In the essay “Pictures,” I mention the things that my sister laid out, what Andrew and I called shrines. I didn’t go into detail about each shrine, partly because I forget what some of them contained. Mostly they were pictures of people she loved and things people had given her, or things she hadn’t given people yet. It wasn’t just for family; she left these shrines for friends and some of her friends’ children as well. She left one for our Nannie and our parents. Speaking of other friends, it was some of her friends who found her and I can’t imagine what that was like for them and I am sorry that happened to them, because I know it was traumatic for them–it had to have been.
In her apartment, there was an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts and I vividly remember Andrew turning to me and murmuring, “Wow, she was really smoking a lot at the end, huh?” Which she was, because although she occasionally smoked, she wasn’t really a smoker. I vividly remember mom packing up her bedroom as I laid on the bloody bed, wondering what we were going to do now that that sunshine had gone out of our lives.
I can imagine her, frantic, assembling all the piles of mementos dedicated to her loved ones, chain smoking, focused on this final project. What I won’t imagine is what came next, and that is when she picked up the scalpel and stole herself away from me.