“This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.” Don McLean, Vincent (Starry Starry Night)
Tirzah Eve Samuels
15 October 1960 – 18 August 2014
I write this from a place of profound sadness, anger and incomprehension.
A life of huge potential, beauty, grace and kindness. A life of thieving, cheating, lying and addiction. Misunderstood and never loved enough by the people who really mattered to her. This was my sister Tirzah, or as she was affectionately known, T! Her name means ‘my delight’ and comes from The Book Of Numbers in the Torah.
Oh boy, how I envied her mane. Beautiful natural curls and a striking blonde/red! She diligently sculpted and painted her nails every night. The quintessence of poise when she went to work attired in a gorgeous tailored suit. She gave me a cast off once and how I treasured it and wore it till it got shiny. She was popular and well liked. Successful and conscientious at her job. She matured into a tall, beautiful woman, inside and out.
All the girls in our family turned out to be excellent cooks, each with their own particular style. Thanks Mom for passing on this talent. T loved chili and it went into everything, from toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches to her highly acclaimed Biryani.
She had the courage and wanderlust to hop onto a yacht one day and travel around the world to the most exotic destinations. For years we got snippets of news from islands that we had never heard of. She eventually settled in the states and one day we received a postcard to say that she had got married. That was T, free spirited and seemingly without a care in the world. Appearances can be deceiving and in T’s case so were her actions.
Growing up she was a tearful, sensitive child. Overshadowed by an older controlling sister. If ever such a thing as middle child syndrome existed, this was her. She never got the attention that she so desperately needed from our folks. I guess none of us did but it seemed to affect her a whole lot more. I am 5 years her junior and think I was wrapped up in my own existence to ever take much notice of her. Not until much later anyway. I sat on the fence and never took sides when I knew that she was treated unjustly, especially by the oldest and my Dad. I believe my brother did the same.
The world of addiction was waiting with open arms to embrace her and take her into its fold. It wanted her and she was an easy target. So began her lifelong struggle with alcohol and drugs. She was in her early twenties. It is a terribly long and slow way to commit suicide and in the end she succumbed. I cannot imagine the demons that she has lived with and fought against. Or perhaps she had not fought them at all but welcomed them into her life. After all, they accepted her and embraced her for what she was. I imagine that she must have felt at home with them. No need to look for approval, they certainly were proud of her.
She spent the better part of her life in rehab or some sort of shelter. She would float in and out of my life as the need dictated. A roof over her head for a while. Someone to unwittingly pay off her drug and booze debts. A shelter from where she could steal my clothes and jewellery to sell for her next fix. Always leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. She was like a hurricane. I enabled her addiction with my financial and moral support as I was not capable of tough love. Then one day when I could no longer take the deceit and betrayal that she beyond her rational control imposed on me, I closed the door and cast her out.
Tough love does not begin to describe this process that the professionals in the field of addiction advise the enabler to follow. Heart break, guilt and devastation may come closer.
When the call that I had subconsciously always been waiting for arrived, it felt far worse than I could have anticipated. I looked through the window of the doors of the ICU at her, lying in bed, machines keeping her alive, after her final overdose, with such a sense of hopelessness. But there was a beautiful yellow aura around her and she looked content and at peace. I knew then that she had finally been released from her demons and she was firmly in G-d’s hands.
As I stood by her side, my hand on her shoulder, I told her how much everyone loved her. I told her that I understood and forgave her for all the wrongs that she had done. I had a chuckle with her about the fact that even so close to the end, she had the knack of commanding an audience of adoring fans (Doctors and nurses). I invited G-d to join our conversation and he told me that he was ready for her but that he would take her when the time was right.
My sister was a good person. She touched so many lives and helped many with their own addictions. She never hesitated to unselfishly give of herself. As an Aunt to my son she was incredible. Watching the cartoon Animaniacs at least 25 times with him was never a big ask. During one of her stays with me, I remember coming home and she had dyed his hair green and they were playing Captain Planet. He loved her and I told her as much on that last day when I held her hand and chatted to her.
Charismatic, free-spirited, fun. T lived an incredibly rich life, she was surrounded by so many people who loved and cared for her. But as much as these amazing people did for her, I guess they could never take the place of her real family. They were the ones whose love and acceptance she strove to gain.
She never regained consciousness after she was admitted on that Saturday that she took things too far. She lasted for ten days on life support before her heart stopped. I was overwhelmed with sadness but relived that her struggle was finally over. The time was right, I had got to touch her and say goodbye!
I am left asking, did I do enough, should I have cared more, could I have done more? Was my love too tough or not tough enough? Why did my Mom, my brother, my son and I stand together at her death but not in her life?
I have not taken the time and trouble to read this piece over and over and correct my grammar and vocabulary as it has been an outpouring of my heart and I cannot see clearly through my tears. I do however know that I will read this time and time again. Seeking understanding and forgiveness, for what? I am not really sure!
She sent me this a few years back…
One is here, one lives there. One is a little taller than the other. Two different colours of hair, two different outlooks on life. Two very different views from their windows. Both have different tomorrows ahead. Each is unique in so many ways.
Each has her own story, with all the busy things going on in the present. Each has different work to do and different demands on the day. Each has a separate destination and a distinctly different path to get there. But….
For all things that might be different and unique about them….these two sisters will always share so much. They will always be the best of family and friends, entwined together, through all the days of their lives. Their love will always be very special; gentle and joyful when it can be, strong and giving when it needs to be, reminding them, no matter how different their stories turn out….
They share the incredibly precious gift of being SISTERS. And when you think of some of the best things this world has to offer, a blessing like that is really….what it’s all about.
Lots of love
I would like to thank all of the Doctors and Nurses at Port Shepstone ICU who took such good care of her. To Heather who once told me that she was in the business of helping people, not turning them away, thank you. To all of those who loved and embraced my sisters uniqueness, thank you! She will always be loved, never forgotten!