Earlier today, I learned that my sister Suzanne died in her apartment a few days ago. Even though there will be an autopsy, I am confident that it will confirm that her body just gave up on her after decades of abuse from alcohol addiction.
She was only 55.
Suzanne was once a vibrant and happy person. She was a talented artist, a strong saleswoman, and a passionate collector of gorgeous size 5 shoes. Ten years her junior, she was a part of my life from the day I was born. For most of life’s major events (weddings, graduations, and holidays), we were together.
I think I was too young (or maybe too busy) to notice when she became an addict. As my life became fuller, hers seemed to be falling apart. She had her heart broken in an early marriage, and fell in love time and again with new men who didn’t live up to her expectations, yet lingered in her life. Despite the fact that she would have been a great mother, she never had any children of her own, and I think a little part of brightness dimmed with each passing year. Her once successful career fell apart, in part to bad timing, but mostly because of bad decisions.
The last time I saw her in person was at a roadside hotel the morning after my father’s funeral. That was more than six years ago. The day before, she was abandoned by her boyfriend outside the funeral home just a few minutes before we said good-bye to my father. She was drunk and disheveled and by the time we finished the service and got to the wake, I had reached my limit. We put her in a cab and sent her off to a hotel. She left her glasses behind and so I brought them to her the next day.
At that point, my sister had been in and out of rehabilitation centers on an irregular cycle. Compared to other members of my family, the time and expense I had invested in trying to help her get clean was negligible, but I saw what she did to others in our family. For that reason, I did not give her many chances to come back into my life.
And I never really forgave her for that day.
In recent years, we texted a few times, but most of the time, her phone was not operational. I sent a Christmas picture and she called to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. But that was it. My other sisters would hear a bit of information about her and share it when we all gathered. It was mostly bad news. Abusive relationships. Debilitating health issues. Lost jobs. You get the picture.
Today, I am conflicted about how to grieve. The woman I knew and loved died in many ways years ago, but the finality of her death is like a punch in the gut. I am filled with regret. Regret that my children will never know her. Regret that I didn’t try to help her more. Regret that the most of the world will never really know how lovely of a person she was, how much fun she could be, how much she cared about others. For obvious reasons, we often only see the addict. We choose to live with them and their addiction. Until we choose not to.
I don’t feel like I deserve to cry, but I do believe she deserves to be mourned.
Suzanne Bloch McCroby was my sister and she was a good person.
She will be missed.