On June 5, 2007, my sister died, taking half of me with her and leaving behind shattered lives, unanswered questions and rage that would consume me for over a year. Pam Graham Foley was 49 years old, a college educated, suburban soccer Mom who loved her children, her family and her friends. She was the first one to volunteer at a school event, help a friend or hug a child who was having a tough day. She was hilariously funny, a great athlete and she had an IQ of 138 which she teased me about mercilessly because she knew the meaning of the word ‘prestidigitation’ on the test and I didn’t. It means magic.
We grew up as close as twins, and when I was with her, I felt whole, content and truly happy. We would finish each other’s sentences, call each other at the same time, and occasionally creep each other out by showing up in the same outfit.
In March of 2007, Pam found out that her husband of twenty two years had been living a double life filled with treachery, affairs, illegitimate children, and lies about everything from his education to his job, all financed with home equity checks on which he had forged her name. Her life spiraled out of control, leaving her humiliated, broke and despondent. She came to stay with me when her husband forced her out of their home, along with her children and their puppy.
My husband and I tried to help her, but on June 5, 2007, something went terribly wrong. I was trapped at jury duty when Pam cancelled shopping plans with my sister, Kar, telling her she was meeting a friend for lunch instead. Somehow, Pam wound up on the eighth floor of the Government Center Parking Garage in Boston, where there are no security cameras, and at 12:38, it appears that she put down the newspaper, still open to page two, arranged her favorite black patent leather clogs under the steering wheel, climbed up on the concrete barrier in front of her car and leaped out into a perfect, blue spring sky.
I know now what it is like to feel your heart shatter inside your chest, sending shiny, jagged pieces in every direction, like a mirror smashed on a stone floor. I experienced a level of anger, hatred and despair I didn’t know I was capable of and I now know what it feels like to go into such a dark place that your adrenalin flows like fire twenty four hours a day but you don’t want to move. But for the fact that I had a responsibility to my children and my farm animals, I would have climbed under the down comforter and never come out. I agonized for her children, I missed her beyond words, and I missed the part of me that went over that ledge with her, the part that knew laughter, joy, hope and fun.
A year and a half later, I have learned that, miraculously, it is possible to rebuild a broken heart. Good people help find the pieces and put them back together, like a puzzle that slowly takes shape with the help of many hands. Pieces may be missing, and the heart will never be exactly the same, but it can beat again. Time, love, family, friends and the physical labor on my farm have acted as an antidote to hatred and anger, and I have found peace. Forgiveness eludes me, and I will always miss Pam, but I am looking forward now, moving on with the belief that the there is a force in the universe that will eventually balance out rights and wrongs. It is possible to survive a broken heart.
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