To honor my sister’s memory

by Chrystal Bougon on September 13, 2009

Ok, so something just clicked in my brain on 9/1. As soon as I woke up that day, I had this immediate thought… “this is THE month” ….. the dreaded month. You see, my sister died 2 years ago this Sept. 14th. She was 37 at the time. She would have been 39 this past Valentine’s Day. Yes, she was a Valentine’s Baby. It turns out my birthday is the day before on the 13th. She was born on the 14th and she died on the 14th – different months though.

Thump & Tyler

Thump & Tyler

We think she most likely died of heart failure. It’s complicated, but my sister was Bipolar 1 with lots of other complications in there. Possibly schizoeffective, acute anxiety and panic disorder, throw in a little OCD and maybe ADD……dyslexia maybe. Bunch of stuff. Pretty much, her whole life was a big challenge.

She died in her sleep on Sept. 14th 2007. I feel  relieved (and so does most of my family)  that she died so peacefully, especially given all of the UN-peaceful things she had experienced in her lifetime. She was sleeping peacefully in her bed in my partents home in Las Vegas and she was surrounded by all of her angels, her smudge sticks, her pictures of her gorgeous son Tyler and all of her favorite knick knacks. She just went to sleep and never woke up. Our guess is her heart stopped. Possibly the health of her heart was compromised from the serious anti-psychotic drugs she took for her Bipolar disorder. Like  many people who suffer from mental illness, she also liked to dabble on occasion with recreational drugs in order so self medicate and turn off the “amplification” as she called it. Who doesn’t want to self medicate, ya know? Certainly can understand why Thump wanted to. (Oh, btw, her real name is Connie. Connie Arlene Bougon Hedland.) But, we all called her Thump. ( Or Thumpy-yaa, Thump the Bump, Thumper the Rabbit, etc. My family likes nick names.)

I  can really imagine how inviting and seductive it must have been for her to “check out” on occasion with something that gave her a little rest from the demons that were present in her brain 24/7.  Recreate away, Thump. But, sadly, I think maybe the recreational stuff and the prescribed stuff probably cut her life short.  I won’t go into the hateful mental abuse she suffered from her ex-husband that I feel contributed to her mental health issues and her early death. That is a totally different blog. I want  this one to honor her and all of the small things that I miss so much.

My sister’s proudest accomplishment is her super amazing son, Tyler Wayne. Oh you should see him. He’s cute, tall, blonde, gets good grades, is very responsible,  has my sister’s adorable freckles and cute little nose. He has a birthday coming up, too. He will be 18 this month. His Mom died a few days after his 16th birthday party. He starts his college career this year and we are all immensely proud of him. Somehow he has been able to hold it all together…and you know how hard it is to be a teenager anyway. Just pile on losing your Mom when your 16. Yuck.

So, my plan is to honor my sister for the 14 days leading up to the anniversary. I know the majority of you will never know her or never knew her, but I want to just share a little bit about her with all of you so I can keep her memory alive. Thumper was so rye, quirky, generous to a fault, compassionate, cute, adorable, funny, intense, moody, huggable, gullible, had dead pan comedic delivery that was reminescent of my Grandma Ruth, honest, blunt, nurturing, a great friend, an amazing Mom and my sister. I miss her so much.

Here is the list of fun things I want to always remember about my sister, Thumper. (By the way, in case you are wondering how she got her nickname,  got the name Thumper when she was a little baby because she tumped her foot in her crib. It stuck with her her whole life…even in school…. everyone knew Thump!)

Sept. 1st  Those super chubby teeny little earlobes that I use to squeeze whenever she was nearby. I use to tell her it helped me relax, so she would sit next to me and I would just pinch them between my finger and thumb as a stress reliever for me. 

Sept. 2nd My sister had the cutest heart shaped lips that were super red. Her top lip truly bowed like a little heart. We use to always tell her how envious we were of her lips. Perfection.

Sept. 3rd  5’2 and eyes of blue. My sister was a lil shorty! She was built just like Grandma Ruth…she was “smudgepot number 2” in our family.  And she had the most gorgeous blue eyes with these long thick blonde eyelashes.

Sept. 4th  Her little button nose and her fantastic freckles. Thankfully, when we look at Tyler’s face, we see Thump. He looks just like her, but much much taller… he he.

Me and my sister Thumpe

Sept. 5th Thump was crazy modest. Modesty (when it comes to our bodies) runs in our families. She was so modest she would NEVER EVER undress in front of my Mom or me, even. When she swam in our family pool, she would always wear a t-shrt over her bathing suit. I miss watching her “undress” under her clothes and all of the funny things she could do in a  dressing room or other places so that she stayed covered up at all times. So cute.

Sept. 6th Oh how I miss her crazy cursive. I could always tell a letter from Thump from a mile away. She had a script that was all her own. She loved to write letters and notes and just make you feel good via the USMail. She loved to get mail that was NOT a bill.

Sept. 7th  I miss Thump’s random phone calls. Sometimes she would call with one question or one piece of trivia she thought I would know. She was not big on the computer, so she would call me to see if I could look something up for her. Questions like “do you think  Indians were buried under our house” and “how many gallons of water is in Lake Mead?”  Then an “Ok, thanks. Love you. Talk to you soon.” I miss talking on the phone with her and even two years later, I sometimes go to pick up the phone and call her and then remember I can’t. Breaks my heart sometimes.

Sept. 8th I loved getting packages or mail from my sis. She had a rule that ALL mail had to have at least a $1.00 in it. She would add a $1.00 or $2.00, a pen, some thread, anything she thought might be useful. Thump and I are both super resourceful! My sister wanted you to open the mail and then have something you could use afterwards, too. Yes, my sis was super quirky. I miss her quirkiness.

Sept. 9th. I loved teasing my sister every time an episode of Love Boat came on. It was something I use to do whenwe were young. If it came on, if she was at a friends’ house, I would call up and ask to talk to her and then put the phone up to the t.v. so she would hear the Love Boat theme. I did it to torment here when we were little. I did it for fun when we were older because I loved er. So fun to be the oldes sibling! You should have heard her tell the stories about being my little sister…stories like only slowing down my parents car to let her and her friends jump out at the movie theatre. Funny. I know, mean ol big sister!

Sept. 10th I wish she was still here to FIGHT WITH. Wow, we were 2 years apart so you can imagine when we were teenagers the knock- down drag- out fights we use to have. Hair pulling, throwing the dirty dish rag at each other, charlie horses, throwing the remote control at each other (back in the day when they were like 4″ thick and weighed about 5 lbs) and some other memorable fights. So silly now to think about. Would love to FIGHT with her again.

Sept 11  I miss her smell…she always smelled a bit like Ausssie Miracle Mix (shampoo), a little bit of Vanilla spray from Walgreens, and a little bit of Oil of Olay with a very faint hint of cigarette smoke.

Sept 12  I miss “back to school” shopping with her… just any kind of shopping with her really. When we were teenagers, my partents would give us our “back to school clothes” money and the two of us would head out to the Meadows Mall in Vegas. (LV is our home town and where we grew up.)  My sister rarely bought her clothes. She would buy a purse, a wallet, some shoes, some gifts for my parents or for our brother Stevie. LOL. My parents will appreciate this one more then anyone else. I know it use to make them crazy. We would go from store to store..Contempo, Benetton, Millers Outpost… looking for our cords, OP products, Levi 501’s etc. So much fun. Oh and we would have to stop at Sees candy for some milk chocolat bordeauxs!

Sept 13  She had the most adorable small little feet. I am a size 9…my sister was like a 6 or a 7. Her shoes in her bedroom were the hardest thing to see after she passed away. Something about it just seemed so out of place and so sad. I miss her cute little toes and her pudgy little feet.

Sept 14 I miss my sister’s beautiful, thick, lush blonde hair. Towards the end, she was also a red head and when she had her hair dark we never looked so much alike! But, most of her life she has beautiful blonde hair. She loved to have someone else curl it or style it. When ever I would go home for a visit, she would ask me to curl or do her hair. I wish now I would have never said no. Sometimes I was just too busy or we were in too big of a hurry –  but what I would give to curl her hair or do her hair for her now. We would have so much fun playing in the bathroom with her curlers and curling irons. She always looked so pretty with all of her hair in long, flowing curls and waves….. lots of Aqua Net of course to hold it all together.

I could go on and on about all of the things I miss about Thump. When she died, I decided to take one of  her watches and have worn it pretty much every day for the last 2 years.  It was so strange – my sister has NO sense of time, no sense for the day of the week or time of the day yet she had like 6 watches in her jewelry box when she died. I love wearing her watch. I love being able to have some thing with me every day that reminds me of her. It’s so ironic and yet so pracitical. She would like that! Remember I said she had a rye sense of humor.

I am so grateful that there is so much more known about mental health issues these days. We learned a lot about them duing the last ten years of  Thump’s life. I am pretty sure every person who ever reads this blog will know or be related to someone with ADD, ADHD, OCD, Manic Depressive Order, Social Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar, Depression, Alcoholism, Addiction, etc.  Thankfully a lot of it gets diagnosed properly now and there are some really fabulous pharmaceuticals and other modalities of therpy that can help people who are afflicted.

Our familiese are all affected by it and we often don’t know where to go for help. My family was introduced to www.NAMI.org about 6 years ago and they helped us to understand Thumper so much better.  Thank God for NAMI, as it was NAMI that helped me to develop my empathy for my sister and not be constanly upset with her for “f***ing off” – which is what we thought she was doing a lot of the time when she was a teenager or in her 20’s. She was never “f***ing off” – she was dealing with the voices, the amplification, with the intense need to self medicate – just trying to deal with what was dealt to her. They taught me to love my sister and to listen to her without judgement. I am so grateful that our last few years we were able to love each other and I was able to appreciate my sister for the quirky person she was.

I miss her so much, but as I said earlier in this long ass blog entry… I know in my heart my sister is at rest and not suffering any more with all of the struggles she had to deal with on a daily basis. For that I am grateful even though she was taken from us way too early. I love you, Thump. Rest in Peace my beautiful angel of a sister.

Share
  • julie

    Chrystal,
    That was so beautiful. It makes one think of people in our own lives. So often we take things for granted, mainly other people. It is our nature. So no guilt for being human.
    What a true honor of your sister. The details of what makes a person special.
    I hope these details will someday give all your family comfort and joy.
    Also, what an amazing person tyler must be. He is sure to grow up to be anawesome man! You all must be so proud!!
    Your little “thump” angel must be smiling!

    With love,
    Julie

  • Thanks, Julie. I appreciate your comment and support. You would have loved Thump! And, she would have LOVED you, too. 🙂

  • Kathy

    Chrystal,

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful memories ~ so touching, and I smiled as I read some of them. Oh, how my brother and I used to fight! 🙂

    My step-son is bi-polar (and possibly other things we don’t know about). Yes, there are such challenging times, and so much that we don’t understand because we simply cannot relate. Thump was so blessed to have your family for love and support.

    I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow …

    Lots of love and hugs,
    K.

  • Thanks, Kathy. It’s amazing how many people you can find that have been affected by mental health issues once you start talking about it. Really I am pretty sure no family goes untouched by some kind of issue – addiction, alcoholism, bipolar, etc. You now, NAMI.org believe that all of those things fall under the bipolar disorder – including depression. I am not sure anyone really knows yet, but thankfully lots of great research is finally being done.

  • Jen

    Chrystal- this was absolutely beautiful. You know I have mental illness on both sides of my family. I learned in my early adulthood that you can’t change your family. You can’t return them for what you think may be “better” or “more normal”. You must learn to love and appreciate them for who they are before its too late. Your entry made me laugh and made me cry. I thank you for sharing your memories with us. I’m sure Tyler will appreciate it too.
    Love you, Diva-

  • Thanks, Jen. I really didn’t want to make anyone cry. I just want to spend some time remembering her so we can remember the fun and good stuff. I am glad you enjoyed it. I am pretty sure we ALL have some mental health issues in all of our families.

  • Dawn

    I love your post!!!
    There were many times while reading your post that I had a huge smile on my face because I could just see you having fun (and at times getting frustrated) with Thumper. We all have issues at varying degrees in our families. It is the time that we have with them that matters because we never know when it’s going to not be available to us anymore. I know this all too well. Your story also reminded me of this aspect of my own life, and brought tears to my eyes. Now, stop! I know you did not write it to make anyone cry. We just love you and think that you sharing your thoughts and feelings with us during this time is a remarkable and special thing. I, for one, am honored–Thank you!
    Love,
    DLT

  • That was a beautiful, heart touching, thoughtful read. You are a wonderful writer and your sister was very lucky to have you. Although I never met her myself, from your blog I can say I have a pretty good idea of what she was like and why you loved her so much. I’m sure in her own way, your being looked after and smiled upon.

  • Thanks, Kara. It felt really really good to write it all down!

  • Chrystal, this was a very touching and personal post, and I love how compassionate you are about your sister and her illness and the support you show for your nephew. It is just another example of what a wonderful person you are!

  • Wow Chrystal – What an amazing and heartfelt post. Thanks for sharing what an incredible human being your sister was. As someone who has been touched quite personally by mental illness, I can especially appreciate the struggles. You and your sister were blessed to have each other in your lives, even if it was for too short a time. I’m sure she is with you in her own way on this Valentine’s Day.

  • CB,
    You are an amazing giving creature of this world and sharing this blog with us only brings us closer to you. Thank you for the miracle of YOU!

    I lost a cousin-brother who I grew up with in the same home for 5 years before leaving Fiji and he passed away at a tender age of 24 leaving behind a beautiful daughter and wife. Still to this day, I hurt from his loss and I can only feel your pain as you wrote this blog and remembered the loss of him.

    Thank you again for bringing me into your world a bit closer. Stay Strong and happy belated birthday. Celebrate YOU!

  • Thanks so much Erika & Doreen. I wanted to celebrate her 40th birthday in some small way. She is our Valentine’s Baby. She even had the sweetest heart shaped super red lips to seal the deal.

    Thanks for your sweet notes.

    Blissfully, Chrystal

  • Hey Chrystal ~

    Thanks for opening your heart and sharing your story with Thump. This is truly what blogging is about.

    This is kinda random – my mom’s name is Connie, my grandfather’s name is Tyler along with an uncle and a nephew.

    I’m sending you, Thumper, and your family lots of love.

    Happy Birthday. Happy Being Alive Day.

    Love ~
    Cassandra

  • Funny. That is random.

    Thanks for the note and your love, Cassandra. I agree. Blogging is all about showing our humanity and letting the “warts and all” show.

    I wrote it for two reasons. For one, I want to honor my sister’s very special memory. I also wrote it to continue the conversation because there is so much stigma about bipolar disorder, panic disorder, mania, anxidety disorder and all of those other “labels.” I want to advocate even in my small way about these issues and remind people that everyone is affected by it in one way or another.

    http://www.NAMI.org is one of my favorite resource for my friends and family who are struggling with mental health issues.

    Blissfully, Chrystal

  • Erin P.

    Love. What a touching, thoughtful, loving way to honor your sister. Thank you CB, for another life lesson in what it means to truly accept another person and love them unconditionally for who they are. Hugs to you and your family.

  • Lindsay Mac

    Such a lovely homage to your baby sister. Really beautiful. I can hardly see through my tears to type. Sending you love.

  • Pat Zahn

    love this honor to your sis. I’m sorry she lived such a short difficult life and that I never had the chance to meet her. We shared a love of bordeaux and grandmas named Ruth (whose bordeaux I stole out of her ever present boxes of See’s 🙂

  • Jillian

    Beautiful, touching, moving…all the superfluous words you can think of…all I know is *tears*. I feel the love you have for her through your words. I know she does, too. xoxo

  • Pingback: Why do I say "sieze the day" so often? Why do I want you to enjoy your body NOW? | Curvy Girl Inc.Curvy Girl Inc.()

  • I would fall apart if I lost my sister. She also suffers from Bipolar disorder, and other health issues related to the wide range of medication she takes to keep her functioning. I live in fear of the day her liver gives out, or she gets dizzy and falls and busts her head open. Your tribute to your sister is absolutely amazing. She sounds like a woman that was dealt a terrible hand, but even through all of that, managed to touch lives and show love. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Previous post:

Next post: