In some ways I think it would have been easier if Triona had a terminal illness. I would be able to answer “What happened to her?” easily and succinctly, without having to think “Where do I start?” I could simply say, “she died of a terminal illness ” and that would be that, the question answered, the questioner satisfied with the explanation, with the finality of it all, there are no loose ends in that response. Initially I used to say something along the lines of “she went into hospital and never came home” or “she died in hospital because it was the weekend” or “she was dying and the doctors didn’t realise until it was too late”. None of these are adequate though are they? They create more questions than answers, a simple enquiry can quickly end up feeling like you’re on trial, answering the probing questions of a dogged barrister. They all require elaboration or further explanation and that’s the incredibly painful part. Telling Triona’s death story is traumatic and utterly devastating, and it still feels like that 4 years later. As soon as you start to explain, the images you have worked so hard to block out start to replay in your mind and it can be really torturous.
I remember in the early days, when people were still calling to the house after the funeral, being absolutely amazed how my mother could tell “the story” on repeat at least 10 or 12 times a day. As I made tea and listened to her over and over again I remember being amazed at her strength but tormented too, really needing her to stop but knowing she couldn’t and I never asked. I now realise this was the start of her desperately trying to comprehend and process what had happened to her beautiful daughter. For me it was like being trapped in that hospital room watching my sister die over and over again. I really struggled with that then and I still do now.
It took me months, years in fact, to perfect my response to the “what happened question”. I figured out by elimination, not which answer hurt the least to say, but the answer my mind could cope with saying out loud. “She died of a bowel obstruction and the doctors had missed it”, it is still incredibly painful to say, but it prevents me reliving the horror of those last few months and days that Triona fought tooth and nail to survive. It allows me to get out of that room, that room where I promised my sister I wouldn’t let her die, but I did and that is still tremendously painful and it probably always will be.
It is a long, difficult and complex story what actually “happened” to Triona in that hospital, and I still struggle to understand it all to be honest, although I also accept I probably never will. What happened was, she died and we have lost the most wonderful, funny, kind, generous and cool sister, daughter, aunt and she lost all of us. I will write about it in full one day, when I am able, but today is not that day.
Thank you for reading!
Grief is love. 💜