the bottom of the chest and picked up a small plastic alligator that resembled something I'd once picked from the small treasure chest at the dentist's office after a teeth cleaning.  I didn't want it, but I knew Amy wouldn't want it either.  I didn't think I really deserved the good toys, anyway.  The other kids did, but not me.  

After that time, if I was told that I could get something out of the toy chest, too, I politely declined.


The last vivid memory I have of my sister is the day that she died. For a moment, I thought she was sleeping. There's more to that story, of course, but tonight, I choose to end the excerpts here.

Are these good memories? No. Of course not. Are they happy stories? No. But, maybe these are the stories that people need to hear sometimes. These stories, these bad, hurtful things this... THIS is why I help St. Jude. So others can have the good stories.... the happy stories. The stories about survival. The stories about their children, their siblings, their friends, their cousins...their niece or nephew BEING there... because they are still here, living, because of the research done at St. Jude.

I encourage you to share the story of St. Jude and what they do. Donate. Or join Team Amy Sue.

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