Meredith’s Musings: Hope From A Holy Roller
article by Meredith McKinnie
(Continued From July’s Issue)
I saw my sister on Sunday for the first time in three months. I was anxious to see her progress, or if there was any. I was nervous for my mother, whose mental clarity depended on a positive result, and I was resentful of having to spend my day off at rehab. And frankly, I was mad we even had to go, because I still blame her. Don’t get me wrong; I wanted her to be doing well. But having decided to no longer let her decisions alter my life, cloud my judgment and warp my mind, my attitude had become distant, lackadaisical about the issue. I didn’t want to feel; it hurt too much before; I was numb. I’d had a three-month break from her, and it was like a breath of fresh, untainted by drugs, air. I should have missed her, but I didn’t. I had grieved my “sister” long ago. Only the addict remained.
The last time I was saw her, she had been writhing on the bed, coming down, full of hatred and bitterness and consumed with addiction, ego and self-pity, and she sickened me. It was a heated exchange. She threw my phone against the wall; it still bears the mark from the chocolate paint. I resent her more every time I pick up my phone. I feel the urge to throw it back at her, though she’s long been removed from that room. I find myself having arguments with her alone in my car; she’s not there to hear, but it doesn’t matter. I’m able to finish my thought, and I’m not looking into the eyes of a meth addict who doesn’t care. It feels as though she’s more likely to hear me, when she’s not there to dismiss me.
Pulling up to the house where she and thirty other addicts were staying, I was nervous. I knew I was going to feel today, one way or another, and I wasn’t sure I was ready. I stayed in the car initially when Mom and Dad went inside to prolong feeling. Her two-year -old daughter arrived with her estranged husband and ran to my window, full of excitement, the mirror opposite of my emotion. “Come on, Meredith, we going to see my mama at school,” she stammered. She was happy and anxious, and I was jealous and felt guilty. I should have been excited, too, but I wasn’t. I would fake it for the sake of a two- year-old, but I wasn’t.
But what I felt when I entered that door, holding a two-year-old’s tiny hand, was stillness and peace. It’s hard to explain. It just kind of washed over me, like a blanket, or a shield, not letting my negativity enter this place of healing. I smiled when I saw her. She was heavier, and her hair was graying at the root, and she wore no glasses and no makeup, but she beamed. She radiated with the same goodness and stillness and peace I had felt moments ago at the door. It was undeniable. She was different. I didn’t see an addict. For the first time in several years, I saw my sister.
I didn’t cry then, but I could have. My dad kept leaving the table during our chat to wipe his tears in the rays of sunshine beaming through the window; the pessimist in him didn’t expect this; it’s easier to avoid disappointment, when he doesn’t hope. My mom, the otherwise beacon of hope, was overcome with gratitude, her smile tattooed on her face. She was that happy. The two-year-old, the only oblivious one, was radiating in her little cosmos, all the people she loved on the planet in the same place, at the same time, without animosity, or tension, just smiles and laughter. This is what her world should be every day; and we all were witnessing both the guilt of that having not been a reality before, and the hope that it may be possible again.
It was a four hour visit, with the few short silences filled with the two-year-old’s laughter and questions and requests for her mother’s attention. She never let her mother out of her sight. She knew, like last time, before the day was over, we would leave, and her mom would be gone. And this perfect cosmos of today would be incomplete. But what she doesn’t know is that for the first time, the rest of us were beginning to feel hope. The person laughing and hugging us, and so grateful for our visit, showing benevolence and being overwhelmingly polite, whose eyes sparkled, she was ours. And over the few hours, we began to adjust to that realization. After the third time she responded to me with “yes, ma’am,” I looked at her funny. She chuckled and quickly apologized, claiming it was habit here. I laughed and said, “Please, I’m used to you telling me to go … myself. You can ‘yes, ma’am’ me all day.” And then I immediately felt guilt at using profanity in this place. It didn’t belong here. A word that usually makes me feel empowered in context or elicits a laugh was not worthy of these walls. She caught my eye and started to chuckle, and then we both realized my mistake, though the new polite girl just looked away, not quick to correct me as she used to. Like I said, she was different. She claimed she had been praying for us, individually. And though nothing generally miraculous has happened to me since she has been gone, I have had peace. I contributed this to her absence; perhaps it was her prayer.
She begged us to come to the service that evening where the girls would be singing and giving their testimonies. I was anxious to get home, to leave the addict. But this new girl, my sister, asked me to stay. None of us could disappoint this girl. She was too kind and almost childlike in her newfound spirituality, and like a child, we felt the need to protect her, in this case from disappointment, so we stayed. They marched into the choir loft in unison, all wearing white shirts, a quaint symbol of the newfound purity we were witnessing. I was sitting between Mom and Dad, the two-year-old taking two-minute spells in each of our laps. Now I don’t go to church as much anymore, but I was raised there. I know all the old hymns, and it does feel like “old home” to me when I do make an appearance, usually to appease my mother. But for lack of a better phrase, I felt the Spirit in this place. The tears I had been holding all day came pouring out of me. My dad, who hadn’t stopped sobbing all day, finally succumbed to the tissue I offered him, no longer trying to hide his emotion. My mother was performing her cry/smile, a face I know too well. I kept peering at her through my own tears, as my sister sang “I’ve Been Redeemed” in perfect harmony with the other girls, and I could see Mom’s gratitude, her silent prayer of appreciation. She had prayed for this; the addict had prayed through this, and now it was a prayer of thanks streaming down her face. My family deserved this moment; after years of heartache and disappointment, we earned this. We saw hope. We saw promise. We saw possibility. What had been a dark tunnel, now had a small light, and surprisingly, it was coming from the first row of that choir loft, in the last place any of us would have looked. It was coming from my sister. She was repeating that chorus, “I’ve been redeemed…I’ve been set free,” and I found it so fitting, because sitting there with my family, I felt we all had been redeemed. And for the first time in a long time, we felt free.