“And So It Begins” is a snapshot of what happened in a few hours that changed my life. What it doesn’t include are the details that, because they are missing, may raise a lot of questions such as, why didn’t Fairfax County Police notify our family of my sister’s death, for one. So here are some more details that I maybe should have added into “And So It Begins.” Again, this is from my point of view and from some information I gathered years after she died.
As always, let me know if you have questions. Or comments!
Preface to “And So It Begins”
In the days leading up to the discovery of my sister’s suicide, our mom knew something was not right. While Lisa was in Los Angeles, California, my parents and I were at our beach house on the Potomac River in Virginia. It was Memorial Day Weekend, and that’s where we always were on Memorial Day Weekend. Normally, Lisa would be there too, but she had recently moved back to the West Coast and was planning to come the next weekend for our cousins’ graduations, one in West Virginia and one in Tennessee. She and I had planned for her to fly East, then we would drive together to our cousins’ graduations. Road trips with Lisa were always fun, giggly, and chocolate-filled.
While at our little bungalow at the river, my mom was going around in a haze of subdued panic. I could sense it and it was driving me crazy. I tended to think my mom worried excessively, especially about Lisa. Her worries were validated soon enough, and as close as I was to my sister, I totally missed any signs, if there even were any. No, I spent the weekend disappointed about the rain keeping us from waterskiing and shopping with my friends.
On Saturday (or Sunday) of that Memorial Weekend, after mom had been calling and calling and calling Lisa’s apartment, our phone rang. I answered, and it was Lisa. Looking back now, it was similar to what had happened when I was ten and we were all at Nannie’s house for Spring Break, except for Lisa, who was still away at a nearby college. Like layers of events: on vacation, Lisa not there, she calls and soon my life is changed forever. Not for the best, either. But that is another story.
“Hello?” I answer the phone at the beach house, the phone that rarely rings.
“Hey Quaz, is mom around?” Lisa had given me the delightful nickname of “Quazi,” yes, like Quasimodo. And still I loved her fiercely with all my heart and soul.
“Oh, thank God, she’s driving me crazy worrying about you. Are you okay? What is she worrying about this time?”
“I don’t know.”
“So, I’ll see you next weekend, right? And you’re gonna drive with me?”
“Yep.” Boldfaced lie: she had already meticulously planned her suicide. She knew I wouldn’t see her again (alive, anyway).
“Good. I can’t wait to see you. It’s raining here, so we can’t go to the beach. Well, I’m getting ready to go into town with Kim and Jim. See you next weekend! I miss you and love you!”
And that was the last time I talked to her. I have the great fortune of my last words to her being “I love you.” After handing off the phone to mom, I proceeded to go shopping with my friends, and bought a shirt I thought Lisa would approve of. The weekend went on, rainy. Because of the weather, we left the beach a little earlier than usual on Monday and headed home to Fairfax. Monday evening–Memorial Day–Mom and I were highly restless, like dogs before an earthquake but without the barking. I called a couple friends to see if they wanted to hang out. No one was around, so Mom and I sat down to play poker, something we hadn’t done in years. It’s like we were waiting for something. Finally, one of my friends called, and I shot out of my chair to go hang out with him for a while. The mysterious tension in our house was tremendous and I had to get away. I feel a little like I abandoned my mom in all that tension, but I couldn’t take it much more, and I wasn’t really known for selflessness in those days. I eventually ended up at my boyfriend’s house, which was where I was when I got the 911 page from my parents around midnight. When I called them back, I remember asking about Gramaw, but all Dad said was, “Just come home.”
So home I went, and that is where “And So It Begins” begins. But there is more, of course. And here they are, details pieced together and collected over the years, as I understand them.
My sister, Lisa, set on suicide, told her friends in LA that she was going to San Diego for the weekend, and told her friends in San Diego that she was staying in LA for the weekend, so that would keep her friends from suspecting anything strange and looking for her. Again, mom had been calling all day Monday, worried about Lisa. When she had talked to Lisa the night before, she hadn’t been feeling well and didn’t want to talk (she suffered from a seizure disorder that had developed during her last few years). She told mom she’d call her the next day, and when the next day arrived, Lisa didn’t call and she didn’t answer the phone. Mom called Lisa’s friends and asked them to go check on her. * Renee, Jack, and Lindsey, Lisa’s friends in LA, started calling her apartment. Messages on her answering machine go something like this: “Lisa, we know you’re there. If you don’t answer, we’re going to ask your landlord to check on you and he’ll find out about Ashes,” (Ashes was her cat she wasn’t supposed to have in the apartment). The continued lack of response led them to Lisa’s apartment. The peephole on the door of her apartment was like a miniature door set in the door, and someone peeked through and saw that there was something very wrong with her apartment. There were piles of things arranged all around the living room: shrine-like piles left for those she loved, things like photographs, notes, and trinkets.
My sister’s friends got into the apartment. There, in her bedroom, they found her in her bed, bled out. She had cut open the major veins in her arms with a scalpel. (Which is why, to this day, scalpels send me into a panic, which is quite inconvenient when you’re having a Cesarean Section.)
This is where I am not too sure about the details, but I’m guessing her friends called the paramedics, who came with the police, and meanwhile, my mom, still worried about Lisa because she just knew something was wrong, finally got someone to answer Lisa’s phone, but not who she was hoping.
My mom said that when she phoned Lisa’s apartment, “a policewoman answered, said Lisa was dead.” Mom kept asking, “Is she alright, is she going to be alright?” To which the officer responded, “No she’s not going to be alright, she’s dead.”
Mom threw the phone and collapsed. Then dad picked up the phone and talked to the oh-so-sensitive-cop. I don’t know what their conversation was, if there even was one. I also spoke to a cop, which I wrote about in “And So It Begins.”
I think that covers the details I missed the first time around.
PS To the cop who told my mom “No she’s not going to be alright, she’s dead,” you handled that poorly and I hope wherever you are you know that you made a hurtful mistake in an already hurtful situation. When we got to LA mom tried to talk to the cops who had been at Lisa’s apartment, but they wouldn’t help her. I quote, “Went to the police station to try to find them at the fancy Beverly Hill Police Department. No help. No police report.” This was a super emotionally charged situation, but it seems to me that the Beverly Hills Police Department could have been a little more helpful. But maybe because Lisa wasn’t a celebrity…?