This year was no different.
Shake ups in my life have drained me to the point where I've not been able to dive into my writing as I would like to. My mother is no longer able to consume food due to her condition and had to be intubated this past fall. Right after the holidays, I was re-assigned to another department and have had to make adjustments there.
And then death came to visit.
During the Christmas holiday, Marilyn noticed bleeding when she went to the bathroom. Ritchie insisted she go see a doctor, but she refused, saying she was ok. She said she wasn't in pain. I suspect she wasn't entirely truthful. Marilyn was like that. She didn't like people fussing over her.
To shut her son up, she went to the doctor. A generalist saw her at the hospital and suspected cancer but wouldn't make a final determination until he was able to go in to see what was going on. A procedure was performed and what he found was that he was right. Marilyn had metastasized cancerous tumors and was now Stage 4. She was immediately hospitalized and treatment began to make her comfortable and try to ease the pain. But the pain became unbearable, and she was put under an induced coma.
On Saturday, January 18, she was taken off her machines and though barely conscious, she survived on her own for almost 3 days. She passed away peacefully, with her son Ritchie at her side early on Tuesday, January, 21, 2014.
She lived in NY until the early 80's when she and Eddie decided Puerto Rico would be a better place to raise Ritchie. But she was never the same after Eddie died. I saw her sporadically -- the last time I saw her was probably around 2002, after I had breast surgery and the last time we spoke was around the time my father died in 2005.
By that time, each of our lives had taken many turns and our paths went in very different directions but in my mind, she was still that fun loving girl who could get me to laugh so hard I could easily pee my pants.
What you can't see is how beautiful she was in the inside. My most precious memory of her was when I traveled to Puerto Rico to pick up my daughter after she'd spent the summer with her Dad -- who also lives in Puerto Rico. I spent a week with Marilyn, Eddie (her husband), Ritchie (their son), and yes, my ex-husband.
One day, we'd spent the day jet-skiing, barbecuing and dancing on the beach. The hit song of the day was Tito Nieves' "I'll Always Love You."
Tito was my favorite singer at the time and that was my favorite song. I very vividly remember how she sang that song with such passion she cried. Somewhere, there is a video of her and I dancing on the beach to it. When Eddie and my ex broke in, she was highly upset and insisted that the song be played again so that she and I could dance the whole song together. Somebody hit rewind and once the song ended, she embraced me and we both cried. She kept saying over and over:
"You're the sister I never had. I will always love you. I will ALWAYS love you."
Remembering that moment brings more tears to my eyes. We held on to each other for dear life for a long time.
The night before I left for NY, she asked if she could keep my bathing suit because she didn't even have a picture to remember me by. I knew that wasn't true and it may sound weird to you that she would want my bathing suit, but that's the way we were. I've never been one to share clothes with anyone, not even my own blood sister. But I did that with Marilyn. So I let her keep it.
Marilyn was a bridesmaid at my wedding. We shared secrets. There were many, many nights where we would talk, drink and dance for hours. She had a very eclectic background. At one time she tended bar.
For a while, she had a gig at a bar near where I lived at the time. She would invite me to hang out, then take me behind the bar and teach me how to mix drinks. She would proudly announce to the world that I was her sister-in-law. At the end of her shift, she would insist on sharing the tips she earned with me even though she had a young son -- who, by the way, I adore.
That is the Marilyn I choose to remember. The one who would laugh at the drop of a hat. The one who loved life; the one who, when I needed to unload, was there for me.
I will always love you, sweet Marilyn.