This is going to be difficult, but today marks eleven years since my sister, Lara, passed away—March 7, 2002. I just wrote a post this past November about my older sister, Mandi, and her losing battle with multiple sclerosis in November 1999. I remember thinking that I had some time before I had (wanted) to do this again for Lara, but can’t believe it is already that time. Neither true story is easy to tell.
Lara was just 12 months older than me, born October 27, 1968. I posted a lot more pictures of Mandi than I have available of Lara. That is because I have Mandi’s photos from when she was growing up. My mom made us all an album, the kind with those old sticky pages where you peel the clear plastic away and stick photos to the page. After Mandi’s passing, I took that album and removed the photos from it because they are not good (not acid-free) for safe keeping photos for years and years. I told my mother I would redo her album. I still have the photos—not in an album yet. But I don’t have too many pictures of Lara when we were younger.
Here’s Lara and I in about 1971. Notice—I kept drinking my milkshake. Lara abandoned and dropped hers to hold the kitty.
And here we are on my 3rd birthday, Nov. 15, 1972. Notice again, I’m making sure I eat my cake. Lara is trying to steal my presents! ;)
Notice a trend here—I still always go for the food, especially treats! ;) It was destined way back when.
Can’t forget this one with Mandi, Lara and I. Aw, so cute! (Can anyone else tell my mom used to cut our hair herself? Yep, she’d put tape across our forehead and cut whatever hair stuck out the bottom.)
Here is a fun one of Lara and I in about 1977-78. Our family went on a trip to Rapid City, South Dakota and saw Mt. Rushmore, went in caves and stayed at an RV campground in a rented camper. Have you ever been to Flintstone Park there? We thought that was so fun.
Here’s a fun little story that I always like telling about Lara. When we were probably 9 and 10 (maybe 10 and 11), we lived in Broomfield, Colorado. This isn’t the funny part, but during those years (I was ages 7 to 11 while we lived there), we each had a paper route—yes, those were the good old days when kids used to deliver newspapers. We lived up this big hill from where our school was (YES, we walked to school and back uphill both ways, trudging through feet of snow!), but a lot of our paper route was down the hill. We loaded our packs with papers and hopped on our bikes and headed down the big hill. I don’t remember exactly, but we crashed hard on our bikes, tumbling and getting pretty beat up. That’s not the particular story, but just something I remember as Lara and I screamed to make sure we were both okay.
Anyway, Lara, Matt (my 4-years-younger-than-me brother) and I were walking around in the neighborhood. Lara got this crazy idea to go to a church nearby and the three of us climbed up on the roof. Little history here, Lara was all tomboy and a bit rebellious. I was goody-goody and prissy, I’ll admit it. Matt was only about 6 years old and pretty much did whatever he was told. Back to the rooftop. On the way up, I got a sliver in my finger. After getting to the top, I was annoyed about my finger, so I climbed back down and walked home to cry to mom about it. In the meantime, Lara and Matt decided it would be fun to tear pieces of shingles off the church roof and throw them out into the road where there were oncoming cars. Next thing my parents knew was that the police station (which at the time they were janitors for) called to tell them they’d picked up Lara and Matt and had them in for booking. Not kidding, just to scare them, they took them to the police station, fingerprinted them and took their mug shots. Can’t forget the big ol’ smile on Matt’s face in his mug shot. Apparently someone driving by the church saw what they were doing and called the cops. To this day I SWEAR I did not do anything more than climb up on the roof. If Lara were here, she’d say I was tearing shingles off the roof, too. She was always trying to get me in trouble and blame things on me. ;)
Another good little story, one time Lara and I were walking around town again (this was so long ago it was back when it was fine to let young children wander around cities on their own). We’d walked and walked and decided we were thirsty. We ended up going inside a Popeye’s Chicken Restaurant to buy a drink. Lara went up to the counter and was looking at the menu and said, “We’d like a Q-T of Fruit Punch, please.” I slugged her and said, “that means quart”. Teased her forever that she didn’t know Q-T meant quart. Had to hold on to anything I could because way more often than not, SHE teased ME about anything and everything.
In honor of this great remembrance, the other day I made a fun fruit drink for the family as an evening snack. It was a big hit. Must have made Q-T’s and Q-T’s of it.
Quick and easy drink to make that would be perfect for parties. It’s a combination of fruit punch, pineapple juice, ginger ale and orange sherbert. Here’s the link for the recipe found at Allrecipes. I halved it for our family night treat.
Lara also took great pride in teasing and jokingly bullying me. She thoroughly enjoyed slugging me (hard). I was silly enough that when she’d slug me, I always needed the other arm to feel the same, so I’d have her slug me hard on the other arm. She also used to sit on me and tickle torture me. This wasn’t just light playful tickling, she’d dig her fingers in to my armpits until my laughing turned to crying. She thought this was so funny. She was always much stronger than I. She’d also pin me down, sit on top of me, hold my arms above my head and dangle a nasty spit loogie right in my face. She’d never let it fall, just torture me while I screamed and turned my head back and forth. sigh!
Throughout a lot of our teenage years, Lara and I each had a room in part of our house at the time that was unfinished. It was just the sheetrock walls and floor boards, no paint, no carpet, etc. Off in that same part of the house, just off from the kitchen was the walk-in pantry. I remember Lara and I snuck in there a time or two and gorged ourselves on a BIG bag of cashews my mom had in there.
Chocolate chips seemed to also be eaten a lot as my mom used to buy things like that in bulk. At one point, Lara and I literally made ourselves sick eating too many cashews. (You know what happens if you eat too many cashews at once?) Well, in remembrance of that lovely occasion, I made some really good cashew cookies. Stay tuned for that post with the recipe!
Lara liked punk and hard rock music and that whole genre of 80’s look—the clothing, the music, the attitude. One day my friend, Ann, and I thought it would be fun to get all “punked” out with Lara. You can’t really tell with this photo, but we had gobs of make up on and looked pretty hot and ferocious in our short skirts and tights. Lara is on the left. She definitely looked like she was tough. Ann and I, not so much. ;) We pranced all through our neighborhood like that, making sure everyone saw us. That is the only time in my life and in all 10 years of the 80’s that I ever looked like that, I was 13 or 14. I’d have to say I was more of the “big hair” nerdy preppy-wannabe type.
Lara loved to scare people. She would hide around every corner of the house and just wait to jump out at someone innocently walking by. She had quite the screech she’d do when she’d jump at you. She always thought it was SO funny. I know she took great pride in scaring my mom and dad especially. It was all in fun. One time I’d gone to my room (in the unfinished part of the house) to go to bed. I knelt down at my bed and was saying my prayers. I kept feeling something on my leg and kept flicking at it. After about the third time of feeling something crawling on my leg, I jumped up, flipped on my light and there was Lara hiding under my bed laughing her head off at how she scared me half to death. I thought there was a spider on me. Will never forget that!
Lara LOVED corn. If we were having corn for dinner, and especially at Thanksgiving, her plate would look like this—you can’t even really tell, but there is at least 2 cups of corn on that plate. We finally got to where we always made Lara serve herself last so everyone else could have some corn. She did just about the same thing with mashed potatoes, too. Every summer for years, my mom would have dozens of ears of corn and we’d all spend a day shucking it, cooking it, cutting the corn off the cob, bagging it and freezing it to enjoy all year. Lara was always right there helping with this task because she loved corn!
I mentioned it already, but she was rebellious. During those years, she had a hard time obeying our parents. What we didn’t know then was that with her being mad and hating school and all of that, she was suffering from bi-polar depression.
When Lara was 16, she left home. When she was 17, she had her first child, Saharra. When she was 18, she had her second, Jim. When she was 19, Kayla was born. And when she was 21, Holly came along. I’m not going to go in to all of it, but I wish I had pictures to show of her and her kids. So sweet and cute. One thing I think to this day is that Lara was a wonderful mother. She loved her children. She did everything she could for them. Life was definitely hard for her. She was married to the first three kids’ dad for a while, then had Holly with her second husband. That only lasted for a few years.
Here’s a fun picture of my family that I found. I was thinking it was probably from about 1987, but it might be more like 1989.
This picture is SO 1989, I concluded that because I don’t have my braces on and I had my braces on for 5 years, from 1984-1989! And why oh why would a photographer make the two chunkier people sit on the ground so their fat is more squished? That always bugged me about this picture. It makes me laugh. Wow, we have all sure changed! Lara looked good. She lived not too far from us with the kids. I used to get one of her kids every Saturday and take them out for the day to do fun things. Loved that time being an aunt!
There are just too many details and this is getting very long. During those years of struggle with Lara trying to raise four young kids, she had a very hard time dealing with all the men, past and present in her life, which also included fighting for custody of the kids. There were a number of years for a while (after I’d left home and moved to Utah), that she was gone and my parents had her four kids. One thing we have learned as a family since her passing is that you can never judge someone or know what they are going through, especially when they have a mental illness. I know my parents tried being there for her when they could and I know she struggled with ever feeling like she fit in our family. Thank goodness that everyone is so unique and different! Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone were the same? No, the years with Lara struggling to figure out who she was even back to when she was a teenager until later as an adult were not easy. It pains us to this day to have not shown her more love and understanding. She needed more help than she was getting from her family. I don’t even know all of the situation with her illness, but in her later years, she had gotten some counseling and was on medication that helped her make better decisions.
I’m still choosing to leave out some of the details, but after fighting over the phone with her ex-husband about more custody issues with the kids, she told her friend she was with that she was going to go kill him and then kill herself. It was then her friend struggled with her to get the gun she had away from her. We actually don’t really know what really happened, if the gun went off in the struggle accidentally or what, but my sister shot herself in the head. I am not telling you this for sympathy or to hear about how sorry I’m sure anyone reading this who didn’t know is, what I really hope is that somehow this gets anyone else who might be struggling with anything in their life to seek help. We have so many things we wish we could go back and change as a family. So many things we really wish we knew about dealing with mental illness. If you have someone in your life that needs help—help them get help!
Kevin and I lived in Arizona at the time, but I got a call from my parents in the middle of the night. I will now forever hate the sound of a phone ringing in the middle of the night! I flew to Idaho the next day.
Lara passed away two days after being put on life support at the age of 33. She left four teenage children who I know have struggled with not having their mother. She loved them so much. I love those four wonderful now-grown kids! Saharra will be 27 next week! Jim is almost 26. Kayla will be 25. And dear, sweet Holly was killed in a car accident at the age of 17 in I believe 2007. I suppose she needed her mother and went to go be with her. Yes, I know it seems that my family has certainly had their share of tragedy. We have a sure knowledge that we will all be together as a family again someday and find comfort in that.
Here are some links for Suicide Prevention and Mental Illness if you know of anyone in need.
And WEAR YOUR SEAT BELTS! Holly was the only one in a car full of friends who was killed and she was not wearing her seat belt.
Love you, Lara! Try as I do, I cannot make that same sound she’d make when she’d jump out and scare someone. I have even tried to show my kids and it’s really just more laughable when I try to do it. No one can make that screech like Lara did, but I’m sure everyone in my family can hear it in their heads.