In Memoriam: Goodbye To My Sister-in-Law

This morning, I woke up to moonlight shining in my face. About five in the morning, the moon was huge. It peeked through the edge of the curtain, reflected from a mirrored closet door, and shone directly in my eyes.

The thing that makes this significant is not the unusual nature of the phenomenon, but the fact that last night at dinner, my father-in-law kept commenting on the moon, on how it was supposed to be a supermoon to usher in the new year.

Yesterday, my sister-in-law passed away. My FIL’s oldest daughter lost her battle with depression, crippling anxiety, and anorexia/bulemia. My wife and I spent the day with her parents because this tragedy rocked our worlds that morning. After a surreal day where nothing seemed to make sense–she was 52–my FIL took us out to dinner.

My wife is in pain. Her older sister was her best friend. They talked 3-5 times each week, often for a few hours at a time. Over the past two years, when my SIL’s anxiety and depression worsened, she tapered off communication. She lived in Florida, and we’re in Michigan, so we couldn’t just stop by. When my wife called, her sister often wouldn’t answer the phone. Sometimes her husband answered, but he always said that my SIL was ill or sleeping.

The moonlight made me cry as I thought about this loss. She was my friend too, but my heart breaks for my wife, who lost her sister, my FIL, who is from a generation where men can’t cry–not even when they lose their daughter, and my MIL, who is blaming herself for not doing enough to help her daughter combat this mental illness. My FIL shared a birthday and a defiantly stubborn nature with Diane. Every time emotion threatened to overcome him, he’d talk about the moon. I’ve never heard anything so desolate and sad in my life. My MIL went out of her way to make Diane happy. When Diane would come for a visit, my MIL would buy all the foods her daughter liked–and Diane was picky. She would spend weeks looking for the perfect gift, in one instance making shoes when she couldn’t find the haute couture ones Diane wanted.

I don’t have a picture to share, which is why I included an image of The Highwayman, her favorite poem. Diane hated her looks and wouldn’t pose for photos. Last night, Wife and I dug through mounds of physical and digital images, and we found nothing recent. Diane hated her appearance. She had plastic surgery, and she got down to 65 pounds. In the hospital, where they put a feeding tube in her, they got her up to 75 pounds. We honestly thought they were helping her. Wife had made plans to go down to Florida to stay with her sister once she was out of the hospital.

Diane’s illness robbed her of a lot; everything from her self-esteem to her will to live vanished. Her wit and humor disappeared. Her bottomless support (she championed my relationship with Wife from the beginning, before it was “cool” to accept lesbians, and she supported my writing career even though she didn’t understand why I’d want to write romance) dried up. Her boundless love and generosity stayed until the end, though. Even while yelling and saying horrible things to Wife (Diane didn’t want to be fed, and she didn’t want her meds regulated), she still conveyed love. She still sent gift packages to our girls, as she did every Halloween, Solstice, and birthday.

Diane, every time I look at a full moon, I will remember you at your best–when you kicked your drug habit, stopped drinking, and even stopped smoking. When you were part of our lives. The way you loved my kids. Rest in peace. I have to believe you finally found some.

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