My sister was not only one of my absolute best friends, but one of my role models growing up. My sister Fonda and I had a massive age gap, she would have been 38 in July of 2020 and I am 22 years old, turning 23 this year. You would think having a 15-16-year age difference would leave room for some awkwardness growing up, but it was the exact opposite for us. I had another amazing woman to look up to and help mold me into the woman I am today, so I am very thankful for our age difference.
Fonda was an amazing person inside and out. Anyone who knew her knew she could light up a room with her personality. Her heart was so big and anytime we talked I would laugh for hours. She dove into social work and would help a lot of girls my age at the time get out of drug addictions, bad habits, and bad homes. Always was an amazing advocate for the youth in our community. In fact, one of the last times I got to see her was outside of the Lowell Courthouse where she was advocating for a girl that was only a year or two younger than me at the time. Anytime we talked about her work I could see in her face how proud she was to help these girls and boys better the lives they set out to live.
She was a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and anytime she met someone she felt the burning need to give them a nickname of some sort. I was Britney because I looked like a little Britney Spears when I was younger (a nickname I apparently never grew out of for her). I’ll always remember her long phone calls on my birthdays “HEEEY BRITNEY, how old you turning? I think I found you a little boyfriend!” She was always trying to set me up with some boy from her neighborhood.
I will always cherish the good memories with my sister. She would take me to the circus every year, we did Disney on Ice together, singing all our favorite songs in the car at the top of our lungs, and even just the lazy weekends spent at her house laughing and watching movies. Watching the sister, I once knew and laughed with, slowly disappear is a heartbreak I cannot even begin to describe.
Fonda called me at least twice to three times a month once I moved a little farther away, always checking in on how I was doing in school or asking about boy gossip. That faded into I went almost 6 months without hearing from my sister. At the time, I had no idea my sister was spiraling down a hole of addiction. I was about 18, just got my first place out on my own, I was busy at work and I assumed the same for her. Little did I know, she had been struggling for a long time. I remember receiving this weird message from her that said “don’t believe everything you hear sis” on Facebook, and at the time I was not hearing anything. So, then I started to worry.
My stepdad called me one day and told me he saw Fonda on her old street where he was working. I asked how she was doing, and he said good. I think everyone in my life at this point knew but did not want to break my heart with the bad news of addiction and the loss of her job that she loved so much. Later I found out that my stepdad had been speaking with Fonda about once a month and she would ask him to cash her check for her and he said the check would always bounce, so he just gave her the money out of his pocket so she could pay her rent/bills. I will never forget when he told me she said to him “I want to see Samantha; I just can’t see her like this.”
I started to suspect that my sister was using some form of drug, but I did not know what and I selfishly did not want to. I kept living my life and she kept living hers. Hearing from her less and less made me resent her more and more. I would call and get no answer. I just remember missing her so much at that time and not understanding why she would do this to herself when we had already lost our father to drug addiction at incredibly young ages.
I was asleep in my bed one morning and I remember waking up to a phone call from my mom saying, “Fonda is in the hospital.” At the time, I was just waking up and did not want to process what I heard so I hung up the phone. My mom called again, “Its bad Samantha, I am going to get dressed and head to your house.” I sat up and looked at my phone, missed texts from my other sister Christina. I called her and asked what was going on. We both sat on the phone and cried together, realizing our sister was not going to make it. She was found in a train station, unconscious for god knows how long before someone found her and called 911. I got dressed, called my best friend and asked her to come to the hospital with me to see my sister.
Arriving at the hospital, I sat in the waiting room full of people there to see my sister. Still in denial that I would be saying goodbye to her. I heard the words “brain dead” floating around the room and sunk into my seat. I finally got to go in the room to see my sister, a breathing tube hanging out of her mouth, her face swollen and dripping of fluid. I had a few minutes alone with her and just held her hand and cried. My other sisters lived in Texas at the time, so I had to brave this storm alone. I remember all these memories flushing back at that moment and I just did not understand why God would do this to me. Taking my father and now my sister.
My sister was taken off the ventilators and passed away the next day. My sisters, Brooke and Christina had gotten on a flight and were there that night. My sister was cremated by her mother, and her mother was back on a flight within 48 hours. My sisters had no closure, no chance to say goodbye. We decided to plan a small service for my sister Fonda so we could all say goodbye to her the way she would have wanted. I remember sitting in a funeral home, planning my sister’s funeral at 18 years old with my other 2 sisters, Fonda’s fiancé, and Fonda’s best friend Michelle. I went home and made posters of all our pictures together with my friend, just examining my life at that moment and how unfair it all was.
My sister died 3 years ago this month on June 29th, 2017 from a fentanyl overdose. I miss her every day. I miss the phone calls and the adventures we embarked on together. You cannot save someone from drugs, you can only love them to death and pray they get the help they need. I appreciate Rise Again reaching out to me to share my story and spread awareness of drug addiction and loss of loved ones. I hope someday we live in a world that this is no longer a thing, but unfortunately that is just a dream. All we can do is educate our youth and pray for a better life for those struggling.