The Post I Never Wanted to Write

June 8 started off like any other day; I got up, got dressed and ready for work. Before I left, I had a conversation with my mom that weighed heavily on my heart. She told me that gone were the days when we could have an actual conversation with Anna; she had been sedated by the doctor yesterday and even though she could probably hear us, she wouldn't be able to respond. She said she thought that every morning before I go to work and every night I should just lay with her so she could feel my presence. So we could spend time together, even if she wasn't awake. That morning, I had a meeting to get to and I was running late so I didn't even say goodbye to her.

Later that day, I got a call from my dad at work saying that I should come home as soon as I can, Anna wasn't doing well. She was having trouble breathing. I didn't understand from the phone call how serious things were until my Uncle Dan came down to the front desk, got the receptionist who I was covering for to come back and told me we needed to get to my house. Only then, did I begin to understand that it was serious to say the least.

When I got home, it was clear things weren't good before I even stepped foot in the room where Anna was. People were in the living room and everyone was crying. I set my stuff down as my other uncle gave me the lay of the land; she wasn't breathing well, and she may not have much longer so I should go back there and be with her. So I went back there. My mom was laying on the bed next to Anna, my dad sitting next to her. They were both crying. My mom's friend was reading the latest Caring Bridge update to Anna. I sat down on the bed next to her feet and watched as she struggled to breathe. She didn't look scared, she didn't look in pain, but it was clear she wasn't doing well.

I wanted to run away. In fact, I did for a minute, to the game room to send a text to my friend (before you judge, please know this is how I cope. I needed my closest friends to know what was going on, to support me). I felt like I was going to throw up. I hugged one of my Aunts who was there and told the people who came in to check on me "I just needed a minute". I said I needed a minute, but what I meant was I needed this to stop. I needed someone to say "April Fools. Anna's fine after all. Don't worry, this was just a scare". Instead, I was told to "be strong", that Anna needed me. My dad came out and told me it was ok to be scared and sad, but that Anna would want me to be there with her. So I went back.

I laid down on the bed next to her and held her limp hand. "I love you, Anna," I whispered to her. "I love you so much." There were so many other words. Just a little bit ago, I had been texting one of her best friends discussing how no matter what happens to Anna we would always be sisters, Anna's friends and I. I wanted to tell her that; tell her that her best friends and I would take care of each other. How they would be like sisters to me, so she didn't have to worry about me. How I would miss her every second of every day of the rest of my life, but I would be okay. My dad had told me that Anna was worried about leaving us, she wanted to make sure my parents and I would be okay, so I wanted to tell her that I would be, even if I wasn't sure if that were true. But as I laid there and watched her struggling to take her last breaths, all I could do was cry. I couldn't speak except to say "I love you".

It wasn't much longer after I got there when she stopped breathing. My mom let out a cry that someone described as a sound that only a mother who has lost their child makes. "I'm not ready to let her go," she cried. I squeezed her hand, wishing I could take away all this immense pain we were all feeling. "She's with God now," my Dad told us. We said a prayer together, hugged each other and cried a lot.

When it happened, my first feeling was relief. Relief that this horribly scary thing was over. Relief that she was no longer in pain. Relief that she didn't suffer. Relief that I was there and got to say the things I wanted to say.

These last couple of days have been a whirlwind of emotion filled with tough decisions about funeral arrangements and casket options. Something parents should never have to think about for their child. Anna's friends have been over here all the time, and personally I am so grateful. They are the piece of Anna I have left and they mean the world to me. Together, we share our memories of her and help her live on through the bonds we have created which have only grown stronger these last 2 days. When something happens, we say "What would Anna say to this?", someone nails it and we all smile, remembering her.

I can't believe she's only been gone for 2 days. It feels like a lifetime. And I know it will last that long. As a sister, I can't help but think of all the events in my life I will have to partake in without my sister. She won't be there to see me graduate next year. She won't be able to decorate my first apartment like we planned. She won't be the Maid of Honor in my wedding. She won't get to meet my children. And of course, she won't get to have any of these moments either, which breaks my heart even more. She missed out on so much of life, but yet she truly made the most of her short 18 years on this earth.

I wish so badly heaven had an elevator or Skype. I just want to see her face again. I miss her face so much it hurts. I miss that beautiful smile of hers. I miss her sarcastic, witty sense of humor. I miss her laugh. I even miss the way she rolled her eyes at me or the way she would get frustrated with me. It is hard to imagine ever feeling okay again when she won't ever be back, but I know one day I'll be able to come to peace with it.

There is so much more to say, to feel and to process. But that will take time. The rest of my life perhaps. I may never be the same, but I will do my best to live with my new normal. One of Anna's favorite songs was "Float On" by Modest Mouse, and there is a picture going around Facebook with some lyrics to this song in remembrance of Anna. It is my phone background, and every time I get sad I read those words; "Alright, don't worry, even if things get a bit too heavy, we'll all float on." I know that Anna would want me to keep floating on and to not be sad. So, that's what I am trying to do. I may not always be able to, and I know being sad is a part of the process so I will allow myself to feel that too.

Anna was truly the best sister I could ask for, and she was my best friend. I will miss her for the rest of my life, but I know that is exactly how long her love will last.

In loving memory of Anna Lee Basso 5/10/93-6/8/11

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Tough Questions

Ever since Anna got sick I've had my fair share of tough questions to answer. It seems like people were always asking something I didn't know how to answer. "Is she going to be ok?" Well, I hope so but only God knows that. "What caused this?" According to my google search it's a chromosome thing. I don't really care to know about that, though. I'm focusing on how we're going to beat it. "Have they tried X,Y,Z kind of treatment?" I'm not her doctor, I'm her sister so I don't really know but my family and I are confident in her doctors. And the one that's always the toughest... "How is she doing?" 

The answer, of course, has been different depending on the different stages of this process. When she was getting treated it was like Well she's going through chemo so she's feeling pretty shitty. When she was in the hospital same thing, she's obviously not doing so great if she's in the hospital. And now that things are serious and the doctors have said there is nothing else they can do? I am feeling more confused than ever about how to answer this question. I know that a lot of people genuinely care, but it's hard to pick out the people who really care and really want to know how she's doing from the polite people who in casual conversation say "oh, how's your sister doing?" and aren't expecting a serious, depressing answer.

I remember vividly one time not too long after Anna first got sick, I ran into someone who asked about Anna, told me she was praying, etc. It was really nice but then she asked the question: "How's she doing?" In order to not burst into tears every time someone brought it up, I would usually just answer with a generic "She's good" or "She's hanging in there", which is what I told this lady. I remember she looked at me super seriously and said "Is she? Is she really?" WTF? What do you want me to tell you? Well let's see, she had chemo last week and has been feeling pretty shitty ever since and oh yeah she threw up once or twice, she's also been battling a lot of pain and sleeping a lot. Basically, yeah, she feels awful. No one wants to hear that! Whether it's the truth or not, it's too much information for one person to take in when they are just being nice.

This current situation is very much the same. My family and I are faced with the realities of Anna's declining health on a daily basis. It is what our lives revolve around now. But that is our private battle that we are doing are best to deal with and sharing with family and close friends. It gets complicated when people I'm not super close too ask me how Anna is. The last most of these people heard is that the doctor's weren't sure if there was more they could do. That was at the beginning of May, when I was still in school. Things are worse now. A lot worse. But do I feel like sharing that with every person who tries to be nice? Not really.

I feel like this for many reasons. First of all, it's incredibly difficult to talk about. I don't want to talk about it or think about it but unfortunately it's something I have to try to deal with. Also, I just don't want to launch into a speech about how bad things are when people were just being polite. Not only that, but it is not really my business to tell. Sure, it affects me in a major way but if this were happening to me, I'm not really sure I would want all of Anna's acquaintances to know how badly I was doing.

I feel like it's a catch 20/20- Anna has influenced a lot of peoples lives and they want to know how she is doing. At the same time, what do I share and not share? Do I tell people that she has been hooked up to an oxygen machine because she feels short of breath lately? Tell them that she's spent the last few days sleeping all the time and when she's not sleeping she's in ungodly amounts of pain? Tell them that because she's on a lot of medicine she can't use her hands anymore and therefore can't even send a text message? Where do you draw the line?

What is happening? Sucks. There's no nice, pretty, polite way to say it. It effing sucks. But I'm dealing with it in my own way and I'm not losing hope. I am praying and doing my best to stay positive. And I'm just not sure that I'm ready to open up to the world about what's happening. Maybe someday, but ultimately I know it is my decision who to tell what and who not to say anything to. I just don't want to answer the question because the answer is so hard to face...

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