Just a one shot about Xmas really.
Christmas is never quite the same when you know that one of your family probably won’t be here next year, that you will probably have to watch them die before their 18th birthday, definitely before their 21st.
My sister is probably my best friend, even though there is an 8 year age gap between us. She is closer to me even than the 4 guys I tour the world with. I try to talk to her everyday, but of course this isn’t always possible. We have been through a lot of tough stuff together.
I joined a new, unheard band called My Chemical Romance about 4 years ago, and we hit it reasonably big about 2 years ago.
Mel is always really excited when I tell her about a new song or a gig, and she always used to come to our shows if we were playing in the area. She became good mates with all the gang, Mikey, Gerard, Frank and Ray. She always gave us opinions on our new songs, and she always has a kind word to say about something. She brings a new perspective to the band, one from the audiences view.
Frank and Mikey used to give her bass and guitar lessons, so much to the point that she could play both their parts to most the songs off by heart. She loved to play the guitar, she still does. Now she’s too weak to even pick up a guitar, but sometimes, when she thinks no-one is watching, I’ll see her miming the notes with her eyes closed, and it will all get a bit too much for me.
One day, when we were in Holland, getting ready for a show we were playing that night, I got a call. That call completely changed my life. That call broke my heart. That call told me that Mel, my beautiful sister had developed a rare heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomypathy. All that my mum could tell me was that it was serious, but I later found out that means that she could die at anytime.
As soon as I got off the phone, I went into the toilets and tried not to cry. But it’s so hard when it’s someone so close to you.
I was all ready to go and catch a plane home and be with her, but then Frank said something which made me realise what I had to do.
‘What would Mel want you to do?’ he asked, in that horrible sad tone.
I knew that Mel would want me to carry on with the tour; we only had 4 dates left, so I stayed, but only on the condition that I was allowed to go straight after that last show.
I wasn’t the only one that was upset by this news, all the guys were good mates with Mel, but Frank was especially affected.
We all tried as hard as we could to play as normal that night, but I know that there was at least one song where I was crying all the way through even as I played.
I phoned home the next night, I wanted to talk to her, but I couldn’t, she was at the hospital. Just the mention of that word made me cry, I can’t even hear the word in conversation without getting upset.
After our last gig of the tour, I literally sprinted out of the door into a taxi; I couldn’t wait to get home to see my sister.
After the 7 hour flight came a mixture of emotions; happiness – I was going to see Mel, sadness – I was worried about her, anger – why did it have to be her, but most of all I felt empty. Devoid of thoughts or feelings.
Driving back to my house in my car, I nearly crashed about 7 times, and I probably got caught about 20 times on speed camera, but all that was on my mind was Mel.
I walk up to the house and I have to stop myself and tell myself to calm down, I was scaring myself , let alone how I would appear to Mel.
I opened the door slowly, and called out to tell Mum that I was home. It had only been a month since I had been home, but so much felt like it had changed.
What had once been a bright fun house, now felt cold and empty. It sent shivers down my spine when I walked through the door.
I left my bags in the car, so I just slowly walk up the stairs, heading for Mel’s room where I assume she’ll be. At that point in time I felt so strange, almost scared of what I might see.
I knocked on my sister’s door, and walked in. I saw her lying on her bed, seemingly asleep, until she turned her head, and sat up yelling ‘Bob! You’re here! I missed you so much!’
I raced over and placed my arms around her, and held her tight.
‘I was so worried about you! So scared that something really horrible would happen before I got here to see you!’
‘I was so scared when they told me, and I was kind of angry at you for not being here. Then I realised that you would be letting a lot more people down to come and see me.’
I was so glad to hear her say that, I had been so worried about the decision I had made.
I don’t know how long I must have sat there and cried with Mel, but it must have been quite long, as soon the moon was shining through the window, and Mel was asleep on my chest. I sat there for a long time, just taking in every detail, the shine of the moon in her purple-black hair, her long black eyelashes, and the little mole that she hid under her fringe.
Guess I must have dozed off at some point, as before I could even remember where I was, mum was in Mel’s room with hot waffles.
‘How did I know you would be in here?’ Mum smiled at me, but I could tell she had been crying at some point that morning.
Mel woke up at this point, and let out a big yawn.
‘Muuuuuuuuuuuum! You’re gonna make me fat!’ was her cry, but with a grin plastered across her face. She loves waffles, especially when Mum does them just the way she like them, smothered in dark chocolate sauce with a dusting of icing sugar on top, yummy.
A couple of days after that, once I had told Mel every last little detail about the tour and what me and the rest of the guys had been up to for the past month, the rest of the band appeared, and popped in to say hi. They were on their way to an interview with some radio station, and I had the choice to go with them, or stay with Mel. The guys were fine with whatever I did, but Mel wanted me to go and ‘have fun’ as she put it. I agreed, so long as Mum promised to text me if anything happened. I knew I was being the over-protective brother, but I really was scared.
The next 3 months carried on in the same fashion, with me alternating between hanging out with the rest of the band, and chatting away with Mel for hours on end. Each day I noticed more and more that she was getting a lot more weak and weary over small tasks, and she would get really annoyed when she couldn’t do something. I knew there was nothing I could do to help, but that didn’t make it any easier for me.
Eventually, the doctor that came to check up on her every week decided to refer her to the hospital, where she has been ever since.
Lying in the cardiology ward, helpless. Being pumped full of drugs every day to keep her alive. It’s almost enough to make you want to just let her be put out of her misery.
The doctors say that might get another couple of years to go if they can find a suitable donor heart for a transplant. But then she would be in pain, and would never be properly discharged from hospital.
Mel decided that she doesn’t want that for herself, she just wants to stay out of pain, the way she is now. The doctors say that it will stay this way until she… well… y’know what I mean.
Mel, Mum and myself all discussed it, and of course a lot of tears were shed, but we all agreed that it would be the best decision.
They say that she has about 3 years at most, but that is a very hopeful prognosis, a more likely one is that she has about a year left.
At first I was really angry with Mel, I couldn’t believe that she would just give up like that; couldn’t she see how badly she was affecting me and Mum? But now I realise it was a really grown up decision to make, and I don’t think I could have made it like she did. I know it would hurt me so much more to see her endure pain.
What really upsets me is when I think back to playing games as a child, playing with Mel and some other friends. Playing that o-so innocent game, ‘Weddings’. It hits home that Mel is never going to marry, never going to have children. I’ll never hear little nieces and nephews calling out to ‘Uncle Bob’. That’s what upsets me. Such a beautiful and nice person, having their life cut short, at the age of 17.
As I’m writing this on my laptop, the rest of the band is here. Frank is curled up on the floor, Ray next to him, sharing the blanket. Gerard and Mikey are sat on the plastic chairs, heads on each others shoulders. They came to visit today, and they really cheered Mel up. It was so nice to see her truly smile, with her heart, with her eyes.
I don’t really know why I wrote this, but I hope it makes at least one person just stop and think. It’s the 24th December now, and tomorrow when everyone is giving out their presents, I want someone, even if it is only one person, to really mean it when they give someone a gift, because for all you know, that person might not be here next year. I don’t want to make people scared of living, quite the opposite in fact.
There’s this saying I like. ‘Live each day as if it’s your last’. That’s the message I want to pass on, because you never know what might happen tomorrow.