One Year Ago Today


Today marks the one year anniversary of my baby sister’s death due to a drug overdose. She died the same way Whitney Houston died. She was on the same drug that Whitney Houston was on. She started doing drugs in junior high school. First came cigarette smoking, then weed and next up was crack and that was the beginning of the end.

But here’s some background information on my sister. She didn’t grow up in the ‘ghetto’. She didn’t eat lead paint and thus start out at a disadvantage like most inner city children do. She lived in a two-parent household and no, it wasn’t perfect, but what family is? We did all the things that children do. We swam; roller skated, rode our bikes, bowled and hung out with our friends. We had birthday parties and we attended birthday parties of the children we played with. In the summer, there was always something to do; if we weren’t picking vegetables by the bushel full, we were shucking corn, shelling peas and snapping green beans and wondering where to put yet another container of strawberries. On our uncle’s farm, there were horses that we could ride and my middle sister was the only one with enough courage to mount one, only to get thrown and get right back on it while my baby sister and I just looked on and laughed. Like I said, we did all the things that children do and all the things that ALL children should have the ability to do. We attended the best schools, wore designer clothes and we were driving as teenagers paying no insurance and gassing up the vehicles without a care as to where the money to do so was coming from. We were carefree, most of the time or so I thought.

At this point, I must say that being the oldest, I was never able to attend school with my baby sister. We are four years apart and I never thought that she had the same problems in school that my middle sister did. My middle sister was bullied and because she was so scrawny, she was scared and would come to me. And since I was a strapping girl who took no shit, I quickly put paid to that shit even if I was suffering with the flu, I kicked ass on her behalf. However, I was not a bully; I just fucked up the bullies. It never dawned on me that my baby sister would get the same treatment. Yes, she was scrawny, but people liked her because she was so damn funny and I didn’t think she needed me because she never came to me and said that anyone was picking on her or telling her that they were going to beat her up if she went to school the next day. Little did I know that her situation was so much worse than getting bullied. She had gotten in with the ‘wrong’ crowd and they stole shit that they didn’t need to steal and since my sister had never done anything like that, she only got away with it for so long and then, the call came that she was in jail for shoplifting. But I digress.

My baby sister and my middle sister were close and since they were also two years apart, they would meet up in school, eventually and get to ‘pal’ around with each other. So, my baby sister would tell my middle sister things that neither one would tell me. Now, my middle sister, if she got mad at my baby sister, only then would she tell me her business and her secrets. Well, the very day that she told me that my baby sister was stealing and had been doing it for a while, was the very day that I told our mother. One of the reasons why I was hardly ever privy to their little secrets is because they knew that once I got a hold of them, I was telling mother. Unfortunately, in this instance, I was too late. We got the phone call about my baby sister’s arrest for shoplifting. I remember my mother crying her eyes out and my father left to go and get her out of jail and that was the beginning of a long and hard road for us all, but especially for my baby sister. After that, there were the suspensions from school, detention, smoking cigarettes, then weed, more stealing, back in jail and now comes the crack epidemic and that was it.

My parents tried everything. When she stole from them, they had her arrested because they had begged her to go into treatment and she refused and they figured that one way to get her into treatment was to make it a condition upon her release. Well, that happened and she went in for treatment for thirty days. She came out and went right to a known ‘crack house’. She knew where they all were. I didn’t even know ‘crack houses’ existed because I was doing my own thing and wasn’t even aware that this was going on until my middle sister was able to get into contact with me to tell me what was going on. My mother and father were having a time with my baby sister. They finally got her to go out of state to a rehab facility that was supposed to have a great success rate. She spent three years in and out of rehab and each time, she’d get out and head to a ‘crack house’.

Some sort of third cousin of ours sold drugs and told my middle sister that he had given our sister drugs to keep her from doing things for other drug dealers in order to get more drugs(he’s also dead, shot fourteen times), she was that hooked. We had heard stories, but just couldn’t believe them, not about our sister. Finally, things got so bad, that my baby sister was ostracized from the entire family. No one wanted her around because she lied and she stole and she’d sell anything you gave her for crack. When she would phone family members, they’d sometimes answer the phone and sometimes would not because they knew she would get to begging and they just didn’t want to deal with it. I was long gone by this time and hadn’t seen my sister in years. When I made it back to my hometown in 2006, she was at my parent’s house with her boyfriend and that was the last time I saw her, alive. Her boyfriend told my mother that he had had enough because my sister was constantly threatening to have him arrested since he kept attempting to leave her. She would throw herself against walls, get bruises and pick up the phone and threaten to call the police and say that he had beat her. She had gotten that bad. That was not the sister I knew. The crack had taken over and consumed her.

In the end, my sister died, alone and had to be found by one of her friends and an autopsy had to be performed because she died, suddenly. No one knew of any illness but of course no one knew what was going on with her as her calls were rarely accepted. A year ago today, she died and here I sit crying my eyes out and blaming myself because since I am the oldest, I should have somehow protected her. There must have been something that I could have done. Why did I not remain in my hometown and take care of her? I keep asking myself that. Why has it been so easy for me to turn my back on them for so long and to forget that they may have needed me? What penance can I do that would even come close to relieving even a tiny fragment of the guilt that I am consumed with? I have the unmitigated gall to write poetry about how I loved my sister. I can even form words to that effect that bring me to tears and yet, when she was alive, I was not there for her. I haven’t the right to even say her name because she was the baby and how the hell is she dead and I didn’t do a goddamn thing to stop it? How the hell can I say that I love her? How? And yet I can write words of a love that will never die when I was never there to fan the flames of love for her. And so, I cry!

So, people, understand something. You can tout the legalization of drugs until the cows come home, but drugs are not the answer. Drugs are destroying lives. Drug use is no respecter of persons. Drug addiction doesn’t care about your GPA. My sister was brilliant. She didn’t need a computer because her brain was a computer. There was nothing that she couldn’t do except get off drugs. She started off playing the clarinet and decided that she wanted to play the tenor saxophone. She excelled at that. She joined the band and marched in tune to the beat while playing her tenor saxophone. She went to college and never picked up a book, so her roommate says and yet, aced every exam. She just decided not to complete college with just two more credits to go. She could cook a meal for a 5-star restaurant and had never gone to culinary school. She could have been the highest paid comedienne there ever was. I have never seen anybody with as many natural talents as my baby sister had and yet her downfall was crack. I wish that I had one tenth of the smarts that she had because beside her, my middle sister and I would qualify as kindergarten rejects and I am SO not kidding. I don’t know if neglect or a predilection to addiction took my sister, probably both. I just know that I am mad as hell at the shits that introduced crack into communities all across this country. I am mad as hell at the shits that introduced heroin into communities all across this country. I am mad as hell that my sister needed me and I was nowhere to be found until they ‘found’ me to tell me that she was dead.

A poem, written for my sister by a cold, heartless hypocrite and that would be me!

Death does not become you.
Within my heart is where you will always live.
When I hear a tenor saxophone played,
It is to us, this gift you’ll always give.

When I’m attempting to cook a decent meal,
I hear your laughter when I know I get it wrong.
You whisper and you tell me how it’s done
And your words are the sweetest sounding song.

No, death will never become you.
Cold and lifeless, you can never be.
Within my heart and my soul, you still live.
And so long as I shall live, you will live in me.

The sound of your voice rings clear,
Even though you have been gone for a year.

Written by,
Shelby I. Courtland
©2014 Shelby I. Courtland

16 thoughts on “One Year Ago Today

  1. Wow, you’ve scratched one very old wound that I carry on my body. You see I am a recovering addict. I’ve been clean for 23 years and four months today. With today being of course Tuesday the 6th day of May 2014. I use the date I was released from prison as my ‘anniversary day’. I had to serve a state mandated “time out” for felony crimes of addicted stupidity. Cocaine and heroin. The experience saved my life. Literally. You see I had to detox in prison and holy shit, that’s about as hard a detox as one is ever allowed to endure.
    I was witness to more death and human degradation than most people might ever desire to see. However, I’m feeling much better now. You can’t own the demons and horrors of an addict. I was in prison and I received the news that my old man had suicided and according to my family, that was my fault. That was not my fault but it took me years in forensic therapy to get my head on right. Addiction is an evil bitch. Period. Giving in to that evil bitch is easy, keeping clean is a one day at a time journey. I can remember days when I yearned to die and be done with using. Didn’t happen and believe me, I tried. So, here we all are and anniversary days are really a celebration. But for the grace of God, go I…


    1. Oh dear Skulz, I don’t know what to say! Dear, dear Skulz, I am SO very sorry to know what a most horrid and indescribable time you’ve had of it. They say that “life is a bitch and then we die!” Seriously, many get dealt a bitch over bitch life and it ain’t hardly right. Twenty-three years and four months? I’d light a goddamn candle every day and rejoice and still you can probably recall and feel the horror of addiction and the agony of detoxing in prison. I cannot think that that will ever go away.

      I so wish that I could give you a hug. I’m just that glad that you are still here. And I know that you say that I can’t “own the demons and horrors” of my sister and yet, I do. As the oldest, it was always drummed into me that I was to look out for the younger ones. I thought I had tried, but I failed. I failed, big time. I was too conceited and full of myself and what I wanted and it wasn’t small town and rural farm life. I wanted bright lights and big cities and so I left. And for so many years, I never looked back. Half the time I didn’t even keep in touch. And I guess that is why I have the guilt so bad. I know that I couldn’t ‘live’ my sister’s life for her but I just feel like she was ‘failed’ somehow during her ‘formative’ years. Some of us say so many times, “if only I had it to do all over again,” and how useless it is to even go there. But we do it anyway. We wish that we could turn back the hands of times and do things differently, but would things turn out any differently? We somehow think they would.

      ….and yes, so many anniversaries. Some are a celebrations and some are in remembrance and with it, there is pain and anguish, guilt and sadness, longing and grief.

      Skulz, may you continue in recovery and I am thankful that you have made it this far. Keep fighting man and stay strong!!!!!

      Much love!


  2. Shelby, I am so sorry to hear of your baby sister’s passing. It is not “just” your fault, we are all to blame because we failed to take responsibility and fix our corrupted society. The CIA are the largest gun running, drug dealing mother fuckers in the entire world. They are the ones that keep all the cartels in line, as long as they get their cut. CIA’s been in Afghanistan since the 60’s smuggling heroin into the country to make crack. It was a conspiracy to control minorities, keep the blacks, hispanics and poor people down so they create poverty and strife. It’s a vicious circle that keeps our piece of shit gov’t in power, making insane money enslaving Americans through addiction, then making even more money for drug-treatment centers which kick-started big pharma pushing even more drugs for record profits. It’s a hellish downward spiral, and we’re all complicit because we allowed the system to run amok. My condolences, I wish your sister’s life turned out differently, she had the talent to change the course of humanity. Imagine the potential, all lost due to drugs, and we are worse for it. We can still awaken many as possible, before our beloved leaders do us all in. I ain’t going out like that, and I know you definitely won’t without a fight!


    1. Thank you 1EarthUnited as I type this through tears and sobs and snotty nose and all. It’s like a fresh wound that will never, ever heal. I grew up with her of course and therefore, there are just so many memories of her smiles, of her standing in her band uniform holding the sax and the memories of her on the football field strutting her stuff and just knowing how much potential she had and to know that she’s gone and just not being able to come to grips with it. I can’t even guess at the hell she must have suffered because of her addiction.

      How those shits can know what that mess will do to people and still, they release it into communities and sit back and watch the destruction and don’t even fucking have the grace to blink at the caskets or coffins or urns that hold loved ones of people left behind to deal with the result of what those contemptible fucks let loose on society, I’ll never know. But if they’ve no conscience, there can be no guilt complex.

      I thank you for your kind words of condolence and if things had turned out differently, I know that she could have made an impact that could have changed the course of humanity. I’ve met many people in my life, but I have never met anyone with what she had and I’m not saying that just because she IS my sister. I’m saying it because it’s true. Stupid shits like me don’t have what it takes and yeah, I know, I should not call myself stupid. But I know what smart is and beside my sister, like I’ve already stated, my brain would have gotten me rejected from kindergarten for being too stupid to hold my own. I wail at the loss of her brilliance. Whatever she touched, she knew what to do with it. Complex mathematical computations could be done in her head whereas I need a calculator for anything over 10+10.

      …and yes, I need to get up off my ass, wipe away my tears and somehow find a way to fight back. I don’t know how quite yet, if my sister was here, she’d know. I only hope that she is at peace now.

      Again, I thank you!


  3. This is heartbreaking Shelby. I know the pain can be unbearable. Last year I had two relatives pass away within a month of each other. It hurts to lose someone you love so much. It hurts even more if you’re really close to them. You’re a very strong woman. Your sister’s memory will live on forever. Your loved ones never really die,they just make a transition. Keep her in your heart and her soul lives on.


    1. Oh Prince! you too? I am so sorry for your loss! So many have passed on and it seems that once it starts, it just doesn’t quit. And even though I had not been in contact with my sister for years, there is still a bond between siblings that no passage of time can break. So many memories, so many!

      And thank you again for that most heartfelt comment! Bless your heart!


      1. Thank you Shelby. Have faith and be strong. Time heals all wounds… they say.


  4. Shelby. Tubularsock had to contemplate your post before sitting down to write anything. The fact that I know very little about you and your life makes any comment difficult.

    I can say that my heart goes out to you and your family for this loss a year ago.

    However, when you left your family to get away from them could ANYONE had convinced YOU to stay? (I will guess ……. no.) No one at that time in your life could have “helped you”, right?

    You left your family to save yourself from what I have gleaned from past statements.

    Now, Shelby forgive Tubularsock, your pain is yours and your process of dealing with it is also yours. But from my personal experience I will say that you are incorrect with your statement: “There must have been something that I could have done.”

    People make their choices for themselves. Some are positive and some are not. You can change yourself but you can never change another.

    skulzstudies is where he is today by his ability to overcome himself and that takes the will and the guts to face whatever demons that were running him. He is to “blame” (hate that word!) for the road he took but he is also to be praised for his abilities and brilliance to stand up to himself and find a better way. And better late than never if you ask me.

    We all have to do it from within!

    And “penance” is bullshit! Live your own life to the fullest and others will see the light in you and take that as your contribution to them.

    And “guilt” is one of the worst drugs there is …….. there is NEVER anything to be gained by guilt ……

    And as for “Time heals all wounds . . .”, Kushite Prince …… THEY are wrong!
    Only facing the challenges straight on (usually through deep therapy) will one ever heal.

    Time only makes one forget until those feelings are triggered again. And then it is back to square one.

    Our subconscious is like a tape deck of all the shit we have been programed to believe.
    Some of our shit is good shit and some of our shit is bad shit. How does one change their shit? NOT by arguing with your tape deck. But by going after it with help from the outside with someone (best choice is a therapist) who can help you face your shit.

    And this process takes years of work ……. there are no quick fixes.

    In our society drugs, alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs, buying crap are all dodges used as the quick fixes. Each of our pain is ours to identify and correct …… that is the job! Good luck.

    Tubularsock is still trying to get his shit together. Oh well, being fucked up is an art form I guess!

    Peace to all.


    1. Thanks for telling it like it is Tube! I know you don’t know me and all but I am one who wears her heart on her sleeve and I take the weight of the suffering of others onto my shoulders, weary as they may be. I can’t help it, I’m a glutton for punishment or so it would seem.

      I do realize that my sister made a choice to pick up a crack pipe and smoke it even after probably having heard that if you smoke crack once, then you’re addicted, but it just doesn’t make it any easier for me to deal with the absolute loss of so much goddamn brilliance in someone who just had so much going for them. What a goddamn waste! I must say that I am also bemoaning my situation here too because I’m pissed off because I wish that I had what she had upstairs. I fucking do! I now realize that I was actually jealous of my own sister. She had it all. My middle sister and I are ‘stooge’ like compared to our baby sister and my middle sister doesn’t mind me saying so ’cause she knows she ain’t no goddamn rocket scientist. Hell! My middle sister is just like me, needing a damn calculator for anything over 10+10.

      But again, I say, you are right! Many of us are so fucked up and screwed up that a little time on the couch is most likely what’s needed. The thing is see, once you head on into the head shrink’s office, you come out without a shred of credibility. I’ve seen that happen too many times to count. You’ll never be taken seriously again. Why do you think that so many people who are seriously mentally ill are walking around refusing to get help? It’s not just the fact that most can’t afford it. Many people know the stigma that is attached to being diagnosed with a ‘mental’ problem. I’m already diagnosed with a serious problem called, “being Black,” so I don’t need another ‘black’ mark on my record. No thank you! So, I’ll just figure this one out on my own. But I do thank you kindly for the suggestion.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to respond. It is much appreciated and don’t shit just keep hitting the fan? Oh yeah! Indeed it does!

      And don’t forget, it is war! Ain’t no goddamn peace! If you find some peace in this fucked up world, I’ll give you my address and some money and you ship that shit on over here to me, quick, fast and in a motherfucking hurry!


  5. Shelby, My sincere condolences to you and your family for the pain and loss that you’ve suffered. I have walked the road of addiction and depression also and am grateful to still be here when so many I used to know did not make it out the other side.


    1. Thank you Jeff! And just like what I wrote to Skulz, I am SO very glad that you are still here and may your healing continue! Everyone that knows you and those of us who know OF you are most thankful that you are here. This planet could definitely benefit by having more people like you on it!!

      Again, thank you!!!!


  6. Very touching and well written memorial to your yesterday. I’m really sad to hear about the guilt you carry, but I agree with the others – there is little you could have done to save your sister. We live in a really awful capitalistic system that grinds people down and destroys families. I think the only real solution in the end is to end corporate rule – but I don’t think I need to tell you that.


    1. Ahh, bless your beautiful heart Dr. Bramhall! You’re right! There was nothing that I could have done but it hurts just the same. We hear about so many statistics that state that the youngest sibling should outlive the older ones especially if they’ve had no kids and abstained from marriage and all that shit which are supposedly the stress factors that cause our early demise. She never got married, she never had kids, she was the youngest and yet, those statistics didn’t mean a goddamn thing in her case but I guess it didn’t factor in drug addiction. Oh well! I guess stats can’t cover ALL bases.

      Yeah, ending corporate rule, like that’ll ever happen. That would be some wet dream right there, indeed it would be.

      I truly appreciate that most heartfelt comment Dr. Bramhall. And according to Tubularsock, if you were still practicing and here in America, I’d need to be looking you up and lying prostrate on your professional couch. Lucky for you that you’re retired, eh?

      And I hope that you guys are continuing to keep that fracking shit to a minimum over in NZ. Best of luck with that!


      1. Thanks, Shelby. It’s looking pretty good on the anti-fracking front. One fracking company has pulled out of New Plymouth. The economics don’t add up. They have enormous production expenses, and the oil’s coming out of the ground too slowly to cover their costs. And a 2nd company that was threatening to drill on our sacred mountain (Taranaki) has also put their plans on hold. Given the cost risks, I guess they don’t want the added aggravation of dealing with a mass of local residents blocking their trucks and heavy equipment


  7. Shelby, For a “writer”, I’m useless when I need words to express feelings. I am truly sorry for your loss, and your pain. And I certainly offer no advice. Except to remind you of what you already know — that grief, sorrow and regret are normal, inevitable if we have any character, if we do care about the people in our lives. Yet we can allow even these normal human emotions to overpower us. Too much grief and guilt can make us helpless even to hold our own lives together, much less do a damn thing for anyone else. As others have mentioned, too much youth and brilliance are senselessly wasted because only money and power are valued by our twisted, indifferent system. We mere humans are expendable, a commodity to be exploited. If we’re ruined in the process, too bad, our callous profit-mad corporate elite does not care. Another good reason to work for change! I am outraged that we lose so many wonderful people, wasting everything they might have contributed to the world. Hell, if human values mean anythinng, even we ‘ordinary’ people should have the right to live.

    I can’t fully share your personal pain for your sister, I’ve not had quite that experience, though I have too many of my own regrets. What have I screwed up? Um, pretty much anything I COULD screw up. I’m still not good at learning enough to move on, and not repeat the same mistakes, especially in being sufficiently kind and patient with people. (I really AM trying, but man I amm one glacially slow learner!) I’m never sure time diminishes pain, but for me, it always takes time to process serious feelings. Otherwise, yes, they do come back to bite when I least expect it. I hope you can find what will help you get through this, and through all the shit life throws at us. We need what you can give the world too! Be well, and do your best to forgive your own (very minor!) shortcomings, not to mention our (far more heinous) sins! – Linda


    1. Linda, you are truly one of a kind, that you are! And I am slowly coming up out of the fog of grief and anger and crushing guilt! We’ve buried so goddamn many family members and when you think back on the good times when we were all together and having a great time and there were some times like that and of course there were the other times when no one could get along. But, nevertheless, they’re all family, for better or for worse.

      Oh how I know about screwing up! I manage to screw up everything I touch and everything I do. I’ve pretty much fumbled and bumbled my way through life. Everyone tells me that my ‘guardian angel’ is so fucked up, it’s unreal ’cause it’s taken the brunt of my screw-ups and there’ve been plenty. I’m one of those people who just never learn. I keep making the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results. Oh damn! That sounds like insanity. Better not go there!

      You know Linda, we beat ourselves up and yet we’re nothing like the so-called ‘elite’ fucks that are hell bent on fucking us all up. I don’t think that it is possible for us to sink THAT low and yet, we’re so hard on ourselves when it shows that we care, we do indeed care! We’re not perfect and we know it, but at least we have heart and we show it!

      So, we’ll keep attempting to try and fight and fling the shit back at the motherfuckers who are flinging shit at us and expecting us to eat it and like it. I’m not eating their shit, they can keep it! And so the battle rages on even if we are whimpering into battle. Maybe one day, we’ll recognize and hop to it! Keep hope alive, they say! I’ve got to find ‘they’ and deck ’em one!

      Thanks again Linda! I appreciate your honesty and sincerity.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s