I just realized that I never explained the reason why the song “My Sister, My Friend” makes me cry.
On May 31st, 2011 I stood around a hospital bed in the ICU of the University of Alabama – Birmingham Hospital with my parents, my brothers and their wives and my Aunt Carla. Lying upon that bed was my 23-year-old sister. Thomas was not able to join me at that moment (due to work) and Natalie was in the care of my mom’s best friends in the waiting room. We were all there to say goodbye. Amber-Marie “Sunshine” Tucker breathed her last breath after 10am CST. Her passing was quick and unexpected. She was born with serious heart defects that should have caused her to pass away before or soon after birth. Instead she surpassed everything the doctors said she would never do. She lived a full life and was studying for her MBA in the months before her death. Infections were always a concern because of her weakened heart and in April she was hospitalized with an unknown blood infection that was traced to her heart. She underwent a month of at home IV antibiotic treatments to hopefully completely eliminate the infection.
The beginning of May I was at church on a Sunday when my Sunday School teacher referenced Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” It immediately jumped out at me. I remember thinking, “Are you trying to tell me something God?” After class I went on to choir and our song for the day was written around that exact same verse. This time ALL the alarm bells started to go off. I was worried. I begged God to not let us go through anything with our daughter’s health again. I was afraid that DCF was going to show up and we would go through that nightmare all over again. I knew it wasn’t healthy to worry so I tried to just ignore my fears and go on. If something was going to happen I would just have to react when it happened.
A couple of weeks after that Sunday I got a call from my parents. My sister was back in the hospital, the infection had returned. A few days later I was told they were transferring her to Birmingham to be near her surgeons. We were told she was looking at the possibility of needing a heart replacement and the doctor initially talked about the possibility of another valve replacement (we had previously been told in years past that it would be impossible due to the difficult placement of her heart in her chest). I never seriously worried. I knew she was going to be extremely ill for a long time but there was never a doubt in my mind that she would not get better and continue her life and be around to fulfill her role as the ‘annoying little sister’ for the remainder of my life.
I got a call Sunday night, May 29th. She had been moved to the ICU her lungs were filling with fluid and she could barely breathe (this is a sign of heart failure). I received a phone call a few hours later that her heart had stopped and they were trying to get her on a bypass machine. A couple of more hours passed and I finally spoke with my dad about 1am. It was then I heard the entire story. It took them a long time to get her on the bypass machine, much longer than it should have. There was a serious possibility of brain damage due to the amount of time she went without oxygen and a heart beat. My parents and brother Jason and his wife Mary sat across from her in the ICU and watched the doctors and nurses frantically work on her. They had iced down her body in attempt to trick the brain into resetting itself. She was temporarily stable and they would make a decision the following afternoon as to the next steps in her care. Monday afternoon about 4pm EST I received another phone call. I was asked to come to Birmingham. I threw everything I needed for a funeral and several days away in my car, put my 3 year old in the back seat and myself being 6 months pregnant drove half the night on the back roads of Georgia and Alabama to get to my sister to say goodbye. Just after 10am we did and she left but not before I promised her that we would name her newest little niece in her honor…
Since that day I have lived with a guilt that I don’t think will ever completely go away. I was never the sister that I should have been to my baby sister. I kept waiting and looking forward to a day when we would FINALLY be on the same stage in life and could finally be able to better relate to one another. I was 5 years older and always 2 steps ahead of her it was hard to relate. I wish with all of my heart I could go back in time and appreciate her more and treat her differently than just my little sister. I wish we could have had the friendship that I am already praying that my daughters will eventually have with one another.
It is too late for me but I do not hesitate in telling others that they should be grateful that they still have their sisters/brothers (or whatever family member it is for them). It could be the other way so incredibly easy…