The Peace of the Poppy

Blessed Oblivion. Eternal Sleep. One Blessed Oblivion for me, please and one Eternal Sleep for my sister.

Poppies… such a mixed blessing in my mind and heart. My mother’s paintings… My husband’s long-time love affair with their juice long before I met him. Deb’s leaving, forever. Sweet sleep in which my heart and mind begin to heal. Drugs that soothed Deb’s breathing. Deb’s leaving forever.

On Tuesday, when I heard Deb’s stirring and I went to help and she was so deteriorated, I feared it was my fault and I’d given her too much morphine in the night, even though it was the amount I was supposed to give her. It had to be my fault, right? It couldn’t be that she was dying. It never entered my head that she could be dying. She couldn’t be dying. Not dying. Well, sure, this was all about dying, but we’d just been to the pot four short hours before. I killed my sister.

Blessed caretaker Katy with the soothing drug of compassion, surely the morphine of the emotional world, eh, helped Deb, helped me help Deb, helped me. Told me the shocking truth, shocking even to her, she’d seen her only eight hours ago. Empowered me to call hospice. To give Deb the drugs she needed. To set the support system into busy motion. To sit in her bed and hold her in my arms.

Dying is not for sissies, I have to tell you. It is hard labor to be birthed into release. Opiates and anti-anxieties are the spinal block of this labor. You could do it naturally, but it is pretty damned torturous with release but no baby at the end. And no baby to worry that you’re damaging. Give her the damned drugs and help her breathe. Give her the drugs and help me breathe; I can’t breathe; my sister is dying. Let her go, pray her home to her kids, to her husband to her friends to her parents to a new and better place or to eternal sleep it doesn’t matter, please stop the suffering.

Looking into her beautiful eyes in those last moments, here in the room where we had sat, where all her friends had sat and shot the shit with her, looking out over her hospital bed to the view over Bloomsburg, the same view from the back window at the house where I grew up, the sweet release of joyous death, my euphoria that she made it out, she made it out, she made it over, please God/Goddess let there be an over. The poppy juice that eased her pain somehow eased my own.

Until, of course, she was gone. and then there was no easing of the pain. Now time is the poppy juice that will serve to soften the jagged edges of a shattered heart and a transformed life. But not yet, don’t soften yet. And don’t tell me it will ease, of course it will. But you don’t walk on a broken leg. I cannot function just yet with a broken heart. (My friend Peg reminded us of that in her article.) Shattered hearts leak their love and courage just as shattered vessels no longer hold water… and courage and love are required for the living of each day.

But now even sleep is no oblivion for the living, for when I sleep I hear her calling for my help and I wake and she is not there, not there, never there again. And yes, always in my heart, and perhaps even in my presence… but right now she is consumed with the work of learning to be dead and with the joy of being reunited with her beloved family, all dead. all of them. Wiped from the face of the earth in twenty years. Years that took my parents and too many dear friends. Life reshaped in a score of years. Life slowly emptied, even as Love insists on presenting new possibilities. But, still, now, not there.

I didn’t kill my sister. I did all that could be asked and tried to do more. And yet. she is still dead and I am bereft and it’s not poppy juice I want, it’s my damned sister, sitting in her chair, in her red robe, drinking her juice and doing the puzzles. And yet, I could never wish that on her. Oh.

On the upside, today it dawns on me that I’m hungry and I might want some of the funereal fruit for breakfast. There isn’t really a gaping wound in my chest and my cells urge me to life. And it’s my mother’s poppies that comfort me here in the shrine, no longer a home, that is my sister’s.

May we all find Peace. I might not find it today. And that’s just okay, because that’s what is. It is what it is, right, Lenore?


5 thoughts on “The Peace of the Poppy

  1. Here I sit weeping AGAIN, your writings always move me Ann, but this, so close to where I STILL am emotionally….fragile….missing my Dad so palpably….

  2. Oh Sweet Ann,

    As always, your words break my heart but inspire as well. Your sister Deb was very blessed to have you for a sister. Anything I can do to help you, please do not hesitate to call upon me.

  3. Thank you, Ann. Thank you for writing this, the poetic part and the agonized words before it. It won’t help you just now, I’m afraid, but in the future, I hope it helps to know that you made me feel less alone in the world with your honest words. So many private thoughts when a loved one (in my case, my mother) leaves this world, and one feels that he cannot disclose them. But there they are, in that spirit of pain and loss, there in your own words. Thanks for somehow once again reminding me that none of us are alone.

  4. How beautiful and wrenching. There is no opening to heaven we can see when we are left behind to grieve. But you join the grieving world, with eloquence, confusion, and ashes. May you be comforted, my friend.

  5. Beautiful and stirring piece, Ann. The rawness of the experience felt so true to me….And the complexity of all the feelings… Loss, guilt, abandonment, pain, all coexisting with love and need.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.