One of the best books I've ever read.
Even though I've never (thank GOD) had to deal with such a horrific loss, I could feel all their pain welling up, waxing and waning. How someone could write something so incredibly personal and with so much intensity and detail is amazing.
I could not put this book down. I was able to relate to the author in so many ways. I felt like I knew the family after reading this book. Highly recommended!!
Miya’s body was on our flight from Gunnison back to Detroit. That was comforting, yet, at the same time, because she was below us in the dark, cold and alone, it was terrible. That was always her worst fear.
I was eager to land in Detroit, pull into the garage at the Big House, open the back door and have the dogs bombard me, yelping and shaking their tushies—Rosie, Ellie and Gracie. When we pulled into the driveway, a handful of cars were there, even though it was 1 a.m. Everyone waiting for us to arrive. Part of me wanted them to be gone, to disappear, let us be. Part was grateful for the warmth and security in the house.
Journal Entry, November 17, 2007:
I barely slept last night—up from 1 a.m. on—working on her eulogy. The whole house has been prepared by friends—stocked with food, cleaned, etc. They’re so good to us.
All of Detroit knows. My phone has been ringing off the hook all morning. I don’t know if I’m ready to be home. Ready to be home alone. Not for the funeral. I know it’ll be huge. I just hope I can keep myself together while speaking.
I want my eulogy to be perfect for her, my best work. And, I feel like I nailed it this time.
After I walked into the house, I retreated to my bedroom upstairs. As terrified as I was of Miya popping out in the dark while in the hotel room in Gunnison, I was more terrified in the Big House. The long, poorly lit hallways, ample hiding spots behind every door and under every bed frame. I needed company. And definitely didn’t want to burden Mom or Dad with my needs that late. At 1:15 a.m. I called my best friend Lindsay and asked her to come over.
As I waited for her to arrive, I did anything I could to work on replacing that horrific image of Miya, which was replaying like a broken record over and over in my head. I hurried back downstairs into Mom’s closet and snagged the only copy of Miya and Matthew’s Wedding DVD on her shelf. Then, retracing my steps, hurrying and running from one shadow to the next, I returned to my bedroom. Not wanting it to get me.
Hunched over on my bed, I sat cross-legged, watching scenes of her wedding weekend flash across my computer’s screen. I wanted so badly to reach in and strangle Matt, but couldn’t. Not just because I physically couldn’t, but also couldn’t emotionally. I’d catch myself smiling, unable to replace my joyful emotions from seven months ago with my newly found three-day anger.
Watching clips of Matt tickle my sister with joy whenever he feigned a loving kiss or hug. Tricking her and me. Miya smiling and smiling. Looking so deeply into his eyes during a candid shot as Matt headed out for the bike ride the morning of their wedding and also as they danced alone on the dance floor. Another shot of Dad and Miya, dancing.
And then there it was. What hit me hardest: Miya and I outside our hotel rooms in the dusted parking lot of the Moab winery. Together, Miya in yoga clothes, me, wrapped in a towel, too lazy to throw clothes on after showering. As she tried to pick me up, cradling me sideways, I quickly slipped from her grip and laughed, while Miya shouted, “You’re too heavy!” Thinking I was still six years old and her little sister.
Freeze. Rewind. Replay. Freeze. Rewind. Replay. Again. And again. And again. Tears streaming down. It was the first time in days that time finally stood still.
Lindsay arrived in the middle of this screening. Sitting on the end of my bed, mainly speechless and quiet, with an occasional, “I’m so sorry, Sabrina.” Allowing me to unload my thoughts, as I gradually curled up smaller and smaller into a ball and passed out, Lauren snuggling next to me.
The next morning I joined Mom at the Sports Club to swim, and then at the trail to walk the dogs. We both needed release, and Mom needed me there as a safeguard. I should have stitched a sign to my shirt: “Don’t bother me, don’t speak to me, don’t even say you’re so sorry; nothing. Act like nothing is different.” We didn’t want pitying eyes following us from our lockers to the pool into the showers out the door to our car. The Jewish rumor mill already had released our family’s stats on Friday. So by Saturday all of Detroit knew. But it wasn’t real just yet. Gunnison felt like one bad nightmare. So I assumed, since I had only slept a total of six hours in the past three days and could easily be hallucinating, that I was still sleeping. Neither one of us was ready to be awakened.
Later that Saturday, Mom forced the funeral home cosmetician to unfix Miya. She wanted him to remove all the makeup caked onto her cheeks and smeared across her lips, which he had applied the day before so she was more “presentable.” Mom wanted her exposed, to broadcast what she did to herself. Not hide it and act as though we were ashamed of her. But only for a few minutes, in order to take a photograph. A photograph that Mom very well might have considered her most important work ever. Important, but also morbid and vengefully inspired. Miya, just as I saw her in Gunnison at the coroner’s, and just as Matthew saw her upon finding her hanging in their basement. Not candy-coated, as she would be for everyone else the next day, looking at her in the open casket at the funeral service.
There were only a few other things I imagined would be more horrifying than the sight of walking downstairs, finding your wife hanging, seeing the effects of such an act on her body, and having that memory and sight forever branded in your mind. Seeing your beloved sister dead on a coroner’s table with her tongue clenched between her lips was second to that.
People originally excused Matthew’s decision not to visit Miya’s body before she was flown to Detroit. Was his decision not to say goodbye because seeing her again would have been too painful? Or, was it maybe because he couldn’t look at her knowing that he drove her toward her suicide? That even though he might not have physically wrapped that rope around her neck, he definitely played a part in her decision?
Mom was not going to send him the photo within a week. No, she’d sit on it…for seven months, a year, five years. She didn’t know yet when the time would come, if at all. She just wanted it on file and available to her if and when everything did eventually dissipate, and Mom still wanted to capitalize on the opportunity, despite everyone (except me) being completely against such an action.
If she did decide to go through with it, she would send it, sealed in an envelope and addressed to Matthew, stamped with Miya’s personalized stamp of a photo of her in the yoga pose of upward dog, and signed, This is what you did to my daughter.