My oldest sister, Kendra, was the jokester in the family. She always made everyone laugh. She was an Aries, a fire sign like me, and was naturally stubborn and bull-headed. But that wasn’t always a bad thing. She had a strong personality and a lively spirit. I never thought that I would have to be in this world without her, not for a long time. Yet her life was cut short.
Kendra had come up from around the Supply area at the end of 2016 to live in Durham with my mother, my younger sister, and I. She went back down on the Carolina coast when our lease ended around April of 2018. The coastal areas of North and South Carolina had been home to all of us years ago, but some of us found roots elsewhere. I went with her to the bus station that day. It would be the last time that I would speak to her in person.
A few weeks before Thanksgiving last year, she ended up in the hospital. She was still able to communicate with us through Facebook and over the phone. She had previously told us that she had some health issues, but I didn’t realize how bad it was. When my sister and I had talked to her on the phone once, she said “I think I have pneumonia.” She sounded calm when she said it, but I was shocked. Her breathing sounded slightly different, but she seemed fine otherwise. In fact, she was still making jokes.
On Wednesday, November 28th, I had just gotten home when my mother called me. Probably one of the worst phone calls I have ever received. “Kendra had two strokes, and she’s paralyzed on one side of her body.” I knew what my mother was saying, and I didn’t want to believe it. That Friday, my younger sister and I took a Greyhound bus to Wilmington, where Kendra was in the hospital. I had graduated from UNCW in 2015 and hadn’t been there in over two years. This was not how I imagined my trip back.
When we reached Kendra’s hospital room, our mother and some other family members were already there. Kendra was breathing on her own, yet she wasn’t alert. She could hear us but couldn’t talk, and only made slight noises when someone moved a part of her body. I never saw her like that before. I was asking God for a miracle. Those type of miracles when He swoops in during the midnight hour and turns things around. Yet I knew it was the end for her. Though I wanted to spend every possible second with her, I also wanted her to go fast. I didn’t want to see her suffer. Before 9:30 the next morning, on December 1st, she was gone. She was only 31 years old. I had never been around someone when they died until now. I felt numb more than anything. How could someone so close to me be gone forever?
We stayed in the room with her—my mother, my other three sisters, and I—until around 5:00 later that evening. It was a cold, rainy day. I remember looking out the window at the rain in that tenth-story hospital room, hugging my other sisters and crying. I held onto them, afraid that if I let them go, they would slip away from me like Kendra had. We each had our own personal moments with her as the hours went by. When it was time to go, none of us wanted to leave her behind, but we knew that she couldn’t come with us this time. My feet were heavy—as was my heart—as I walked out of the hospital.
A few months ago, I went to KFC where Kendra had worked. I hadn’t been there since before she died, and thought that I would be able to handle going in there. I was looking for her to be there and I cried. I try not to think about her or talk about her much, because it would be admitting that she’s gone. Sometimes, I can’t even bring myself to look at her pictures or touch any of her belongings. She had three children, who had been taken away from her. My heart aches for them, that they probably won’t know all of who she was. But I know Kendra is watching over them and over us.