my sister died

So I’ve known for a long time that I was going to write this post. In fact, I’ve tried to write it more than once and it ends up sitting in my drafts folder, and sooner or later it gets deleted or lost in the shuffle. Not because it is not important, but rather I’ve been trying to figure out how to share my story with you. After you read this, please don’t feel sorry for me. Ya, it was the suckiest event of my life, but I’ve also have some really awesome things happen as well. Because my sister died I became stronger. It’s made me appreciate life a whole lot more. It’s made me appreciate the people in my life. It’s made me act nicer towards others. It’s reminded me to stay in the moment because tomorrow it may be gone. This is my story.

my sister died suddenly

My sister and I were just like normal sisters. Some days we hated each other and some days we loved each other. We grew up in a really small town in Wisconsin and went to parochial school. It was a very simple childhood. Even though she never wanted to follow in my footsteps, she kinda did. She went to the same college as I, and shortly after graduation she too moved to Chicago. This is about the time we became friends again. We didn’t care for each other much during high school.

She majored in drama and shortly after moving to the city, she and some college buddies started at theatre company. See, it was difficult for unknown actors in a big city. This company was to be a place where college grads from her alma mater could get their feet wet while figuring out the city’s theatre scene. I saw many a play where I wanted to stick hot pokers in my eyes…but there were a few cute ones in the bunch as well. Besides, I didn’t go because I loved theatre, I attended because it supported her. I remember driving her home after one particularly awful play in which she turned to me and said, “Ya, I didn’t expect you to like this one. I’ll have to agree, it was really awful.” I pretty much berated her all the way home and told her she owed me 2 hours of life back for what she just put me through. It was painful.

About 8 years ago, she got engaged to this wonderful, funny dude whom my entire family adored. They had been dating since college and they finally said let’s do this. Shortly after, my boyfriend proposed to me and we started planning our weddings together. Some people might think that we would become battling brides, but we tried hard not to step on each others toes. We also had very different tastes, so that helped as well. She went dress shopping with me first and helped me talk mom into buying a dress that was WAAAAAAY out of my price range. She clenched the deal for me. She was having her dress made, but I went dress shopping with her to help her get an idea of what she wanted. It was to be simple with eyelet fabric, but everything we found was so heavy. I finally got her to try on a ball gown and OMG, it looked spectacular on her. She looked like this little 5 foot 2 princess…which, neither of us are really princess material, but that day, she looked stunning! I think that day she fell in love with organza.

It was about this time that we went to lunch together (which we tried to do once a week at least if our schedules allowed). I had just switched jobs and was working about 2 blocks away from her office in the Loop. It was nice to have a lunch buddy. One day, she chose this spa themed sandwich shop where everything had kale or wheat grass or quinoa and the water was infused with cucumbers or some sort of fancy fruit. We sat down and she said, “So, I’m going to have that heart surgery again.” I believe my exact response was, “Woah, why?”

Quick backstory, when she was like 4 years old, we were at one of those restaurants where they also put on a musical after dinner…must be where the drama thing started. And suddenly she yells, “My heart just stopped!!!” She started to cry. Not because she was in pain, but because she was really scared. My parents immediately got up, and we were on our way to the ER. This is where we learned that she had this tachycardia condition. After testing, doctors found scar tissue near the node in her heart that was causing a rapid heart beat. This condition caused her to have panic attacks and she had to go on a lot of expensive medication to control everything.

When she was in high school, one surgeon tried to zap it with a laser. He went in laparoscopically and found the tissue, zapped it, but it was too close to that node. He nicked it once and said if he damaged it any further she would have to wear a pace maker for the remainder of her life. The surgery failed.

So back to my lunch. I was sipping on cucumber water while she explained to me that she had found a new doctor in the city. One who told her that the laser surgery had come leaps and bounds from where it was years ago. This time they could go in with a cold laser and freeze the tissue; therefore avoiding any harm to the node. She was excited to go off of the meds. One because they caused weight gain (not that she was over weight, but it was difficult for her to lose pounds no matter what she ate or how often she exercised) and two because these meds caused birth defects. Now, if you remember, she was getting married. I’m not sure if kids were in the cards for her, but she thought prior to marriage would be the best time to move forward with this procedure. The main med that controlled the tachycardia was also discontinued. This was a huge concern. She had changed from name brand to generic, but what if that generic were to be discontinued as well. Then what?

About a month later, surgery day arrived. My mom had driven down to be along with her. The boy drove down from the burbs and we met her, her fiance Adam, and my mom at Eddie Bauer on Michigan Ave. She wanted to eat dinner at some Italian restaurant, but she didn’t make reservations. The boy was all irritated because he had already found parking once we found out we couldn’t get a table for hours, and I was bitching at her about who doesn’t make reservations and not being very nice at all. We finally stumble upon buca di beppo, got a table and ordered. I kept joking that this was her “last supper” because she couldn’t eat anything after midnight. Little did I know this really was the last meal we’d have together.

After dinner we parted ways. I woke up the next morning for work like I do everyday. My mom took a cab from Northwestern Hospital to the Loop to have lunch with me at Goodwins. I think she was itching to move around a bit. My sister was still in surgery, but Adam was with her. While we were standing in line he called my mom. She was out of surgery 3 hours earlier then expected. She was groggy but awake and feeling well. The surgery was a success. They had frozen that piece of scar tissue and she would now be med free. I think my mom told every worker behind the counter in the sandwich shop. They were all looking at us like we were nuts. While we sat at that little table munching on wrap sammies, we kept saying, wow, I can’t believe she is out of surgery already! Unbelievable! Now she can start her life! We were both so happy for her.

She stayed at Northwestern for EKGs and every test came back with positive results. She was allowed to return home at about 10PM. I remember calling my mom asking how she was doing and she said, “Well, I think she is a bit weepy. Mainly because she doesn’t have that feeling in her heart anymore. It’s gone.” It had to be such an unfamiliar feeling for her. I can’t even imagine. I think she was more or less, overjoyed.

Later, the following day, she came down with a fever. This was not good. She called her doctor who told her to keep an eye on it for the next 24 hours, and if it didn’t go away, she was to go straight to the emergency room. Well, it didn’t go away. She called me that Sunday evening and explained to me what was happening. They had admitted her. I remained quite calm on the phone but when I got off, I remember dropping to the floor and sitting on the bottom stair of our townhome. I was crying uncontrollably, sobbing, saying, “She is going to die. I just know it. I can feel it in my bones. My sister is going to die.” The boy was hugging me saying she was in the hospital, the safest place she could be. She was going to be just fine. All she had was a simple fever. I was overreacting.

She stayed there from Sunday evening to Thursday morning. They did an array of tests on her. Checked her for a blood infection. Everything. They found nothing. The fever had subsided. I texted with her a bit but received most of my info from my mom who had spoken to her. Everything was fine. She was resting. I kept telling myself that I should go over there and visit her. I had just given her a copy of CS Wedding, and we wanted to go through it together. Unfortunately, I was in one of the busiest times of my life with work. When I could get home, I left the city immediately to grab a train. I didn’t go see her. She was only a 5 minute cab ride away from me, and I was too busy. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for that.

Thursday afternoon I was in a meeting for a new business pitch. If we got this, it was going to be HUGE for the company I was working for. The meeting ended right before I needed to catch my train home. The message light was blinking on my phone. I quickly punched in the PIN for voicemail, and it was my sister. She sounded sooooo happy! She said, “I GET TO GO HOME! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! I GET TO GO HOME! They are releasing me now. The infection they thought was in my blood was just a cross over from the initial prick. It was nothing. Nothing is wrong with me! YEAH! I GET TO GO HOME! I love you. Talk to you later.” I know this verbatim because I think I listened to this message 739 times.

I was almost home to suburbia when Adam called me. He sounded scared. Panicked.
He said, “Where are you? I need you to come back down to the city immediately. Your sister is in ICU.”
Utterly confused, I said, “Dude, what are you talking about? She just left me a message saying she was getting released.”
He said, “No, she is in ICU. I don’t know what is going on. No one will tell me anything except she is being taken to X-Ray. She has a blood clot.”
I don’t understand. She said she was fine. All the tests came back fine??? My heart sunk.

Now, I’ve know people who have had blood clots before. I know they are nothing to mess with, but usually that means some heprin and observation. I guess when I think of a blood clot, I think like the size of a quarter, right? I panicked and got off my train immediately…2 stops too early. I called the boy and told him I need him to come get me and take me to the city. He kept asking me why I got off where I did, and I just kept saying, “I don’t know, I panicked! Just come get me! I need to get back downtown!” I called my 2 best friends. Kristin was the first to pick up. She told me how her older brother had one in his arm and not to worry.

5PM rush hour traffic in Chicago could not have been heavier that day. I think I could have crawled on my hands and knees faster. We inched towards the city and finally arrived at Northwestern Hospital. I looked up at the building and thought to myself, “Your sister is in there somewhere, and she is going to be okay.” I was told to go to the Galter Pavilion and check in at the front desk. They’d be expecting me and would escort me upstairs. That seemed weird, but then again, so did everything at this point. How would they know who I was, and why were they expecting me? Just how bad was this situation.

A very nice woman was there within seconds, introduced herself (which went in one ear and out the other) and said come with me. We went up the elevator. She explained my sister had a blood clot, and they had taken her to x-ray (this to me meant she was awake and coherent, right?). This woman was wearing purple scrubs and was talking a lot of doctor mumbo jumbo. I finally looked at her and said, “Okay. Well, it’s not like she’s going to die, is it?” She gave me a look of bewilderment like didn’t you just hear the words coming out of my mouth. Her face was grave. She just looked down and kinda shook her head. Apparently only the boy noticed that her name tag read “CHAPLAIN”.

She walked us into a little room (by the way, if you are ever unfortunate enough to be in such a situation, you NEVER want to be escorted to the little room…it’s a sucky room where you hear really sucky information). Adam was already there seated on a small sofa. He had his hands in his head and a young woman doctor was holding him, crying. All I could make out thru the sobbing was “I’m sorry. I’m so, so, so, so sorry! I didn’t know!” Little did I realize, this was the doctor who had been caring for her the last 4 days.

My sister’s surgeon had also just arrived, and he asked me to sit down. He rolled one of those low office doctor chairs over to face me and pushed up his sleeves. He looked right and me and started moving his lips, but couldn’t process anything. He kept saying, “Do you understand?” I nodded. I tried concentrating harder, but it was like I was having this out of body experience. He said something about signing documents for approvals of this and that. I nodded. The young woman doctor next to Adam was now crying harder. I stared at them, but suddenly remembered this surgeon sitting on front of me and his words began to sink in. He was holding his hands out like he was holding a large watermelon saying, “You’re sister had 2 massive, MASSIVE blood clots in her lungs. We gave her clot busters to destroy them. We are unsure of how long she was lying there. She was found blue and unresponsive. She was taken to x-ray to scan for more clots, but in the elevator she coded again and again. I’m terribly sorry. She is still alive and we are trying everything we can to save her. They are cleaning her up now and you can see her in a few minutes. You need to call your parents and ask them to come back down.”

I had just learned that my one and only sister had collapsed of a double pulmonary embolism. She was alone in her room with her discharge papers in her hands. They had said she was fine.

I didn’t even know where to begin. He left the room. I looked at the young woman doctor sitting next to Adam. She had finally stopped sobbing and was sitting on the sofa across from me, staring at me sheepishly. We were still in the little room. I was angry. I had no idea who she was and this sad little soul was going to be the recipient of my wrath right now, this very instance. “HOW DARE YOU!” I screamed. “How dare you be so rude when someone who has no clue as to what is happening to their sister acts the way you are acting! GET OUT! I don’t know who you are, but get the hell out of this room! NOW!”

It was me, the boy and Adam alone in the little room sitting in a giant mess. What were we going to do? My mom and dad were getting ready for a party back home. A party with their closest friends who all had kids who were my closest friends. Everyone was going to know within seconds. I had to call my parents and tell them their baby might die tonight. And that is exactly what I did. I kept apologizing, saying I was so sorry I had to tell them this news. This wasn’t suppose to happen.

The surgeon returned to the room. He said she was ready if we wanted to see her. I nodded, got up and suddenly had this overwhelming feeling of sickness. I asked for the nearest bathroom and thank god it was only around the corner. I got sick. I washed my hands 12 times because I didn’t want to get my little sister any sicker then she already was. Dumb, yes, but this is where my head was at. I splashed some water on my pale white face and gained whatever composure I could muster. I walked back out and said I was ready, walked around the curtain and there she was. I took a deep breath. She didn’t look like herself. I walked to her bedside. She was pale. Her face and her body were very puffy. She had a tube in her mouth and it was taped shut, but this tip of her tongue was sticking out. I wanted to push it back in. It looked dry. She had a tube in the side of her neck and a tiny speck of blood by her ear…I wondered why. I pushed the hair out of her face…it was so soft, but her face was very, very cold. Her eyes were shut. She was resting. She didn’t look like she was in pain.

There were so many tubes running to various beeping machinery, bags of fluid, under her blanket and into her body. A nurse was placing this weird mylar blanket under her hospital blankets. I peeked underneath. I don’t know who was standing next to me or what happened next. I know I told her she needed to pull through all of this, and if anyone was strong enough to do it, it was her. I carefully held her hand as to not move any tubing or harm her. It was cold and lifeless. I’m not sure how long I stood there, but eventually I turned around. I had tears streaming down my face. There was a large team of people in white coats staring at me. I noticed blood on a few of them. I assumed them to be the ones who tried to save her. I looked at one with pleading eyes and quietly whispered, “Please, just fix her. She’s my only sister.”  They all stared at me while I walked back to the room. I turned the corner and put my head down. This was not good.

After I saw her I knew my parents had to get to the city immediately, but when I called, they hadn’t even left the house. I tried to convey the urgency…didn’t they understand how bad this was? This was no time to pick out outfits! Get in a car and start DRIVING! NOW! It wasn’t until afterwards that they told me they already knew she was going to die. In fact, they didn’t even think to rush. It was too late. They knew there was nothing they could do. I don’t know what went on in that house after I hung up the phone. Now that I have children of my own, I can’t even imagine. But it seemed like forever before they embarked on the longest 3 hour drive to Chicago.

We took turns standing by her bedside. I tried to give Adam space but didn’t want to leave her. I can remember sitting in a chair, Adam next to her holding her hand and 2 doctors walked in. They lifted an eyelid and shined a flashlight. They did it to the other side. They looked at each other and shook their heads. No one could tell us how long she was unresponsive. All we were told is that they found her. What does that even mean? They found her? A nurse changed one of the various bags of fluid dripping into my sister.

After what seemed like an eternity, mom and dad arrived. I watched them absorb the room, the bags, the tubes, their daughter. It was awful. I think by this time my brain had turned to auto pilot. I looked at them, hugged them, told them I was sorry, and said something trite about a parent not having to go through this with their daughter. You know those things that people say to each other in movies when trying to console? I could hear the woman in the room next to us yelling that she was in pain. A nurse changed another bag. I finally noticed a table set up near the bed. It must have had 30 bags of various fluids on it. As soon as one was filled, another was empty.

My phone started buzzing like crazy. People wanted to know what was happening. My friends, her friends, my parents friends. Did they make it yet? How was my sister? Any news? Both Kristin and Weslee called…my 2 best friends since childhood. They said they were coming down. I said no. It was a 3 hour long drive and they both had young children. Please don’t come down. There is nothing you can do. You have families you need to be with.

Now, I’m normally not a church going person, but I suddenly had this overwhelming urge to locate the hospital chapel. The boy went with me. It had this overwhelming beautiful room. Stain glass to the ceiling. I felt small as I sat in the wooden pew. We were alone. I prayed. I prayed hard. I prayed quietly. I prayed out loud. I asked God to take me instead. I explained to him that out of the 2 of us, she was the nicer one. She was the better person. I was the bitchy one. Take me…please God. Why is this happening to our family? Just let her be okay…please?

We went back to ICU. I tried to get some sleep in that small room. I laid down on the floor. A nurse handed me a pillow. I closed my eyes. Suddenly, over the speakers came a voice yelling, “Code blue! Code blue!” A team of doctors ran the opposite direction from my sister’s room. Not her, someone else, thank God, please be okay random person, go back to sleep. I lay there listening to my heart pound from the excitement that just happened and saw a red feather on the pillow. A big fluffy one like from a feather boa…it was bright spankin’ red. I thought it was weird and flicked it away…closed my eyes. It must have been about 4AM when I woke again. This time, a black feather was on my pillow. Again, I didn’t think much about it, got up and walked to her room. Around the corner I saw my dad holding her hand. He was humming, “It’s a Small World” to her.

See, they had taken us to Disneyland when we were small. My sister loved the “It’s a Small World” ride. I liked “Pirates of the Caribbean”. My parents split us up…me with my mom riding Pirates, my dad with my sister riding Small World. They said they must have taken us through 20 times that day. Over and over and over again. I started to help him sing. Tears were in his eyes.

The boy had driven back home to sleep since the little room was quite crowded. Upon his return, he walked into my sister’s room and told me how he just kept looking at all the cars sitting in traffic. Thousands of people sitting on the Kennedy driving to their mindless jobs, singing to random songs on the radio. None of them had any idea of the pain that was ripping our hearts apart. None of them knew the grave condition of my sister and the seriousness of our situation. Today was just like any other day. I still think of his comment to me as I sit in traffic. What if the person next to me is having this sort of day?

The night shift doctor walked into the room. He wanted to speak to the family. We were escorted to a much larger room this time. A conference room table in the center with an overhead projector and pull down screen. Okay, he has a plan. He knows how to fix this. But the projector was off. He started out by recapping everything we’d already known. He said, “This is not going to get any better. We have done everything we can. There are no signs of life…there have been no improvements. She is being kept alive by bags and machines. You need to decide how long you want to continue this process. Her organs have started to shut down.” The news did not come as a shock, but reality had set in. A decision needed to be made. The doctor looked at my dad. I’m not sure why, by my father referred the question to me.

I asked, “So there is no way she is going to wake up?”
He replied “No, I don’t think so.”
“If this was your sister, what would you do, knowing what you know?”
“I’d let her go. Even if she did wake up, this state of life would be unbearable. We do not know how long her brain was deprived of oxygen.”
“My decision is let her go, but only if everyone else agrees. If anyone disagrees, you will keep caring for her.”

We went around the table, one by one. Everyone agreed. It was time. They said once they removed everything, they were unsure how long the process of complete organ shut down would take. We knew that they had a group analyze her body since she was an organ donor. At least something of hers could live on. Help someone else out, but nothing could be saved. Every organ, even her eyes, were too damaged by the trauma she had suffered. It solidified our decision.

We waited for her to pass. Kristin and Weslee, my 2 best friends since childhood, drove the 3 hours down to Chicago to be with me. To support me in this shitty situation. They didn’t listen to me when I asked them to stay home. I was glad they didn’t. When the time finally came, we were called into her room. We all held hands and the Chaplains (they same from the day before and a new one) said some kind words and a few prayers. They stated time of death. We said one last goodbye and that was it. One last breath and Adam holding her hand, she was gone.

The boy drove me home from the hospital. I felt guilty for being somewhat relieved that part was over. I knew I had a long road of pain ahead of me, but the unknown was now very much reality. On the Kennedy in front of IKEA my phone started to buzz and a white feather danced in front of my face. The air conditioning blowing it around and around. I tried to catch it, but couldn’t. I put that call to voicemail. I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

I relived that night over and over. I had seen too much and that vision of her lying in her hospital bed with that tiny speck of blood on her ear was engrained in my head. I didn’t sleep for months. I just lay there wide awake because if I closed my eyes, I could see her…lying there…helpless. I was guilt ridden for not visiting her one last time. How could I have been too busy? Really? Too busy?

I’ve only had one dream that I can remember where she appeared to me. It was vivid. The most vivid dream I’ve ever had. It was short. I woke up immediately afterwards. She was helped into a room by someone else I knew; her arm slung over their shoulder. I was sitting on a sofa, and she stood in front of me. She had beams of light radiating from her body. I squinted. It was almost so bright I could hardly look at her…like trying to stare into the sky on a sunny day. I hugged her hard and asked her why she left me. Why did she go? She smiled and said, “I had to. I did it for you.” I told her I didn’t understand, but she said she had to say goodbye. She was helped out of the home I was sitting in. That was the first and only time she came to me. Every night I ask her to come back. If she has, I do not remember.

The person who phoned me in the car…well, he phoned me again shortly after I returned to work. It was a couple weeks after my sister passed. He had heard the news and told me about his dad’s passing. He said, “My sister would find feathers lying about the house. She kept them in a jar on her mantle.” To this day, I still find white feathers. Sometimes they are stuck to my son’s pajamas or in my daughter’s hair when they wake. The boy vacuumed the entire house and found one on top of the vacuum cleaner after he turned around. I find them on the train. On my walk to the station. In my car. If you’ve noticed my logo, you’ll see it. It maybe just coincidence, but these little white feathers give me comfort. Knowing she is all around me. Every day, every minute of my life.



  1. Megan August 28, 2014

    You are so strong to write this. Very well written. Immediately texted my only sister to tell her how much I love her. Thank you for sharing.

    • kyla August 28, 2014

      Thanks Megan. It was cathartic.

  2. Grace August 28, 2014

    Kyla, that was such an amazing and beautiful post. I am heartbroken for you and your family. No parent should ever lose their child. Sisters hold such a special place and as sisters, we should never be without our cohort in life. For all of that, I am deeply sorry.

    I love hearing the story behind the feather in your logo. We have a similar special place for butterflies in our family. When my grandfather died after his battle with cancer, we spread his ashes at his request in the lake where his home was. As we did, a butterfly landed on the deck of the boat and stayed with us the whole way home. After that, butterflies came to us in important life moments, weddings, births…it is always a beautiful reminder of a beautiful soul. I love that your sister has given you that same gift. You are a wonderful sister, now and forever…

    • kyla August 28, 2014

      Thanks Grace, that means a lot. I love that you have butterflies! I really truly believe that there is something to it.

  3. Melinda August 28, 2014

    Today is the 2nd anniversary of the day I learned my father passed away. I have since found two blank postcards from Yosemite and I had one very vivid dream a month after his passing. I so understand the starting and stopping.

    Telling your story takes a lot of strength and calm awareness and we both know those feelings can’t be made present on demand. I shared a very brief (2 sentence) sentiment with my social network today and even that was harder than it might seem.

    My little sister and I are now both engaged and planning two very different weddings. She’s the eyelet dress type, too.

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story. I sometimes believe we only truly heal when the people stuck beside us in traffic can also know our pain.

    • kyla August 28, 2014

      Melinda, Thank you so much for stopping by my page and reading my story. I’m so sorry about your father, and thank you for sharing your story of postcards. Reading these comments and reading the emails that have been streaming into my inbox are just amazing. It makes me really believe that my feathers aren’t just feathers. AND I’m completely floored about your sister and her dress. I think there was definitely some reason why you found me today. I hope you come back. -kyla

      • Melinda August 28, 2014

        I can’t help but agree that I must have found you today for a reason. I honestly don’t even know what click led me to you. I connected so quickly to your story, especially given the circumstances, and I’m so glad I did. Of course, I’ll be back. ❤️

  4. Stacey Costello August 28, 2014

    Your story is tragic beyond words. It’s such a shame that her life was taken from her so early. Your story is beautifully written and she lives on in you. She is your angel and watches out for you, I truly believe in that. I will pray that she comes to you soon in a dream as I know how comforting that can be. God bless you. XO

    • kyla August 28, 2014

      Thanks Stacey.

  5. Brandy Lea August 28, 2014

    Hi Kyla-
    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and personal post. You are truly a strong and amazing gal for sharing your story.

    We have cardinals in our families. Cardinals (like penguins) have only one mate. Mark’s grandma passed away about 6 months before we found out we were pregnant with E. She and Mark’s grandpa were avid birders. When we found out we were finally pregnant- a female cardinal appeared–just singing away. We believe that she was letting us know that she was happy that we finally got pregnant and we truly believe that she somehow had hand in making that miracle happen. And each time Mark’s grandpa came to either of our houses–there was a female cardinal–but never a male. I think it is her way of checking in to make sure Grandpa was good.
    Sadly, we lost grandpa this past year….but do you know what we see now—a female and a male cardinal together. And those two cardinals are always together–and more times than not–they appear when E is in the backyard…I think both of them are checking in on him 🙂

    • kyla August 28, 2014

      I love your story about the cardinal! It’s stories like these that make you guys so special!

  6. […] my sister died […]

  7. Kelly Graff August 29, 2014

    Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

    • kyla August 29, 2014

      Thanks for reading Kelly.

  8. janet jackson September 2, 2014

    So beautifully told 78 years of age I question why was I saved from deaths door. 2 pe various clots in leg. & throat / saddle pe. 7 years on & I,m going OK . To lose one so young as your sister was just doesn’t, make sense of it all. I,m sure she is watching over you all the time & I will certainly say aprayer for you boh tonight. Thank you for sharing your story with our group. God bless. An aAussie friend. Jan jackson

  9. laura irion September 2, 2014

    sweet kyla. it was brave of you to share this, and i’ve been reading it and re-reading it with a heavy heart. i’m so very sorry that you lost your precious sister. its not fair. my sympathy and prayers are with you and your family. p.s. i’ve seen a ton of feathers since reading this post…i’ll probably always think of you when i do from now on. with love, laura

  10. AnnMarie October 4, 2014

    Ky-Ky, that was beautiful & heartwrenching & I love you. So proud of you. ♡ Annie

    • kyla October 4, 2014

      Awe Annie, Thank you darlin’.

  11. Melissa Lane October 9, 2014

    Oh Kyla, my face is wet with tears. I feel mad, sad, and powerless. I’m so sorry this happened to you, that it happened at all. I’m glad you wrote this and I’m glad I got a glimpse into what you went through. I hope it was empowering and cathartic and gave you a measure of solace. You are brave for doing it. But I already knew you were a badass. Sending, big, huge, awkwardly long hugs. Love, Melissa

    • kyla October 9, 2014

      Sweet Melissa, I’d take an awkwardly long hug from you any day girl! I miss you so much. Well, now hopefully you will understand why I was in kind of a funk before you moved. You would ask me to do all these cool things with you and I’d flake every single time. I sorta went into hiding for a few years…and sadly you’ve moved away from me now. Boo! Girl, next time you are in town, give me a heads up to plan for someone to watch the kiddos and count me in! Lots of love my sweets! And thanks for stopping by my blog…sorry it made you tear up though =(

  12. katzies October 23, 2014

    I bumped into your website by way of Apartment Therapy. And then I got into this page.

    This part: “The boy had driven back home to sleep since the little room was quite crowded. Upon his return, he walked into my sister’s room and told me how he just kept looking at all the cars sitting in traffic. Thousands of people sitting on the Kennedy driving to their mindless jobs, singing to random songs on the radio. None of them had any idea of the pain that was ripping our hearts apart. None of them knew the grave condition of my sister and the seriousness of our situation. Today was just like any other day.”..

    reminds me of a section in Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

    As her writing had, yours stopped me on my track. I cried.

    • kyla October 23, 2014

      Thank you for stopping by…I’m going to download this book and read it tonight. Sorry I made you cry.

  13. Iris October 27, 2014

    I’m so very sorry for your loss. She sounds like she was an amazing person. I believe everything happens for a reason, and how we deal with it makes us who we are. You have taken tragedy, and turned it into a positive growth experience. I just wanted to share a little experience that was similar to yours. After my great grandmother died, she raised me as her own, I would have dreams for years where she would “visit”, and at the end if each dream, she would say, “I have to go now.” I have always believed she has actually visited me, and after reading your story, I have no doubt that your sister really did visit you. Also, the feather signs are such a wonderful thing to experience. My husbands grandparents both died within a month of each other, and at each of their funerals, butterflies danced around the burial sight. It was an amazing sight. Well, that’s what I wanted to share. I hope you don’t think I’m crazy for it all. Please take care, and continue to live with the message of thoughtfulness, and kindness, that your sister has given you.

    • kyla October 27, 2014

      Thanks for stopping by Iris. And I don’t think you’re crazy at all. I think it’s quite comforting to know that others have had similar experiences and actually makes me feel not so crazy =)

  14. Katie October 27, 2014

    Absolutely beautiful, Kyla.

    • kyla October 27, 2014

      Thanks Katie.

  15. C.Lem (creativeclementine) October 28, 2014

    I am so, so sorry for your loss! This is heartbreaking.

    A friend of mine passed away this summer after a similar situation— she had been discharged after a lengthy stay in hospital for heart issues. Within 24 hours she had collapsed at home in her kitchen and was gone. I wasn’t brave enough to share the details about the experience on my blog, only to complain about not feeling like I should. You can find that post here:

    I hope writing this post gave you at least a glimmer of closure. Thank you for opening up about it, instead of bottling it away.


    • kyla October 28, 2014

      Thank you so much for sharing your post with me. When I started this blog, I told myself I wanted to keep it real. That part of my life remolded me into who I am today. I’m not the same person I was 8 years ago. I’m not going to pretend that I am. And nobody’s life is all cookies and sunshine. So I figure why not let it all kinda hang out. I like that #humanblogger idea of yours. Keepin’ it real.

  16. Carmen November 20, 2014

    I am so sorry for your loss. What a heartbreaking story, and you managed to write it so beautifully. This reminds us that life is so fragile, and that we should always show our loved ones how much we love them. I hope that you get to experience more dreams with your dear sister! Blessings to you.

    • kyla November 20, 2014

      Thank you Carmen! And thank you for taking the time to reading her story. It means a lot to me that she is never forgotten.

      Also, I stopped over to your blog (which is incredibly beautiful by the way) and your photography is incredible!

  17. Emily @ Table + Hearth January 5, 2015

    I’ve been all around your site and somehow just clicked on this. I know that sick, dropping feeling and I got that again for you reading this post. My father passed away from a sudden heart attack two days after Christmas three years ago, without being there, and I have yet to deal with it, much less post about it. He was 8 hours away and I had chosen to take the Christmas Day shift so they were coming down to visit the following week. Mom called at 3am, I was at the airport at 5 and the husband got the second call as I was walking in to the terminal. I’ve often felt just the same as The Boy stated, being surrounded by a sea of normalcy on that day (for me, the gate, the airplane, and the drive home) wondering if a) anyone can tell what just happened to you, or b) is going through something also, and I still do it all the time…wondering if someone I see is on their way to something horrible. I’ve never heard someone talk about that and I’m glad someone else thinks like that too. You wrote this so beautifully with all the little details, it’s weird how those times remain so vivid. Maybe someday I can stop holding it all in and write that post out but in the meantime, thank you so much for sharing yours and I’m so happy to have found you and your site. Oh, and we have singing mockingbirds.

    • kyla January 6, 2015

      Oh Emily, I’m so sorry about your dad. Even though death and the grieving process can be traumatizing, I think a sudden death is a different feeling. It’s just so shocking. Maybe that is why it’s so vivid. No one should ever have to go thru that type of pain, but I guess at some point in our lives it’s inevitable. Thank you for your kind words. And I love that you have singing mockingbirds. It’s been really comforting to hear others tell me their “sign” and to know I’m not the only one out there who has one. I’m not really sure what drove me to write this post. It just kinda poured out of me and then I sat and stared at it for a while. Debating on whether or not I wanted to share it with the world. It’s a sucky story with a sucky ending. But the feedback I’ve received has been so nice. Other people with similar stories…knowing they aren’t alone. And that makes me feel good…because I know I’m not alone. For me, documenting my feelings felt good. I let go. I hope one day you can let go as well. Hugs my dear!

  18. Nicki @ T-shirt & Jeans January 8, 2015

    Kyla- I am SO sorry you and your family had to go through this! My heart just breaks for you. I lost one of my favorite friends to cancer, and that was really hard. I can’t imagine losing a sister! I really appreciate how you talked about how this experience gave you more compassion and appreciation for life, and I love your feathers. What a sweet reminder of your sister. I believe that our relationships endure beyond this life, and I’m sure your sister is close by. Hugs hugs hugs friend!

    • kyla January 12, 2015

      Thanks so much for your kind words Nicki. It was a sucky time that took a while to finally see light again. It was really dark and really awful, and man The Boy deserves a lot of credit for sticking by my side. He seriously needs a medal.

  19. Shannon Churchill January 13, 2015

    I know I’m way late to respond (just came across your site and I’m totally smitten), but what a moving and truly beautiful post. It literally gave me goosebumps and made me tear up, especially the part where you write about your dad holding your sister’s hand and singing, “It’s a small world after all.” What a tragic reminder of how precarious life really is. I’m in awe of your strength. The love you have for your sister is never-ending and you capture it perfectly with this piece. It’s such a beautiful tribute to your sister. Sending virtual hugs!

    • kyla January 14, 2015

      First, thank you for being smitten with my site. You are too kind and sweet. Second, thank you so much for reading my story. It truly means so much to me when someone comments on this page. It’s kinda like I know she will never be forgotten. Virtual hug back at cha!

  20. […] So This Happened […]

  21. Wow… Kyla, I admire you for being able to write down your feelings about your sister’s passing. What a moving, beautiful and heartbreaking post! I was all teared up, got this frog in my throat. I have been reading a few posts on your gorgeous blog for a while now, but never commented (don’t know why, actually, because your blog is so lovely!!) and today I just clicked on this post.
    That feeling you get when the world under your feet collapses, that same sad, sick feeling came up again when reading your post about your dear sister.
    My grandfather died February 9th, 1995. He passed after being a few weeks in a coma. I was only 15 and he just dropped me and my cousin off at school on January 18th. He got in a horrible car accident after crossing the street with a newspaper in his hands. The first car hit him, a second car drove over my grandfather and disappeared after a hit and run. I normally wasn’t allowed to visit him in ER, but I insisted. I am happy to have seen him one last time, but a little part of me wished I had never done it, because it wasn’t a pretty sight. And of course, time helps to fade out the bad memories, but I try to remember how he was when he was alive.
    He was one who always thought I was going to be the best creative person in the world, cheered me on when I was painting, drawing and writing. Because that’s what he loved doing as well. My dad always wanted me to study languages, my grandfather told me to always follow my heart. Now, 20 years after his passing, I finally got the chance to work as a freelance copywriter via friends who run a PR company. And I’m also working really hard on my blog to hopefully become that creative entrepreneur my grandfather had predicted me to be.
    Funnily enough only now am I spotting butterflies. Is it because just now am I following my heart, finally?? At the beginning of this year, when I just started my own business, I told my doctor I had all these changes coming up. And she said to me: butterflies are the symbol of change but are also the messengers of our loved ones who are supporting us… I truly believe that. Really everywhere lately I have been spotting butterflies. I take it as signs from up there.
    And I have only had two clear dreams of my grandfather, one 2 years after his death. I was with my very first boyfriend in my dream and there he was, knocking at my door. I very clearly realized in my dream that my grandfather had died a few years before, so I was shocked to find him at the door, knocking. He wanted to tell me something, he looked so pale and sad. He wanted to grab my arm and I yelled really loud, so loud my mother entered my room in the night and I woke up. After my dream of my granddad, I got his message. My boyfriend had someone else and I was the last to know… I also got another one, back in 2009 when I was traveling through California with my husband. I really believe my grandfather was telling me something.
    I really really love how you always find feathers wherever you go. Your sister is your guardian angel. She looks beautiful, just like you! Sending you lots of strength and a big hug.
    Inge x

  22. Megan October 5, 2015

    You are definitely a strong person for writing this. I lost my brother to his 6 month fight with cancer at the age of 31. I wrote about it too, more for myself than anyone else. It helped but I still want to scream every time I think about cancer or him or the anniversary of his death comes around (or holidays or his birthday…). He was my only sibling. I get this on so many levels and want to hug you. I’ve had a few dreams about my brother and they are super vivid, like you described. I had a feeling that he was going to visit me in a dream and within two weeks he did. My almost 2 year old son started saying my brother’s name over and over in my parents’ house recently but never knew him. We weren’t even talking about him so I feel that he’s watching over my kids. I hope so anyway.

  23. Nicole November 5, 2015

    Reading this made me cry. I am so sorry for your loss. My sister recently passed 7/23/15 and I am heart broken and angry. Ive lost all the women in my life and its heart wrenching. A differing kind of heartbreak. I wrote our story, maybe ill share it one day. I am too sad to see her spirit yet, I am very spiritual. The one thing I do know I have double the strength not to take shift from anyone. Her phot is in my IG account she looks like cookie from power blessings

    • kyla November 11, 2015

      Oh Nicole, I’m so sorry. I’ve gone back and forth on whether to take this post down. It was horrible at the time, but the story oddly helped a lot of people. Sometimes it’s just nice knowing you’re not the only one. Just knowing what you’re going through is normal is kinda comforting I guess. I think that’s why I keep it up. That pain never goes away, it just gets different. After a few months everyone goes about their normal everyday life, but you’re still reeling. I’m still reeling years later. Big hugs girl.

  24. Lilly November 12, 2015

    I’m so sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose my sister. Today marks one month since my aunt passed away.Her death is the hardest thing that has ever happened in my life. I’ve had a hard, sucky day thinking about her, crying and I finally have some quiet time and come across your blog. I’m loving it, so I decide to take a stroll, I’m reading, commenting and then I clicked on this post to see what happened and I couldn’t believe it. Here I am in tears again. I lost my aunt in the hospital, she was in life support and we had to make the decision to take her off life support and can’t forgive myself for not visiting her when she was awake. Everything happened so fast and I couldn’t believe what was happening. I miss her so much, She was like a second mother to me. I have tried to write about my aunts passing and I keep deleting it, maybe one day I will have the courage to share her story as you have shared your sisters. Thank you so much for sharing your story and making me cry even more.

  25. Marissa Huber-East April 13, 2016

    How did I not know this about you, we’re sisterless and brotherless big sisters – but always sisters. ALWAYS. I’m just sitting at my desk crying at the beauty of this sisterly love and rawness. BIg hugs and thank you for sharing. love, Marissa

  26. Kara November 21, 2016

    WOW! That is all I can say. I remember when she passed. It is hard to lose a sister and I still miss mine to this day however memories have become amazing. You had the gift of becoming her friend and what a special gift that was. Thanks for sharing this story.

    • kyla November 23, 2016

      I remember the note you wrote me after you heard the news. I’ll forever be thankful for all the support. Muah!

  27. Bashair February 22, 2017

    Haven’t cried for someone in a while ; maybe due to the fact that I live in two worlds, one being the Western -living the dream- type of reality while also living Oppression crimes and death, where we witness brutal murder of children under heavy masonry rubble back in the Middle East.

    A very sad experience expressed in words is more effective than the videos of the children crying under the rubble who have been rescued yet lost their whole families …

    I stumbled upon Your story, searching for your name so I can join your Pinterest Group Boards only to build an instant very strong tearful relation with your perception and reality Kyla.

    Life is only a Precious Temporary Test from where we are transitioned accordingly… Let’s put our hands together and do good things.

    With Love

    Written you an email from

  28. Olivia April 19, 2017

    I don’t know how many times I’ve been on your site, and not read this post. I cried all over again. Wonderful person. Hugs and love to you.

  29. Betty in Arlington July 2, 2017

    Memory eternal of your sister. May her soul rest in peace. You are brave to write this. Share it with others.

  30. Mary Lou January 5, 2018

    I found your blog today from your instagram post on wallpaper..I’ve followed you for a while on IG but never visited your blog until today and after reading your blog post about wallpaper I went to the ABOUT tab and read this.
    I can understand how difficult this must have been to live through and write about.
    The first Friday of January last year my Mom went off the drug that was controlling fluid on her lungs after 12 weeks in hospital and no prognosis for improvement for all her heart problems. They had the Palliative care specialist talk to us and Mom made the hard decision for us. She passed less than 48 hours later.
    So today is hard reliving it all. But this helped. Thank you for sharing a painful event so poignantly.
    Now your mention of the people all around you in traffic is haunting me. What a kinder world it would be for all of us if each of us could look around and be there for each other, especially the ones out there going through something like this. xo

    • kyla January 7, 2018

      I’m so sorry about your mom. It’s funny, I forget this post is hidden away here until someone comments. Although it’s a really sad part of my life, it makes me happy that in a weird way it helps others to know they aren’t alone in this grief. And yes, I’m have much more patience in traffic now…you never know what someone is going through. Much love and thank you for reading =)

  31. laura May 1, 2018

    what a gift you have in your sister. You were there for her and she is now there for you … with feathers along the journey. love, laura

  32. […] So This Happened […]

  33. […] So This Happened […]

  34. Andrea November 1, 2019

    I almost couldn’t finish reading this blog post. I can’t believe you have the strength to have written it. I really can’t. I’ll never forget this. I’m glad your sister visits you by feather. I’m grateful you have that and your memories. I’m so sorry.
    My little sister almost died this year. She’s now waiting for a heart transplant. Sending you warm thoughts and all my best.

    And I just noticed that this was posted on 08/28. My little sister’s birthday


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