No one ever told me we can’t fix people—or I didn’t listen.
The words from Eowyn Ivey’s novel, The Snow Child, grasped all my feelings and threw them into the silence that occupied my heart.
“We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That’s where the adventure is. Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare. It’s all a mystery, and where we say any different, we’re just lying to ourselves.”
So often during the last months of my sister’s life, I was angry and resentful. Angry because I could not fix what was broken. Resentful that I was the one to pick Marti up, move her to be closer, wipe her, and help her lead an independent life as best she could.
She made her choices, but guilt and a deep unyielding depression plagued her. A sense of hopelessness held her tightly. She soothed it by numbing herself to the world around her.
I wanted her to return to the child, the young woman, full of laughter and love. I wanted her to laugh. I wanted her whole.
Life threw me into being her chauffeur, her accountant, her nurse, her companion. I didn’t choose this role. But, “life is always throwing us this way and that.”
What did I gain?
In the middle of my frustration and daily angst, I realized that there are things in life that are beyond our control. We cannot fix people.
I could not fix her liver disease. I could not fix her habit of cooking for 20 people and giving it all away. I could not fix her fear of telling me the truth.
I couldn’t fix the broken places that cut into her being and left her withered and alone. All I could do is pick her up, drive her to the nearest dollar store, and tell her that in spite of it all, I still loved her.
I believed in her and the talent she buried in her pain.
It is all a mystery—life’s twists and turns, encounters, and unexpected opportunities. We are not meant to fix people, but we can be kind. Hopefully, I gave enough kindness to soften the edges of Marti’s last days.
In one of Jack Kerouac letters, his words remind me of what I can do:
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you’re already
in heaven now.
Note: I found this drawing by Marti and titled it ” The Road Home.”
Be kind. Be brave. Be you.
Photo: © Kathryn LeRoy