Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm Willing To Get There

I am a dumb woman. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not stupid, just dumb. Dumb in the sense that I think I know everything, I think I am in control of everything, I think I am everything. Let me give you a for instance. Six months ago my little sister died. Six months ago I stood in a hospital parking lot in the middle of the night and screamed at God at the top of my lungs,

As if that would change anything. Like God would look down at me shaking my fat little fists at him and respond with a,
"Oh no! Not that! Here, you can have her back."

For six months, I have avoided church, avoided the bible for the most part, avoided Christians and their Christiany ways. I have avoided me. Six months ago someone who doesn’t even know me but for some strange reason cares about me, sent me a song to listen to. It wasn’t a Christian song, just a secular song about love. They heard it on the radio after reading my self-absorbed, depressing posts about my dead sister and thought of me. I could never listen to it. Until today.

This is the part where I get all Christiany so for those offended by such thoughts, well, too damn bad. I warned you, so stop reading.

The song is by some kid named Gavin DeGraw. It’s obviously about some girl he loves. When I listened to it today however, I heard my heart. My true heart. Towards God. I miss my stupid dead sister desperately. I miss my freakin dead parents. I miss my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who have died. I am still angry they are dead. I am angry there are more in my family who are dying. More who are fighting to live even now. I am angry.

So, I listened to Mr. DeGraw's song.

And I cried my eyes out. I cried because I do miss those I love. I cried because I do want to be where they are. I cried because I know where they are and I have turned my back on getting there. I’ve turned my back in anger towards God; the only one who I know can truly help me. I turned. There are few things in life I am sure of anymore but I am sure of one thing.

I. Need. God.

I didn’t say you need God, so relax. Whether you need Him or not is completely up to you and the truth is, it’s not my problem. I can barely live my own life. How am I going to live everyone else’s? I love you with or without Christ. I hope you will do the same for me, that’s all. But even if you don’t, it’s all good. I need God more than I need you. More than I need my pain, my happiness, my suffering or joy. I need Him. That’s right, I am a needy person looking for a crutch. I’m good with it.

So, I’m choosing again. I’m choosing my relationship with God over my pain. I’m choosing to not break-up because that’s just stupid. And like I said, I might be dumb but I am not stupid.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Meta and Loren Thorndyke lived on a ranch of approximately 140 acres in the hills of Cayucos, California. Those beautiful rolling hills were always covered with three things: the delicious smell of sage and anise, bellowing brown Swiss steers and people. Ours was a large family and Aunt Meta and Uncle Loren’s ranch was where everyone from every side of the family wanted to be. It’s where we brought our friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, and eventually the next generation of children. It was the center of the family. If our grandparents had lived to ripe old ages, I imagine their ranch would have been where the family would have converged. Since John and Corina Walter had died fairly young leaving such a large brood, Aunt Meta had become the unofficial mother and grandmother for us all. She wasn’t the oldest daughter but that didn’t matter. Meta was everyone’s mother, no matter who they were. Once you walked in that back door, you were family.
Meta Thorndyke was the richest woman I have ever met. She had no money so to speak. What she had was worth far more than dollars and cents. What Meta had was priceless. My Aunt Meta was one of my mother’s older sisters. There were fourteen children in all meaning older was usually measured in months versus years. My grandmother, Corina Gada Walter died at only forty-two years of age. My understanding is her death was caused from twisted bowels from all those births so close together. Of course, in my family, the stories themselves get more twisted each time they are told, so who knows what actually killed her. Still, it makes for good conversation when we’re all together trying to outdo one another with our inside knowledge of all the family’s history.

Meta married in her twenties. His name was Jimmie McCauley and he would remain the love of her life until the day she died. They were married a short time by the standards of that era, however, long enough to bring two daughters into this world. My cousins, Maureen and Mickey were only two and three when their father died. He was a veteran of World War II and had suffered physical trauma which eventually took his life. It was the late forties. Being a single mother of two small girls back then cannot compare to the young women on the same path today. Regardless of the circumstances of how Meta ended up a single mother at such a young age, she lived in a small town with limited opportunities. Her life could not have been easy nor people always kind. She soon married a local rancher, Loren Thorndyke and moved her children into his parent’s farmhouse in Cayucos, California. Cayucos, the city she was born and raised in, the city she would die in, buried near her parents and siblings in the local cemetery.

I asked my aunt one afternoon, while drinking coffee in that same farmhouse kitchen, why she had married Uncle Loren. Had she known him her whole life? Was she in love with him? Was she happy? I can’t recall all of her answers but one, I will always remember. She talked about loving Jimmie McCauley and missing him even then, as an old woman. She spoke of loving my Uncle Loren but more like a brother and yes, she was happy. I thought about that conversation for many years because it seemed sad to me, to lose the love of your life and marry someone you loved like a brother. Then, when I was older, I realized the aunt that I loved, adored really, had planted a very important seed in my heart. It would stay there for many years, seemingly dead. Until, at the very moment I needed it most, watered by my own bitter tears, it would grow and produce the most beautiful answers to some of the most painful questions. My aunt had taken the bitterness of life and used it to grow something wonderful for herself and her daughters. Bitterness, much like compost, can have a lot of death and rottenness about it. My aunt taught me the value of not discarding life or its lessons, no matter how difficult it gets. She taught me to keep turning the ugliness over, watering it with tears when necessary and eventually, miraculously really, it turns into something wonderful and unexpected. It’s rich and beautiful and organic with a smell of the earth that goes deep into your very soul if you let it. My aunt taught me that while drinking coffee at a kitchen table in an old farmhouse. I’m pretty sure she had no idea what an incredible gift she had given me that day.   

Life as I have known it for most of my adult, married life has drastically changed over the last two years and all I can think about lately is Meta Thorndyke. I have spent my life trying to do right. I have worried about money and bills, my husband and children, being a good daughter, sister, wife, friend and citizen. I have worried. A lot. Like almost every day, all day, a lot. For the most part, all that worry has produced  little to nothing of value. It has robbed me of sleep, peace, joy and freedom. I can see that now. So, where do my memories of Aunt Meta fit into all of this? That puzzle called my life is being pieced together even now.

My life as a child and as an adult was and continues to be tethered to Aunt Meta and her ranch. They are both gone now and yet they both are more alive to me now than ever. There are framed photos scattered throughout my home of my days on the ranch. Days filled with calves sucking our fingers, lambs chasing us on the back patio, picking wild blackberries behind the old creamery and swinging off a rope in the barn only to drop into the sweet smelling hay below us. Nights filled with old mason jars full of tadpoles we had scooped out of the old cement water troughs in the dark, hoping to see them morph into big fat toads in the morning. Then there were the puppies and kittens. The barn cats provided us with kittens on a regular basis and my Uncle Loren’s sidekick, Pepina, would produce a few puppies now and then. After the house was dark with every adult soundly sleeping, we kids would sneak out into the quiet of the countryside night, skies filled with a million stars and head to the old shed where all our soon to be contraband slept. It was thought they would be safe from coyotes there, they were definitely not safe from marauding children. We would each grab a favorite and scamper back into our beds where we snuggled down into those wonderfully worn, handmade wool blankets and slept with our furry treasures. Life was good.

Lest I forget, my aunt also had a monkey named Willa Mae. She had been purchased by my cousin Mickey while at college. Mickey soon realized a monkey and college were not a perfect fit so Willa Mae was sent to the ranch. My Aunt Meta loved that monkey as did most of the rest of us. Willa Mae wore diapers and little preemie sized baby dresses. She looked and smelled like a monkey because she was a monkey but she was also the perfect size to play baby with. It was never hard to find her. She was always in someone’s arms, usually my Aunt Meta’s. But the times we kids could convince her to leave the safety of Meta’s arms, convince meaning pleading with a piece of fruit, she was ours if even for a short time, to dress up and push in a baby carriage. We loved her and cried giant, hot tears when she was buried under the old fig tree years later. I still miss that monkey.

My aunts love of nature, her amazing ability to grow humongous gardens behind the old barn, her lack of care for fashion or finer things, her gnarled hands from years of hard work, her love of family meaning anyone who walked in her door, her love and care of animals, her outspokenness on all subjects, her complete lack of political correctness coupled with her love of all people helped make me who I am today.

I remember looking at my mother’s hands many times and comparing them to my Aunt Meta’s. My mother was the baby of the family and one of the best women I have ever met in my entire life. She shared many of the same qualities that made her sister Meta so great. One difference however was my mother was much more of a city girl than my aunt. My mother had her nails and hair done weekly, she did hard work but of a different nature than Meta. She was also outspoken and an animal and people lover. They were two versions of the same person really. The city mouse and the country mouse.  Often, as a child and as an adult, I would hold my mother’s hand, stroking it with love, burning the image of her manicured fingers and diamond rings into my memory. Even then, I knew I would need to remember someday, her hands, when she was gone. It would aggravate her though because I would always say, “Someday, I want hands that look just like Aunt Meta’s.”

“Why in the world do you say that? My poor sister’s hands are a mess from all that mans work she does. Why would you want hands like that?”

“Because mom, Aunt Meta’s hands are beautiful. You can see her life in them and I can see my life in them.”

It’s true. My life has been in my Aunt Meta’s hands all these years. I have done what I thought I should do, what I needed to do, what was right to do. But through it all, I have seen her hands reaching out to me, drawing me in, offering me more, beckoning me to do what I was meant to do. So now, finally, the journey begins. Again. I get no credit for the coming changes. I have actually fought against what is coming. Thankfully, God, life and probably my Aunt Meta have now forced the fork in the road upon me in such a way that I can no longer ignore it. I get to choose which way to go, to the left or to the right but choose I must and so I am choosing. I am choosing to leave behind thirty-five years of fear, worry and doubt. I don’t need them anymore. I am choosing to live the life I was meant to live.

My Aunt Meta was truly the richest person I have ever met. She didn’t have money or famous friends but her house was always full of food she raised and grew herself, fed to people from every walk of life who loved her. She didn’t have new clothes or fancy fragrances. She wore pants and blouses worn out from hard work and her perfume was an honest day’s sweat. There were no new cars just my dear Uncle Loren’s old pickup truck, battered and bruised from ranch life. She didn’t drive because she was blind from the age of twenty-eight due to glaucoma. Life had often given her manure, scraps and what looked to be worthlessness on more than one occasion and she took every bit of it and turned it faithfully, often watered with tears, into a deeply hued compost and grew the richest, most beautiful life ever.



Sunday, June 2, 2013

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Hey Kel,

I won’t be writing to you anymore. I know that’s a really shitty way to break up with you but I figured I might as well get right to the point, so there it is. You’re dead and I’m not so it’s over between us. I have thought a lot about this dead sister/barely living sister relationship we have had for the last four months. I thought a lot about it especially in the last two weeks. Some pretty horrible things have brought my attention to our strange relationship. Things like two massive tornados, the last of which I spent four hours running from only to realize I had driven straight into it’s path. There was something about hiding in a Wal Mart bathroom with a bunch of crying strangers that made me realize, I really do want to live. As if the two weeks of twisters wasn’t eye-opening enough, I have been watching from a distance as two people I love and adore have been anticipating the delivery of their beautiful baby girl, knowing they will be preparing her for burial shortly after her birth. How can I go on with this stupid feeling sorry for myself because I have a dead sister thing when so many are suffering through much worse than one dead sister? I can’t. I won’t. I choose not to anymore.

Listen Kel, I will never forget you and I will never stop wishing you were here. I just can’t keep waiting to wake up from this hoping it was all a bad dream. The truth is, this is my new normal. You’re gone and I’m sad and crying more than I want to but you’re not coming back. No matter how much I beg you too. No matter how many promises I make to God. It’s over. As of February 5th, 2013 there was no more us. There is just me now. I have to be okay with that. Maybe not today but someday, soon, I have to be okay with it.

I love you Kelly Jeanne Casas! With everything in me, I love you, and I will never forget you. I will never forget us. I’m making some plans, Kel. Life changing plans. I’m taking your advice, you know, where you told me to stop worrying so much all the time and to just follow my passion. Well, I’m doing it, following my passion. I’m scared and I may fail. But what if I don’t? What if you were right all along and I actually end up living happily ever after? I hope you’re watching and praying for me.

Well, that’s about it. Bye Kel. I love you. Always have. Always will.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Freakin Mother's Day

Hey Kel,

I’m sure by now you are aware that Seth committed suicide last week. Have you seen him? If not, please go find him and ask why he would do such a thing when so many loved and cared about him. I just don’t understand. I don’t know if I ever will. I’ve thought about suicide on and off throughout the years especially knowing people who have made that choice. I’ve always had the same two thoughts: Sometimes it would definitely be easier than what I am going through. I could never do that to my family.

By the way, Char thinks we killed you. She thinks all the morphine and whatever else they had us pumping into you those last few days is what actually did you in.

“Really, Char?”

“No Marla, I really think we killed her with all those drugs. That’s why she’s mad at me and not talking to me.”

“Char! First of all, she was always mad at you because that was Kelly and she is not talking to you because she is dead, you idiot. Secondly, she was dying from effin cancer eating her alive so even if we did give her so much morphine it killed her, well, so what? Would you rather she would have had two extra hours of horrendous suffering without all the drugs? I definitely do not want you in charge when my time comes. Please, just let my kids pour a bottle of pills in me, wash it down with a beer and then go have a party. Seriously!”

“We need to go see the Long Island Medium. I need to hear from Kelly.”

“Wait, I think I just got a message from her for you. “Charrrrr…..you are an idiotttttt.” There, now give me fifty bucks for my services.”

Ever since you died, Char has been hell-bent on going to Long Island to see that gal on TV. We are not going. First, if God wanted us to talk to dead people would he really charge us for it? Secondly, I talk to you every day and I am pretty sure you have talked back to me through dreams and such. Maybe it’s not actually you, maybe its God just trying to get through to me or maybe it’s my incredibly vivid imagination or maybe it’s all the drinking I have been doing lately. I have no flippin idea. All I do know is this: I aint payin to talk to dead people!

I am thinking, however, of paying for some counseling. I am isolating myself more and more from people and the things that use to be important to me. I find myself crying more not less and not caring about much. When I’m at work or with people, nobody knows because I am good at faking it. I laugh, joke around, and act pretty much like I always did. I think. It’s when I’m alone that I notice the difference. My thoughts are so dark. I cry. A lot. My eating is out of control again and I am putting on weight. I don’t want to see anyone or go anywhere. I don’t answer phone calls, emails or letters. I just want to be left alone.

I have people in my life whom I love very much that are going through absolutely hellacious things right now. Things that no person should ever have to face. Things that bring me to my knees crying, “Really God? Really!” I watch as they also cry out to Him but with hope and faith that there is a purpose in all this suffering and I feel ashamed. One lousy dead sister and I crumble and cave and doubt. One stupid dead sister and I stop breathing. Stop living. Stop trying or caring. You might have been right all along, Kel. Maybe there really is something wrong with me.

Please tell Mom I said Happy Mother’s Day. Tell her I miss her and I wish she was here more than ever. It doesn’t feel quite fair to have to give up my mother and my little sister. But like Mom always said, who said life is fair? Who indeed!
I've been thinking all morning about a few of the other things Mom use to say to me all the time and I started to smile because I realized you said them to me too. All. The. Time.
"For heaven's sake! Look at yourself. Go put some makeup on."
"Marla! Really! What will people think?"
"Stop being so dramatic. Have you lost your mind?"
"Just because you feel that way, do you have to let the world know?"
I miss you, Kel. Everyday.




Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You Know Darn Well, I Am Not A Morning Person

Hey Kel,

I woke up at 5:27 am this morning thinking about your first brain surgery. Is there any way you could leave me alone for just one day? We both know the answer to that. When have you ever left me alone, dead or alive? Exactly!

I wonder if you remember things from here like your surgeries. I have read so much throughout the years regarding death and dying and you know I am a bible-thumper and yet, still so many questions. Maybe there just aren’t any answers this side of eternity. Who knows?

Sometimes I feel really bad because people say and write the nicest things to me about you being dead and my heart says, “How sweet”, but my head says, “Um…….are ya sure about that?” You know me though Kel, always the snarkiest shark in the tank. Someday I’ll change and be a sweet, demure, truly awesome human being. I know, makes me laugh too. Who are we kidding, right? Anyway, next time I hear you are at peace with the angels, I promise to do my best to believe it instead of picturing you arguing with the apostles over their lack of style and need for a personal trainer.

So, back to your first brain surgery. Can you believe it will be fifteen years this June? Seriously, how crazy is that? It still seems so fresh in my head, as if it was just a few years ago but then how could that be when I think back on all the gazillions of surgeries that followed. I remember so well the morning of. Do you remember me sitting in the back seat of your Jag, teaching myself to crochet as Ron drove us to Hogue Hospital? It was 5am and he was listening to Howard Stern and as usual, you two were arguing.

“Ron, turn that off. You know Marla hates Howard Stern.”

“Well, sorry Mar, I think he’s funny.”

“Ron, listen to Kelly before you end up in hell. What kind of Catholic are you anyway. Sheesh!”

Of course, Ron and I always thought we were so funny because, well, we are. You, on the other hand, were always annoyed with both of us, individually and as a tag team. Not shocking that you two ended up divorced. I was just always thankful you couldn’t divorce me because I am pretty sure papers would have been filed. You have to admit, Ron and I did make the six weeks I stayed with you memorable if nothing else.

I still have the card you wrote to me, thanking me for taking care of you. You handed it to me the morning Ron drove me to the airport. I still remember you crying, thanking me for being there and telling me not to open the card until I got home. Of course, as soon as I was on the plane, I opened it. I never told you this but I cried when I saw all the money. It was ridiculous how much cash was in that card. All I wanted was your voice. It made me sad that you thought you owed me anything else. I was your damn sister, not a hired caregiver. I didn’t know what to say then I thought about it and realized, you were just like dad. Giving cash and gifts was the way you showed love just like wiping butts and cleaning up puke was the way I showed mine. I had no cash to give and you had no butts you’d ever be willing to wipe so it all worked out the way it was suppose to, I guess. We both had our avenues we were comfortable traveling on.

It’s funny now to think about all the times we fought over stupid things. Like the way you never let me take care of you without buying me a thousand gifts. Now all I can think about is how there will be no more unexpected packages showing up at my door. No more things I don’t need but you need to give me. No more calling you to tell you to stop wasting your money. No more you telling me to get rid of the crap I have and have some style. No. More. You.

 Is there FedEx in heaven?

 I love you,





Friday, March 15, 2013

Holy Crap

Hey Kel,

So I got through my birthday without you. It wasn't easy but it was full of some amazing surprises. First, there was Bob showing up at my work to take me to lunch. I hadn't told anyone it was my birthday because I didn't want to have a birthday without you. So, I boycotted. Then Bob showed up, told everyone and they made me leave the store and go to lunch. Here's the amazing part. It was fun and I laughed. Not just ha ha laughing, laughing until I was in tears and not the miserable tears I have been crying. These were good tears.

We had just finished our wonderful meal and headed outside to the car. I noticed a store across the street had closed down and I mentioned to Bob that the guy who owned it was a real jerk. I told Bob some rather unsavory things this character had pulled on me and we agreed it wasn't too shocking for someone like that to not make it in the business world.

" Yeah, dude thought he was a balla."


"He thought he was a balla."

"Um.....honey, I have no idea what you're saying."

" A balla. Dude thought he was a balla."

"Ok, I am pretty sure you and I are running in completely different circles."

This is when I started laughing.

"No Marla, I mean it, I think it's time I got you out of here. How do you know this stuff?"

Then I went from laughing to hysterical laughing. Then we both were hysterically laughing and life was good for a moment.

Later, on my drive home, I did what has become the norm. I cried. I cried because I thought about how funny my conversation with Bob had been at lunch and how I would have definitely called you and we would have definitely laughed until we couldn't breathe over it. But you aren't there anymore. So I called Char and I told her my stupid story and we laughed and I felt another moment of hope.

Then tonight, the gift I was hoping for, praying for, longing for arrived. Words that sunk deep into my heart. Words from you. I believe it.

I opened my email tonight and there was a short sentence from my friend, Glen. It was in response to the foolishness I wrote last night about horse poop. It simply said;

"Has it occurred to you that you were a wild flower in the poop of Kel's life? "

When I read those words, I heard your voice and I could see your smiling face again. And I cried. Sad tears but not quite so sad. I cried because it had not occurred to me and suddenly, it was so clear. So I cried because even wildflowers need water now and then.

I miss you,


Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Horse With No Name

Hey Kel,

Tonight, as I was closing down the store, I mentioned to Ron that I was worried about tomorrow. I told him you always called me and sang to me. I stood there crying asking him, “How am I going to get through this with no phone call. She always called and sang.”

“Well, Marla….,” he said with that totally John Wayne twang of his, “just think about her purty singin to ya tomorrow.”

“I said she sang to me, Ron. I never said it was good.”

Then we both started to laugh and he reminded me to keep laughing. He told me to try and find the laughter in the middle of all this swirling pain. This made me think of horse poop.

Do you remember how I have always loved the smell of horse poop? It is one of the best smells on earth. It makes me think of Aunt Meta and the ranch, riding Pokey and playing outside all summer long. I absolutely love the stuff. I got to thinking tonight how this whole dead sister thing is such a pile of crap. Then I thought about what Ron said and about horse poop and well, maybe I am just focusing on the wrong type of crap, because I love horse poop and it’s definitely crap. Somehow though, I seem to be able to find wonderful things in it, like memories I cherish. Just the smell of it makes me smile or tear up with happy thoughts. I have even seen wildflowers sprouting from Dunnie’s poop. No seriously, sometimes when I am out walking with her in the back pasture, I have come across old piles of her poop with beautiful, delicate wildflowers coming straight out of the middle of them. How could anyone not love the stuff?

Do you think that’s possible? Could I find wildflowers in the pile you left my life in? If I ever stop crying for more than five minutes, I just might try to ride this new horse with no name.

Please come home now.

I love you,


Saturday, March 9, 2013

More Than Words

Hey Kel,

I have been purposely ignoring you for the last 9 days. You were making my life a living hell by being dead. So, I woke up on March 1st and made the decision to forget you. I told myself I could choose to not think about you. Choose to be happy you went on a long trip and I could live without you until you got back. Choose to stay so busy I wouldn’t have time for hot, angry tears. So, as of March 1st, you no longer existed and then I heard you laugh.

All freakin day, every day, for the last nine days, I have seen you, heard you, been reminded of you. I have dreamt about you repeatedly. When I laugh, I hear your laugh. When I look in the damn mirror, there is your nose looking back at me. Well, not actually your nose, it’s my eyes looking at my nose which is exactly the same as your nose which I always loved because we always said we had the best noses ever. Now I can’t even look at my stupid nose because of you. Thanks a lot, jerk face. And I ramble like just now. I can barely put three words together that make sense because all my energy is going towards ignoring you. You were impossible to ignore when you were alive. Now that you’re dead, you are unbearable when ignored. I seriously hate you sometimes. No, I don’t but I am seriously mad at you.  Well, maybe not seriously mad but…. Look what you’ve done to me. I’m a freakin mess!

The day after you died, I prayed you would have left me something. Not money, jewelry or things. I wanted words. I looked through your nightstand hoping to find a letter addressed to me but it wasn’t there. A few days later, when I was getting ready to head home, I made David promise he wouldn’t throw anything away. Not one single piece of paper. He was wonderful, as he looked at me knowing full well I was losing my mind, promising not one paper would leave that house until I got to look at it. You were always the most organized person I ever knew. Everything in its place, labeled, dated and filed. I still tell myself there is a file somewhere in that house with my name on it, full of letters from you just for me. Please.

Hey, your high school friend Zana wrote to me. How nice is that? You are going to love what she said.

“Thanks for sharing Marla. It was hard to ask about what was happening and always getting the everything is fine response. I felt so shut out. Of course I knew everything was not fine. Thanks for letting me in a little. It's so sad, so funny, so screwed up and so beautiful at the same time. Can't believe it's been 21 days already.”

Do you remember how you and I use to fight over this very thing? You never wanted to see anyone, talk to people, let people know the truth. You freaked if there was a picture taken of you in your wheelchair. And what did I always say?

“Kelly! People love you, stupid. They don’t care what you look like, how bad you feel, if you’re in a wheelchair, walker or paddy wagon. They just want you, idiot!”

You never believed me. We fought over this like two stray cats on a field mouse. Well, I was right and for once, you can’t argue with me. I thought winning an argument with you would feel better than this. My consolation is choosing to believe you now know I was right. So……Ha!

                                    Wish You Were Here,







Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Dare You

Hey Kel,

I had a major meltdown on my way home from work tonight. I mean snot dripping, mascara in my eyeballs, pull the car over to the side of the road before I kill myself trying to drive kind of meltdown. I actually had a pretty decent day until the drive home. I suppose being in the car, having a moment of quiet where I could finally think had something to do with it. Anyway, as I was driving home, I realized it was eleven years ago today that mom died. One minute my mind was racing with work crap and the next minute I’m reliving mom’s last breath. So, I did what I have always done in times like this. I reached over and grabbed my cell ready to hit “Kelly”. As soon as the phone was in my hand and I realized what I was about to do, I came unglued. I’m so tired of this dead sister thing and it hasn’t even been one month yet. How am I going to survive this?

I wonder about so many things? Are you with mom and dad? You were always saying to me how you just wanted to go be with them. Remember how much that pissed me off? Sometimes I thought that was why you said it and other times I thought you really meant it. Most of the time, I knew you really meant it. That’s why I got so pissed with you. It scared me. I didn’t want you to want them more than me. I desperately wanted you to want to stay.

The night you died, I was so angry that you waited for me to leave the room before dying. After you were gone and the nurse said you probably needed Char and I to go before you could leave, I wanted to throat-punch her right there on the spot. I didn’t want to believe that. I still don’t. I thought about the last two days I spent with you. I thought about all the things I had whispered in your ear. How many times did I tell you not to worry, that I would look out for David and all your animals? I told you everything would be okay, that it was fine for you to go. I mean seriously, Kel, how many people have I walked this road with before? Sisi, Mom, Dad, Lucy and Uncle Lou. I did the hospice training thing, read the books, took the classes, watched the videos. I get it. I know what to say and I said it to each and every one of you. I did my best to walk each of you eternally home. I wanted to be there. Every time.

Then tonight I had a thought. Maybe, when we come to the end of our lives, we don’t just hear the spoken word. Maybe, just maybe, we hear the words people’s hearts are holding. If that’s true then you needing me gone before you could die would make sense, I suppose, because I remember the words of my heart oh so well.

For two days, my lips told you to go and be well with mom and dad. For two days, my heart screamed, “Don’t leave me!” That’s it, isn’t it? You heard the cry of my heart. I think I knew it all along.

Can you still hear it?
                                                I love you,


Monday, February 25, 2013

C'Mon Stink

Hey Kel,

 Have you been wondering where I’ve been? I went to Texas for a few days. I needed to get away from work and family and friends. I needed to get away from you. But you followed me. Driving south through Oklahoma, I thought I had outrun you. There was no crying, no remembering and no stomachache. Then I crossed the border into Texas and it all came slamming back as if I had just driven straight into a brick wall. What was I thinking running to Texas to get away from you? How could I forget all those trips south to meet you in Houston? The days, weeks, months spent with you at MDAnderson? Why wasn’t I thinking before I left? I could have prepared myself, right?

Anyway, I met Lori there. We spent the weekend visiting her family, crying, praying, cussing and drinking. Oh yeah, it was real spiritual. No, it really was. It was just what I needed. Being with someone else whose own grief seemed to match mine was terrifying and yet it somehow helped me. Isn’t that strange?

The first night there, I dreamt about you. It was late and Lori and I had had a few too many drinks, cried late into the night and fell into the sleep of the dead. Literally. I thought I was walking through a zoo looking for something and suddenly there you were. You had that same hideous hospital gown on and you were barefoot. Your hair was long and blonde like when we were kids and you were smiling. Not just a smile. You were grinning from ear to ear, almost laughing when you saw me. You put your arms out and I ran to you. I held you so tight I was afraid I might hurt you but you just kept giggling. I wasn’t laughing though. I was crying. My heart was breaking into a million pieces and I could feel each jagged little piece falling around my feet. All of a sudden you pointed and told me to look across the walkway. When I turned, I saw the tiniest baby skunks. I ran over to get one because you and I always said we wanted a baby skunk. When I turned back to ask you to help me catch one, you were gone and I immediately woke up. You’re still gone.

 Lori gave me a wonderful book to read. It’s called Tear Soup. It brought me to tears, had me smiling here and there and gave me hope that I am not going insane. One thing it said was that people can really only handle about one month of another person’s grief. You have been dead twenty days. That means I have ten days left before people get sick of me and my dead sister.

 Sucks to be them.

                                     I miss you,

PS......This stinks to high heaven. Is that what you were trying to tell me?



Thursday, February 21, 2013

See's The Day

Hey Kel,


I had to work really late tonight. Remember, Wednesday is inventory. Normally I have it done before 3:00 pm but not today. It was 11:00 pm before we finished. Guess why? I had to fire two more people on Monday. So now I am down a total of three and trying to run a business with half a crew. Can you believe that? Man, there was so much drama over these last few days that all I could think about was how much I wanted to call you. No matter how crappy you felt or how ticked off I was, we always had such a great time talking over the day on my way home each night. I keep thinking about all my snarky remarks I would make and how you would laugh and say how much better you felt after we talked. How I miss that. How I miss you. Why did you have to go?


I almost made it through a day without crying. Almost. Brian, my old boss, called me today. I knew he had heard about you dying, so I was surprised when he didn’t call me. Then I heard it hurt his feelings that I hadn’t called him. There are so many people I haven’t called that I should have. I just can’t. Not now. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to call anyone again. I have no desire to see or speak to almost anyone. Anyway, the moment I heard Brian’s voice, I started to blubber. He kept asking me if I was okay and I kept saying I was great. What a couple of idiots. I mean, seriously. Did he think I would be okay? Um, no! Am I doing great? Definitely not! Whatever. He did make me promise to call him and stay in touch. That was nice of him, yeah?


Guess what? I got home at midnight and was beat to a pulp, just wanting to go to bed. Andrew and Tori are here for ten days, so instead of going straight to my room, we sat in the living room by the fireplace and talked. I can see why you love Tori so much. All during your dying, death and funeral, she took care of me. She would hold my hand, hug me when I cried, bring food to the room and just watch over me in general. At the cemetery, she literally had one arm around me and the other held an umbrella over my head protecting me from the rain. How sweet she is. I love this girl. You were right when you told me one day something would bond us together. I should have known it would have something to do with you.


Hey, this was kind of funny in a sick and twisted way. Right before they lowered you into the earth, they brought out a bucket of dirt. Everyone was supposed to take a handful and throw it on you. I stood way back, horrified at the entire thing. You know how I hate going to the cemetery in the first place since mom died. Remember how you and Char would get so mad because I refused to go put flowers on all our family graves? Yeah, get over it. Anyway, everyone is crying and taking handfuls of dirt and getting dirty and muddy in the rain throwing crap on you then they try to get me to join in. I let everyone know two things. First, you would have been appalled that they put dirt in a dirty old paint bucket instead of some fancy Coach bag kind of thing and second, I didn’t need to throw dirt on my dead sister. I had thrown enough dirt at you when you were breathing. Then, after the whole dirt saga has ended, the cemetery guy makes everyone step back before they lower you down. Why? Because, he kindly explains, they had a woman throw herself into the hole because she was so distressed. She broke a rib or something, the casket flew open and the dead guy fell out, blah, blah, blah. Then the gal files a lawsuit over her mental anguish from the entire thing and WINS! That’s not the funny part. Upon hearing said story, several of YOUR relatives turn and look at me. Excuse me! Like I would do that. Shut up.


One last thing. You know how you ruined my Valentine’s  Day this year? And you know how I said it would never be the same? Well, when I got home at midnight tonight and was sitting by the fire with Andrew and Tori, Bob brought a box out to me from UPS. It was from Amy. I opened it up and well, I haven’t cried that hard for at least a few hours.


I love that girl. I love her more than words will ever say. She gets me and she loves me. Who could ask for more?


It’s something you would do, hear somebody’s heart calling and answer. I miss you, Kelly. More each day. Isn’t it suppose to get easier?


                              No Chocolate for You!



Monday, February 18, 2013

Madre de Dios

Hey Kel,

I was thinking about the night you died all day today. It will be two weeks tomorrow since you left. Two long, miserable weeks. How can fourteen days feel like fourteen minutes and fourteen decades all at the same time? I am not understanding life at all right now. That's probably my own damn fault. I mean, I did break up with God the night you died so maybe I am just on my own until I find a way to repent. I sort of want to repent but I am just too angry right now. I'm pretty sure we will get back together someday. I do love Him. I am pretty sure He loves me too. I am just so sad.

I waited all day Monday by your bedside. I held your hand and stroked your forehead. Every time I found myself alone with you, I laid my head on your pillow and whispered in your ear. Did you hear me? Do you remember? I told you how much I loved you, how proud I was to have you for my baby sister. I said some things I had always wanted to tell you but had never found the courage to voice. Were you surprised to hear me say you had always been my closest friend, the one I admired and wanted to please the most. Did it make you happy to hear how much I loved you and how I had always wished I was more like you? Were you shocked that I wasn't always angry with all your constant butting in, that I needed you? I still need you.

With less than an hour of sleep on Monday, Tuesday arrived. That night Char and I went to your house to shower and change. The house felt so empty and cold. I looked around and everything looked the same but nothing felt the same. Nothing will ever feel the same again. We weren't there but fifteen minutes when the call came. Get back to the hospital now!

Within minutes we were there. It seemed as if we flew. I remember standing in the doorway, your room crowded with your besties and then the sea of friends slowly parted so I could walk in. Before I could get to you, Cher put her arms around me and said, "Mar, she's gone."

I just remember hearing some lunatic screaming and yet I didn't feel anything other than Cher's arms. I remember watching my purse fall to the ground in slow motion, feeling my knees buckle and realizing I was the lunatic.

Did I embarrass you when I laid on the bed, wrapped myself around you and begged you to stay with me? I know, I certainly felt embarrassed and yet I couldn't stop myself. It was as if I was watching a really bad Mexican novella. No bueno!

When the nurse tried to comfort me, I just felt worse. She told me she saw you “rally” every time Char and I were in the room. She said you were waiting for us to leave those few short moments so you could go. She said she sees people do it all the time because it’s too hard for them to leave sometimes with the people they love most in the room. I’m pretty sure that’s when I laid back on your bed and F-bombed you. I’m sorry for that. It just made me really angry that you didn’t want me there because I wanted to be there. I needed to be there. I’m just a jerk. Seriously, what kind of a person F-bombs their dead sister?

Then, when the anger and pain and loneliness was more than I could handle, I kissed your forehead repeatedly and left the room. I hurried to the elevator and quickly found my way out of that horrid place. Did you see me in the parking lot in crappy Salinas in the middle of the night? Did you hear me yelling at God?


Did you see the look on the faces of those nurses coming out of the parking garage? I know I scared them to death. I’ll be sorry for that someday too. Just not today.


I miss you, where’d you leave your drugs and can I have them,


PS……please tell God I’m sorry.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Anyone Hiring?

Hey Kel,

Well if things weren't bad enough with me having a dead sister and all, now it's affecting me at work. I hope you're happy.

In the last two days alone, I have come completely unglued at work. Did you see me? Were you watching, because I had this eery feeling you were standing there laughing like a hyena the whole time. Which, by the way, only made me madder at you. You are such a jerk sometimes, even when you're dead.

The first time it happened was when that one customer I always told you about called on Thursday. I mean, seriously, happy freakin Valentine's to me having to listen to hear screech about nothing. I am so sick of her calling just to complain and cuss. Normally, I can handle it with my usual amazing personality. Ok, so my sarcasm goes over her pea-brained head. Still, she never gets the best of me and you know that's the truth. Until Thursday. When she started in from the minute I answered the phone, well, I just couldn't take it. I started crying and yelling in the phone at her.

"Oh! My! Heavens! Poor you having to pay a debt that you owe and late no less and then having the nerve to scream at me the minute I pick up the phone. Well guess what? There are worse things in life than paying your bills on time. Things like your sister dying so I suggest you pay your bill and be done with this conversation before it goes any further south. Got it!!"

"Are you crying? Why are you crying"


The good thing is, she paid her bill. The bad thing is......oh hell, the only bad thing I can think of is I have a dead sister. But I just want you to know that I am almost sure I heard you laughing over in the corner as I sat there at my desk sobbing once I hung up the phone. Idiot.

Then tonight, when Ryan came in to pay his bill, I was trying so hard to help him. He is such a nice kid and we get along so well. Why did Alison Krauss have to start singing right at that moment? There was something in her voice that reminded me of you. Not that you could sing like Alison Krauss but still, there you were again. I heard it, looked up from the computer at Ryan and said, "My sister died last week." Then I fell completely apart. The harder I tried to stop crying the harder I cried. Then Ryan started crying and came behind the counter to hug me.

It may be time to find another job.

                                                             I miss you, stupid,


Thursday, February 14, 2013


Hey Kel,

Did you forget it was Valentine's Day? I wish I could have. I thought about all the years past with you in them. Do you remember how we had the same routine for what seemed like forever? Every stinking Valentine's Day for the last thirty plus years, a ridiculously large box would arrive. It would be filled with more candy than a small nation could produce. Oh, and need I mention how everytime we added another kid or grandkid to our brood, the box would miraculously grow larger. It was Jesus with the fish and loaves all over again.

Then there was the same stupid phone call every year.

"Kelly, why did you send so much candy? We don't need all this candy, you idiot."

"Hey, nobody said it was for you, tubby."

Yeah, we really loved each other. Anyone listening could tell, right? I waited all day for that box to show up. I cried when it didn't. I got angry at you for being dead. I mean, at least you could have anticipated being my dead sister and set up Valentine's day boxes to arrive like clockwork for the next thirty years. That way I could keep pretending you aren't gone. But you are gone, aren't you?

I drove home from work today and thought about your laugh. I thought about how I could make you laugh so hard you held your nose and threw your head to one side. I laugh the same way when I think something is really funny. Did you ever notice that about me? I think I just realized it.

You would be so proud of Bob. He did everything possible to make today special for me. I know he is trying so hard to help me feel better but I catch him crying a lot lately. You broke his heart too, ya know. You were the only one that called him Boobala. Who will call him that now? That meant something to him. Do you think I will pick up where you left off? Well, I wont! I can't even say Boobala without crying. I mean, seriously Kel, what kind of legacy have you left us? Crying over missed Valentines and stupid nicknames.

I called David tonight on my drive home. Remember how I called you most nights driving home? I so desperately wanted to dial your cell phone, hear your voice and really allow myself to feel the misery I 've shoved deep down in my gut. But I was afraid David would answer and be upset that his lunatic sister-in-law is trying to contact her dead sister by cell phone. So, I just called David instead.

"Happy Valentine's Day David. This sucks!"

"Yeah, it really does."

Then, believe it or not we went on to have a really nice conversation. One I am not going to tell you about because you are dead and I am mad at you. But it was good and you would have wanted to be there for it.

Please don't be dead much longer. This is not working for me.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

There Once Was A Girl

Hey Kel,

You died one week ago today. One week. How can this be when it feels like only seconds have passed? I gave your eulogy. I said something funny and made people laugh just like you asked me too. Do you have any idea how hard that was? I think you probably do. It was you getting the last laugh on me, wasn’t it? It took me days to write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. I finally deleted the whole damn thing the night before your funeral and went to Cayucos Tavern at midnight. I drank way too much and sang Rolling Stones songs way too loud. Can you believe that? Me, getting soused until 2a.m. and making a fool of myself in public. How unlike me, right?  The next morning, I sat in bed and wrote, bawling my head off the entire time. Did you hear me yelling at you? How could you be so selfish and leave me? How could I be so selfish and want you to stay?

Anyway, here it is. I mean, just in case you missed it.

The first time I met Kelly, she was 10 days old and I was 1100 days old and Char was just old. My mom came home from the hospital carrying this pink blanket that she laid on her bed and I thought surely I was finally getting that monkey I wanted. I remember lying on my parent’s bed, disappointed for a moment that she wasn’t a monkey but kissing Kelly’s forehead again and again, smelling the sweetness of her skin. She smelled like sugar cookies to me.


I loved my baby sister. We had the best times together. Like the first time our mom left us home alone and Kelly and I decided to build a fort in the living room. The living room we weren’t allowed to play in because it was reserved for company. The living room with the brand new Mediterranean, putrid green furniture. The living room with the giant naked angel lamp. Yeah, that living room. As soon as our mother’s car was half way out the drive, Kel and I ran to the garage and got a can of my dad’s infamous twist and tie. Back in the house we strung that miraculous twirly green wired string from the giant bulbous putrid green Mediterranean lamp on one side of the room all the way over to the giant naked angel lamp on the other side of the room. Then off we ran to our bedroom, grabbed our bedspreads off our beds and flew to the living room squealing with anticipation. This was gonna be freakin awesome. As we flung our bedspreads over the twist and tie, the two lamps hurled themselves at us at something like a million miles an hour. I’m pretty sure I heard the angel screaming.


As teenagers, Kelly and I went different directions. My life goal was to get married and quickly over-populate the world. Kelly’s goal was to rule the world. She started at KFC and ended up in one of Corporate America’s corner offices. It was downright freaky watching her morph into our dad, Charles Casas.  I mean she had the business suits, the Cadillac and minions. I remember her boss buying her a black leather jacket one Christmas. It was beautiful. I especially liked the writing on the back of it: The Wicked Witch. It’s what I had called Kelly for years. I felt jealous many a day at her life. I still didn’t have a monkey and she had flying monkeys. The truth was, those monkeys loved her. I think a lot of them idolized her. She deserved everything she achieved. She did it the old fashioned way. She earned it.


As adults, Kelly and I drifted apart for a minute. We didn’t understand each other very well. Then the first brain tumor happened and nothing else mattered. Our differences didn’t matter, our life choices didn’t matter, our faith or lack thereof didn’t matter. Only one thing mattered. We were in it to win it. Together. Kelly and every single person she loved and who loved her. We were in it to win it.


For years I wrote about Kelly’s journey. Some people were amused. Some people were offended. I was told more than once that I was inappropriate, disrespectful and rude. I made fun of my dying sister’s circumstances. She was the butt of my jokes. I posted pictures of her with really bad hospital hair. I put our private conversations out there for the world to read. There was only one reader I ever wrote for though. Kelly. She told me from the beginning I was not allowed to cry. Too many people were crying over her life and it made her sad. She asked me to write about her life. She told me I had to be funny. The best days ever for me were hearing Kelly laugh. That and hearing her call me a moron. Moron meant I had hit a home run for her. Like not that long ago, she was really sad. And she was worried about me. She asked me where I saw myself in ten years if I didn’t make some changes.


“Well, Kel, ten years from now I believe I will be in the poor house, jail or a convent. It’s hard to decide which way to go.”


That got a “moron” from her.


Kelly’s last words to me were, “Say something funny.” She said it twice so I made fun of her hair. Yeah, right there in the hospital as my sister lay dying, I made fun of her. A few nights after Kelly was gone, I realized she was talking about today. She was worried about all of us. She wanted us to laugh.


In closing, I want to say thank you.


Thank you Theresa for being the one Kelly would save if we were all on a sinking ship with only two life vests. We love you.


Thank you Rachel for loving and caring for my little sister through thick and thin and I am not talking about her weight fluctuations. We love you.


Thank you Cher. Thank you. For cooking. For cleaning. For yelling at Kelly to get off her ass and walk. For laughing with me until we cried and crying until we laughed. For sleeping with Kelly when she was afraid and sleeping with me when my heart was broken. Thank God for women like you that sleep around. You’re an angel and I love you.


Thank you Char and Debi, for still being alive. I love you both. Char, I promise to let you put makeup on me and do my hair. You can even take me shopping now and then. I promise to pretend I like it. Deb, I promise to call you and talk about Char behind her back like little sisters do. We can laugh and giggle at how old she is. It’ll be fun. I promise.


To Kelly’s minions, past and present. Thank you for loving her, encouraging her, writing and emailing. Calling and visiting. Thank you to “her girls”. Karen, Gina, Denise, Nicole, Pam and all the rest of y’all for all the weekends. She dreaded you seeing her before you got there and then did nothing but talk about what a great time she had with you. How much you did for her, physically, spiritually and emotionally.


To our family……there are just too many of us to name but I can honestly say, Kelly loved every single Walter/Casas family member. She loved you. 


And finally, David…..Thank you. I know it wasn’t easy. I know how hard she could be on you. I also know how much she loved you. I thought it was totally gross when she told me she was dating a tattooed biker. Then I got to know you. I still think you’re gross but not because you’re a tattooed biker, just because you’re a guy. We love you David. Remember…..we‘re still a part of your posse…..or gang…..or pack……or whatever it is you people call it.


So there it is. Did I do ok, Kel? I made people laugh. That’s what you wanted, right? I think that’s all I have to say to you for now. In truth, I am not speaking to you today. I am really angry with you. So is Char. That’s right, we are talking about you behind your back. Deal with it!