The last text messages my sister Carly and I sent to each other were about the Golden Globes. For as long as I remember, we’d talked, texted, and commented on various awards ceremonies with the sole purpose of critiquing fashion. It was one of my favorite pastimes with her, as it usually brought about a great deal of laughter. In fact, the last text she sent me was literally, “hahahaha.”
Those texts were sent on Monday, January 7th. A week later, I would be in the critical care unit of my local hospital, watching my baby sister pass from this life.
It is incredibly bizarre to type those words. It’s even more bizarre to say them out loud. It’s as if Carly passed away seven years ago and also in the last 10 minutes.
My youngest sister’s full (legal) name was Carley Elizabeth Kintz. (She preferred the simpler spelling of Carly as soon as she was able to write legibly.) To be honest, I was always kind of jealous of her name. It had the smooth texture of a Jane Austen heroine, whereas my name often comes out sounding like you’ve got a mouth full of marbles.
Carly was slight of frame and large of heart. Her green eyes, long-lashed and worthy of every ode ever written to eye color, could pin you to your spot. They could twinkle in laughter and glitter with tears. The dimple in her left cheek only added to the impish charm of her face.
If she loved you, you had no fiercer friend or companion. If she didn’t, well, you knew it. She was wicked funny, with a gift for impersonations, mocking everyone around her mercilessly, and laughing at herself. Her mind was an endless maze of trivia and information. Frighteningly smart and a long memory made her a valuable asset in work and a terror as a sister. There were few blunders, mistakes or embarrassments that Carly forgot. As one friend said to me, for all her mockery, Carly was really good at teaching you how to laugh at yourself. How to not take yourself or your stupidity so seriously.
She had a heart for kids I appreciated but didn’t envy. Children loved her. Carly looked natural with her copper-purple-brown-whatever colored hair in a nest of a bun and a child resting on one popped-out hip. Her creativity and caring made her a favorite with parents at every daycare where she worked.
My sister Carly was so many bright and beautiful things. I could list the endless inside jokes created from our mutual love of The Beatles and boy bands. We loved musicals, Saved By the Bell, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and so much more as children. These movies and TV shows served as the basis for a language we created, shared between all three of us sisters and our mom.
I don’t want to deify my sister. For all of the light that burned in her, the darkness was just as brilliant. But it helps to remember the wonderful things about her as much as the hard, hurtful times.
You see, my sister was an alcoholic. And I’ve spent most of the last decade watching her spiral downward and claw upward against addiction. While that addiction ended up taking her from us, it’s only a part of who she was. And sometimes that’s what I’m most afraid of. That the memories of the last 8 years will eat up all the delight she brought to my life. That’s the battle I’m fighting now that she’s gone.
Sometime soon, I’ll share the details of how my sister passed from this life to the next. It is the most glorious, heartbreaking, hopeful story. It is a story only Jesus could write, filled with details bearing the print of His loving kindness. And I want you to know how she passed because her release into the arms of Jesus came at a pivotal time in her life. A moment, a decision, a resolution of sobriety and change.
But for now, I want you to see her sweet face. The gentle ski slope of her nose. The hint of mischief in her smile. I would ask you to consider all the things I’ve told you about her and to know this: the war we fight, even when it takes our life, is only a part of the story.