Darlene Ost

Darlene Ost

I'm grateful to all of my family for so many reasons, but in particular, I want to thank my sister Kassandra, for saving my life.

Since we were kids, Kass and I would play together, and be there for each other. We would laugh, and talk about everything. We had secret places we would explore together, like the forest near our home, where sand dunes were left behind by the river near our home, that had long ago recessed.

We learned how to be a team, and how to help each other. And we fought sometimes. She would slap me with her stuffed Pikachu when I was being the teasing older sister, and I would tickle her until she relented.

When she was 17, and I was 23, I got sucked into a toxic, abusive, and controlling relationship in Norway, for 6 years.

She never gave up on me.

She knew something must have been wrong, when I didn't keep my promise and come back for Christmas.

And then, when I couldn't seem to come back at all.

And there definitely had to be something wrong when my dad and stepmom were coming through Norway, and I wouldn't see them.

She and I sent emails, but I was always under duress and inspection.

Slowly, I started making more and more contact. I even managed to get Skype and communicate, slowly working my way around my situation.

Every day, I thought about what would happen if something happened to her-- To any of my family. I might never see them again. I felt utterly trapped, and didn't know how to escape.

Five years into the relationship, she and my mom were finally able to visit me.

That week with them in a hotel room in downtown Trondheim was eye-opening, and it changed the situation entirely. I saw a way home, I saw hope.

I was treated with love and kindness, and we played nostalgic video games, knitted, and explored the city together. We laughed, and we teased each other. It was like it used to be, and I saw a light in the darkness that had become my life. We even talked about her moving out to be there with me.

The joy that my sister helped me find, that I had almost forgotten, created a map in that short week. That map was my way out.

Six months after their visit, I had moved into an apartment with my abuser, after a long time of living with him and his mother. Without his mother as a buffer, it became worse and worse. He would get drunk, and even more controlling, and I spent a lot of nights in tears.

I realized what I really wanted-- I wanted to be happy again. And it had been a long time since I had been as happy as when Kassandra was there with me that summer. When Kass said she would come the next summer again, I quickly made a decision. As soon as she came, I would tell her everything, and she could help me. I would finally be able to leave, I could be free.

But, that brought up a big problem. The next summer wasn't for another 6 months. That was too far away-- I wanted to see her as soon as possible. I couldn't hold onto my secret for that long.

So, then I made another decision. I was going to leave him.

I was anxious, and terrified. I had already tried to leave him a few times, and had gotten sucked back in. This time had to be for keeps.

At my job in the library in Moholt, Trondheim, I told everyone at work what was happening. I emailed my sister at work and told her. I called the women's shelter, and secured my place there.

As soon as Kass got my letter, she collapsed into tears.

She had a feeling all along something was wrong, but when she had seen me in Norway, I had seemed so happy that she thought maybe she had been wrong.

She wrote to me her reaction, and how I would always have a place with her and her boyfriend Jesse (Who had been comforting her the entire time), and that I should come home.

That day I went to the women's shelter. A couple of days after that, I was in Sweden with my half-sister Jessica, who I am also very grateful to, for being so hospitable, and supportive, and giving me a place to stay for a week until I could go back home to Canada. Also, those Swedish traditional meals that she insisted on making night after night, were amazing!

I finally came home to Canada, and Kassandra and Jesse were waiting for me at the airport. I wanted to kiss the ground in the parking lot, but they advised me that probably wasn't the best idea. But, I was free.

They let me stay with them until I could get back on my feet, and find my place at home again. I'm going back to school in September, my life is picking up where it left off-- I'm happy. I'm free, and it's all thanks to my sister.

She deserves everything and more for what she did for me, how she supported me and helped me through the darkest times-- And still does to this day.

And that's how my sister Kassandra saved my life.