A Sister Never Forgets

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When I was nine years old, my brother Adam was murdered by someone who was supposed to be caring for him. His murder went unsolved and unprosecuted for 19 years. The man who killed Adam is now sitting behind bars but will be released soon.

A Sister Never Forgets

I filled the anniversary of Adam's murder with busy things so that I would not have to think about it so deeply. How does one mark the day when everything changed forever? It has taken me most of my life to see past the violent details of the day. Some say that an event is like a ripple of water that continues to expand in circles until it reaches the edge of the pond and then travels back in towards the center. The lines cross and re-cross each other until they settle and the pond resumes its mirrored surface. The circumstances of Adam's death touched me more like a tsunami. It ripped my childhood out of my arms forever. When the water receded the landscape revealed a family that had been scattered and broken. There was no mirrored surface. The lake was gone.

Adam's death defined me for so long. It's not like having my brother killed and all that followed was something that I had in common with any other child. I have struggled in adulthood to untangle my brother's memory from his death. I have struggled to remember his face. His belly laughs. I have tried to find ways that he has touched my life, other than the horrible circumstances of his death and the years of hurt that became a part of my identity.

I did not have a typical sibling bond with Adam, because nothing about Adam was typical. He was born with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. When most people saw him they thought he was much younger than his age because he was very tiny. At age six he was about 22 pounds. Adam was born with only one hand. The other hand ended at the elbow. He had long, thick eyelashes that constantly drew comments. His eyes were deep and intense. When he smiled the dimples would show. He only smiled for people he loved. Although labeled as "severely mentally retarded," Adam could play jokes. He could cleverly wrap his teachers and family around his finger without them realizing it until later. Once, when he didn't want to wear his hearing aids anymore, he managed to hide them in a toy at school for several days. How he managed to hide them-- when he had a hard time manipulating anything-- remains a mystery.

In a couple of weeks, I'm going to start nursing school. There are several reasons I want to be a nurse. I find myself at age 35 going back to school with that dream. I enjoy caring for people. I learned a lot in caring for my own daughter who has struggled with health problems from birth. I helped some friends through the births of their children and found that I was good at it. But before all that, there was Adam.

I saw him work for months to accomplish the milestones that most babies learn naturally. Other milestones he did not pass, but instead, he made up his own milestones and passed them. For example, one day he managed to slowly and painfully scoot combat-style (he could not crawl) down the hallway, into my bedroom. He got into my bucket of crayons that he had always eyed but was not allowed to play with because they were a choking hazard. He not only managed to dump them, but he ate several and left tooth marks on many more. He was discovered grinning and drooling in rainbow colors, extremely proud of himself.

I was not conscious of Adam's lessons when I was a child, but looking back now, I see the gifts that Adam left me. I never took for granted the fact that I could walk. I used to play with his wheelchair and try to steer it around the neighborhood (and ran it off more than a few curbs, tipping it and skinning my hands and knees). I realized how hurtful it was to stare at someone who was different-looking. I felt sad when people stared at Adam sitting in the baby seat in the shopping cart instead of smiling at him as they did with all the cute babies. Adam noticed the stares and it hurt him. Yes, even developmentally delayed people have feelings.

Adam taught me that anger comes from sadness and frustration. He felt that more than most kids his age. Most importantly, he taught me that it's necessary for healing to have someone to stay with you until the wave passes. No one should have to carry that burden alone.

When Adam laughed, he did not just giggle. He laughed with his entire being, sometimes until his eyes were wet with tears. When Adam laughed, we dropped everything and laughed with him.

Adam showed me how to listen to someone who is not able to talk. He could express more through body language than there are words to define in our spoken language. His teachers tried to teach him a bit of sign language to use with his one good hand but that was mostly for his caregivers to know if he was hungry or had a diaper to change. At home, we interpreted his needs through his emotions and our own intuitions.

Adam could appreciate the beauty that many of us can no longer see because our thoughts are so crowded. He loved windmills and wind chimes. He would scoot up under the Christmas tree and lie there watching the lights from a perspective that most of would not think of taking. One evening I crawled under there with him and we sat watching the stars twinkle in the sky of our own private universe.

Adam Benjamin Clark was my brother for six and a half years. But into that short life, he packed a lifetime of gifts for his big sister. His death defined my childhood, but his life defines my adulthood and how I see the world.

He will never be forgotten. Sisters never forget.

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24 Comment(s)

susanthomas1954

Specializes in Assessment coordinator. Has 35 years experience.

Thank you for sharing this.

Sara26

Specializes in kidney transplantation. Has 8 years experience.

Thank you for sharing this beauiful and sad story, i cried when i read it. I would recomend u a book i recently read, The corious incident of the dog in the night time, i forgotten the author, but its a funny book about a a boy who is autistic, it changed my prospetive to people who are diffrent, and how they are looking at us. I am a nurse and i lost my dearly father 5 years ago because of cancer, when i was 21 years old, and he was the one who tought me a lot of things, so i understand why you feel that way. Even though i dont believe in any kind of after death life, sometimes just for my soul i look at the sky and say hi to him and i feel happy again.

Remember him always, because he was something special:wink2:

Thank you for your story. It is brave for you to share this to us.

MsSocalRN

Specializes in Ortho/trauma acute care/med surg. Has 11 years experience.

Thank you so much for sharing this story. I wish you all the luck in the world with nursing school. You are the type of person the nursing profession needs. God bless

Dear sister AmericanChai, thank you for sharing this wonderful story. I have been fortunate enough to have my siblings grow old with me. In 1999, my sister was nearly killed by her ex-husband with a stun gun and plastic bag.

After 23 shocks, the stun gun failed, as my sister was begging, "Please God, let me see my girls one more time!" The criminal fled, and my sister was able to call police.

All of us have moments when we are more loveable than other times. My sister often exaggerated events and lied about occurrences. What was truth? What was fiction? Even though she was a liar, she was still my sister.

She told me that her ex was stalking her, but I thought it was a ploy to get attention. Then I remembered that I had seen his truck several blocks from her house. I think that was when my protective instincts took over.

The scumbag was convicted a year later, but appealed the decision and was released to house custody with an electronic monitoring device. With a court order, he was allowed to remove the device. That is when my sister told me that she thought the dirtbag was driving by her house and spying on her and the children.

During this time, my parents and sister got flowers with creepy letters that rambled on and on. The dirtbag had a partner. Now my parents were being harassed. This was just wrong. Something changed in my being.

On a Friday morning, my sister called me, fearful and upset. She had seen a specific van in her neighborhood frequently. The driver was the man who attacked her. He continued to stalk her. No one had seen this van but her.

My original reaction was to drive to the place where he lived. Then I really thought through my action, and found it too dangerous. I went home and shared my dilemma with my partner and his daughter. Early the next morning, Mark and I drove 40 miles to the remote home in the scrub brush. Mark and I each had a camera. His camera had a really long lens; we photographed a truck, a van and an automobile.

Twenty-four hours later, I enlarged the photo and read the license plate numbers. The truck was the same that was used to stalk my sister prior to the assault. The van matched the description that my sister provided. The other car was known to belong to the felon's family.

By this time, there was a Failure to Appear for felony sentencing. So my nieces' dad was just another escaped criminal.

The critical issue here is how I felt as a sister to my sister. I let her know that there was, in fact, a van in the possession of her stalker. The emotions that come up in me are so strong, even now. I feel protective and determined.

Weekly, she and my parents were in court for either the criminal trial or the civil child support suit. Her long-term connective tissue disorder flared. She lost her job. The electric shocks altered her nervous system. She married a jerk. She was circling the drain.

Since I am a nurse, I tried to decide how to help my sister. I could tell by the look in her eyes that she had given up. The first thing that I gave her was time. I worked 4 ten-hour days, to be off with her one full day a week. I helped her identify things that she could do to reclaim her self worth. She filed complaints to the Board of Medical Examiners and the State Bar. In each case, the Board conducted a full investigation of her charges.

What about the criminal? He is up for parole. The first time, we all got ready to write letters, then his parole was denied from the prison. This time, we are just going to ignore it. He has taken enough time and energy.

No more do I believe that strange and terrible things only happen to someone else. I think that is the fundamental change. For years I would cry and despair, but now I feel really angry. Once basic thresholds of personal safety are violated, a surviving sibling feels as vulnerable as the victim.

So, little nurseling AmericanChai, continue in our profession and use the skills to put things in place. You will enjoy the science that supports things that you have done naturally. Your life experiences will help you intuitively identify things to comfort the sick and fragile.

Sisters never forget.

indigo girl

Specializes in Too many to list.

Thank you for sharing with us how very special your brother was.

kristikkc

Specializes in ccu, med surg, ltc, home health. Has 4 years experience.

Thank you for telling us about your brother. I became a nurse in my late 20's. I learned before this when I worked in retail to pay attention to those with disabilities. I got several thank yous for going that extra step or two to make people feel welcome. The deaf customers liked me because I would take extra time with them, despite the fact that we could only communeicate thru writing

Chapis

Specializes in interested in NICU!!.

sorry for your loss, thank you for sharing your story and your brother's life with us, i am sure he was and still remains as someone special deep in your heart. good luck in nursing school-god bless.

oh and thanks to centexrn for sharing your story as well.

That was the most beautiful and touching story. For some reason, I feel your pain and your gratefulness to Adam. You are a very good writer. I just had to comment on your story. I wish you luck in your nursing endevours, and God Bless You!

Tiffany

Thank you for sharing your story. Adam is still touching and teaching people through you. Good Luck.

thanks alot:loveya::nurse: