Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Unforeseen Strength

Monday, February 20, 2012
Posted By: 
Julie Doyle McDermott

We welcome another guest blogger this week!  Julie Doyle McDermott, Wendy's sister, shares her thoughts on being part of the support system to a widowed person.  Thanks for your insight, Julie!

“Uh, are you sitting down?” I asked my sister.  “Good, because your baby is going to have a new cousin,” I blurted with excitement and disbelief.  I could hardly wait to shout these words to Wendy since we never thought we’d be pregnant at the same time.  After 3 kids ages 9, 8 and 5, my husband and I thought our time had passed.  But alas, we had been blessed again and how exciting to finally share the experience with my sister.  In the months following, we bonded over everything baby.  Talking about names, picking out clothes, fretting over our weight and comparing our bumps.  Little did we know the significance of our “bond”…it was merely the beginning of our journey…

Wendy has, at times, called me an “honorary widow”, not exactly a flattering moniker I know, but true in a sense.  I guess I’m the closest thing next to an actual widow since I’ve pretty much lived through it all with her.  Widow.  The first time I heard that word uttered from her mouth was the night Chris was admitted to the hospital.  We left him and drove to her house where we were immediately greeted by our mom.  Within minutes, a very pregnant Wendy collapsed on the ground sobbing for what seemed like forever.  When she composed herself slightly, she managed to choke out. “I’m going to be a widow!”  “What?” I thought.  We barely even knew what was wrong with Chris, yet she somehow knew what I couldn’t yet fathom. There was no way my mind had gone in that direction yet.  How was it possible she was actually wrapping her mind around this fact when mine was a complete blur?  A widow was an old lady, someone who lived a long and happy marriage.  A widow was NOT a woman 9 months pregnant who has a toddler to take care of.  A widow was NOT my sister.

In the foggy days that followed, there was rarely a moment spent away from Wendy.  Being hugely pregnant myself, we joked occasionally that we must be quite a site in the hospital waiting areas and tried to divert our attention by scoping out the nearest restrooms and restaurants.  I accompanied her to visit Chris and to her own doctor’s appointments.  We spent hours talking, crying, planning, searching for a cure.  It was during these times that I would watch her in complete amazement.  How was it that she was functioning, able to get up and shower each morning and face her unknown future when I was barely holding it together?  What confounded me the most were her requests to have me by her side.  Me? I mean, I’m her sister and all, but I make the most miserable pregnant person and quite frankly couldn’t relate at all to the crisis she was going through.  I didn’t know what the hell to do or say or if what I was saying or doing was even helping.  Yet, it was I she wanted beside her.  It was I she asked to make the phone calls, listening to the sobs on the other end.  I gathered everyone around Chris’s hospital bed and it was I who accompanied her to the funeral parlor to pick out a casket and to the mall to shop for her funeral outfit.  Eventually, it was I who delivered the eulogy written by his sister.

Immediately after Chris’ death and still 3 years later, I’ve had the honor (yes, I mean honor) of continuing this journey with my sister.   Within weeks, we had two brand new babies to love on, swapping feeding and sleeping tales.  At times, I felt as if I was invading someone else’s life, not the sister I’ve known all of mine.  I witnessed the rawness of loss as never before and tried my best to say the “right” things.  And honestly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  As much as I hated what she was going through, I made it my mission to make things better for her.  To make her laugh, to tell her it was okay to cry or stay in bed all day.  All the while, family members kept thanking me and saying that I was being so strong for Wendy.  In reality, it was she who taught me how to be strong for her.  In the end, I guess it didn’t really matter at all what I was saying or doing, just that I was there.  The one she wanted, the one she needed…her sister.


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