November 5, 1999, 13 years ago, my sister, Mandi, passed away at the young age of 33, from Multiple Sclerosis.
That nasty, so-far-incurable disease was not nice to her body. She was diagnosed at the age of 19 and struggled through a lot of those years, especially the last 2-3 years of her life. She has two beautiful girls, Ehryn (25) and Alysn (19), who are wonderful! It was hard for my family to watch what she was going through. A couple months before she died, her husband could no longer take care of her 24/7, so she spent those months in a care center. Kevin and I lived in Arizona at the time and it was hard to not be in Idaho to see her and help out my mom who spent every moment she could, while she wasn’t working, to be with her. She became sick with a fever and an infection that the doctors could not figure out. I was called and told she had anywhere from 2 weeks to a couple days to live. I then flew home to be with Mandi and my parents. When I arrived, Mandi was no longer even really response. She just laid in bed and had not been eating or drinking for a couple days. She could open her eyes when she was told I was there to see her. She died the day after I arrived. It is hard for me to think of her that way because I have so many better memories. That is what my mind is focused on today as I think of her. I will say though, that her passing and those moments were some of the most spiritual moments of my life as my whole family was there surrounded by her as she took her last breath. We were all cheering her on as she made her valiant run (We know she ran after so many years of not even being able to walk!) back into the arms of her loving Father in Heaven and other family who have already passed, like my grandmother (my mom’s mother) who died from MS at the age of 24 when my mom was only 2 years old.
Mandi was the first born of my parents on January 26, 1966. She set the precedence for being a cute baby that all four of my other siblings and I did a great job following. (Recently been looking back at some old photos, can you tell?) ;)
We were all chunky babies. Mandi was probably only 3 months old in this photo. Check out this next photo. Mandi’s daughter, Alysn, had a baby in July of this year. She named her Mandie. Here she is recently at about 4 months.
Mandi would have been so proud of her first grandchild! I am loving seeing baby Mandie grow in to such a cute, chubby baby and she definitely has some similarities to my sister, her grandmother. ;)
How cute is THIS picture of three little girls in the early 70’s. ;) Rockin’ that ‘do, Mandi. Funny, my second grade picture is the same hairdo. Thanks, Mom!
Mandi, Lara, and Katrina , 1972
Mandi got to spend 3 years with Mom and Dad before Lara came along and then me just a short year later. Yes, I like to say I was the best accident my parents ever had. haha I really just remember the normal few things about being very young, but it was the three of us until my brother Matt came along four years later. (My dad was so happy to finally have a boy!) Two years after Matt was born, Mark was born into our family. My little sister, Sara, completed our family four years later.
Just remembering little bits of things here and there from being really small is tough when you want to be able to remember more, especially after losing two of those siblings at such young ages. (Mandi and Lara were both 33 when they passed on just two years apart.) I remember silly things, like the three of us sharing a huge upstairs room together for a while when I was about 6. We’d often goof off as quietly as we could to not get caught after being put to bed. One time my mom yelled up the stairs, “Hey, cut it out up there.” My sister, Lara, said in a super quiet whisper, “We don’t have any paper or scissors.” Not sure how, but Mom said, “I heard that!”
Mandi was a wonderful pianist! (MS took that away from her the last 5-10 years of her life.) From the time of her early teens she could play just about anything. When I was about nine years old, we came up with a great skit that we put on for the family. Mandi would play the song, Fur Elise, by Beethoven. I came in the room with her, dressed with black tuxedo tail ready to do my part in our duet. While she was playing the song, I’d stand at the piano getting my things all ready for my part, opened a bag full papers, I think I put some lip gloss on, cracked my knuckles, getting ready for my big part in the duet—all in front of everyone while Mandi played, . I got out my music and sat it in front of me---one big note written near a giant treble clef. At the very end, I’d put my index finger high in the air and lower it down in a spiral to play the very last note. It was silly and funny and a great memory of Mandi and I together. That was our thing and our song. My mom recently found in some of Mandi’s things, my music for that song and I’ve had in my photo album one of the pictures that was taken during our performance. I believe we performed the song a time or two together in our teens for other “audiences”.
While not a very well taken picture, because it’s so old and taken on an old camera, it’s not the best, but such a fun photo to remember. I think we had our performance, then had a nice dinner with the family. You can see in the photo that the piano was RIGHT next to the dining room table. ;) Too bad, I think it must be the other side of the piano, when I was about 5, I carved my name really big (KATRINA SCOTT) into the side of the piano and blamed Lara for doing it. (She would have done something like that. But I specifically remember the actual carving. I might beat my kids if they do something like that to our piano! ;) And yes, my mother cut our hair herself. Thanks for the bowl cut, Mom! (ILY)
Mandi LOVED cats. Every inch of her walls were cat posters. She had stuffed cats and cat figurines and cat calendars—you name it, if it had anything to do with cats, she had it. We always had a number of pet cats as well. I loved cats, too. At the age of 16, out of nowhere, I became very allergic to cats. Guess my body had had enough of so many cats. I have always missed being able to be near cats. In the later years, when Mandi and I lived miles apart, whenever I’d see her, I’d always get an allergic reaction being around her. We’d joke that I was allergic to her when it was really just that she always had “cat” on her. From Mandi’s first cat, Blackie, who lived until she just wandered away and died somewhere, to her cat, Leigh, that she had when she died, and many in between, Mandi was a true crazy cat lady. ;) After her passing, my parents kept Leigh, and even though growing up my dad always disliked all our cats, he sure loved Leigh and let her be on his lap and even eat ice cream with them in its own bowlful! I think Leigh was almost a 20 year old cat when she died. I’m sure that was a great reunion for Mandi!
Another great memory with Mandi was sometime during the years that I was ages 7 to 11, Mandi would often sneak when my parents weren’t home or were in another part of the house and she’d have me help her make some chocolate chip cookie dough, just enough to fill a smaller bowl. We wouldn’t measure, just eyeball the ingredients. I can’t remember if she was smart enough to just leave out the raw egg, probably not. But we’d make the cookie dough and sneak down to this crawl space in the house we lived in in Broomfield, Colorado, which was accessible from our bedroom and we’d eat the cookie dough as fast as we could. Yes, I’m “blaming” Mandi for my love of cookie dough! ;)
Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good chocolate chip cookie, but give me some of the dough and I’m good, don’t even need a cookie after that.
I recall how cool Mandi was when I was only 12 and she was starting to date. Her boyfriend at the time came over in his convertible Volkswagen bug and Mandi was not embarrassed to let Lara and I go for a ride in his car with them.
One of the best memories I have with Mandi was when I was 13, in 1982. My favorite singer of all time (still to this day), Rick Springfield was coming to concert in Boise. Mandi got a ticket for me to go with her and a girlfriend of hers. (She had cat poster on her walls, I had Rick posters!)
Photo courtesy of genemyers.com
She was 17 and I love and am so grateful that she wasn’t embarrassed to take her little sister along to a rock concert. That was my first concert and it was amazing! I swear to this day that even though we were up in the nose-bleed seats somewhere, that Rick danced over to a spot where he was singing right to me. ;) After the concert, she bought me a tour t-shirt. I wore that shirt for as long as it would fit me. Wish I still had it!
The early summer before I went in to eighth grade—8th grade, probably the most fragile time in a young girls life, I was having a fit about my hair one morning. I’m not even sure if 7th grade had ended yet because I have pictures of me at one of Mandi’s school functions with my new, funky ‘do. But I got mad about my bangs that morning, so Lara grabbed the scissors and said, “I’ll fix them.” And she cut them crooked. Mandi grabbed the scissors from her and exclaimed, “I’ll fix them!” And she cut my bangs crooked and much too short. Pretty mad by then, I grabbed the scissors and shouted, “I’ll fix them!” and I cut my bangs to almost nothing. What the heck was I thinking? I looked like the biggest dork. Had to go get a super short pixie cut and live with almost no bangs for a couple months. (NO photos will be posted for this one!)
Somewhere in all our years together, Mandi got me hooked on Vaseline. She loved it and always had some on her lips. To this day, I do, too. Found the CUTEST little container of Vaseline a couple months ago and had to get it for my collection. ;)
Mandi graduated just before I went in to high school (9th grade). I was always a little bummed that we were never in high school together. She ran off to college and things and I didn’t see her very much. I suppose we always stayed close and I know she’d call. One time when she came back from college and was staying with us for a little while (weeks or the summer, I don’t recall), but she did something that mad me and my friend, Ann, mad. Don’t remember what, but we weren’t happy. To this day I regret that Ann and I put a bunch of dead flies that were in the window sill in her underwear drawer because we were mad at her. She was not happy about that! It’s the dumbest, little things you wish you could take back when someone is gone. When I hear of grown, adult siblings not getting along or not even speaking to each other, my heart aches to be able to go back and do certain things differently and I beg them to just love each other and cherish the time you have together, because you never know when someone will be gone.
Mandi LOVED San Francisco. Before getting too sick to work, she had a pretty nice job in a corporate office in downtown SF for a few years. She loved living right in the hub of it all. In June of 1991, I went to Hawaii to BYU-Hawaii for a writers’ workshop for a week. Mandi helped me get a ticket that allowed me to have a couple days layover in San Francisco and she showed me “The Bay Area”. Two other times while she lived there I went with different friends to “the bay” and stayed with her. (That “bay area” in quotes is an inside joke with her daughter, Ehryn.)
1994, right before my brother, Mark, went on his mission to Alaska
Moving on to more “recent” memories of Mandi—she LOVED Princess Diana. At the time of Princess Diana’s death, I was newly married to Kevin. Mandi was getting sicker because of the MS. She had tremors and shakes really bad, and I don’t remember slurred speech as much as we all just kind of thought she often talked on and on and sometimes didn’t make sense. She called me LATE the night Diana was killed and talked and talked to me for hours about it. If I would have known Mandi would be gone just a few short years later, I wouldn’t have been so annoyed with the long, drawn out conversation.
After my oldest, Scottie was born, Mandi and her husband came to see us. They lived in Seattle at the time and we were in Utah. I remember feeding Scott in his bedroom late one night. Mandi and her husband had just gotten back to our place from being somewhere that evening. Mandi could barely walk at the time and usually used a wheelchair, but the wheelchair didn’t fit down our hallway. But she wanted to sit and talk with me. So she crawled down the hallway and into Scott’s bedroom to sit on the floor and talk with me while I fed him. She literally crawled on her hands and knees to be with me! Dignity was not as important to her as being with people she loved. I cannot get the image of her crawling in to the bedroom to talk to me out of my mind, but I am so thankful for that time and that memory. Because we lived so far apart, I don’t remember much more than that before her passing. A few times I recall them visiting to Idaho for holidays or in the summertime. We had a family reunion in June of 1999. It was great to have the whole family together, we knew it would be the last time she would be there.
She was trying to raise her two daughters and having a hard time taking care of them. When she died, Ehryn was 12 and already living with her dad and Alysn was six, also living with her dad (different dads). Ehryn has told me a few of the memories she has, one when she remembers Alysn fell off the trampoline and got hurt and Mandi, though she could no longer run, crawled out to go help her. Ehryn has also told me a few times that Mandi used to always talk about me and told her I was her best friend. I never really knew that until then, that she thought of me as a friend, her best friend.
Mandi was such a wonderful person. Sometimes I can’t believe she has been gone for 13 years. Sometimes our years growing up together seem so far distant, at times the years fly by and other times it seems like she was just here. I can think of many more things that I won’t share at this time, but I sure miss and love her. I am comforted to know we will all be together again someday. I need to go make some cookie dough now.
Love you, Amanda Leigh! (Having also lost my sister, Lara, in March of 2002, I wouldn’t want anyone to think she was not loved or cared about by me either, but I will save writing about her for another time. We definitely had a different relationship and totally different stories to tell.)