My older sister was named Ife, a Yoruba name that means love. She died many years ago, but I think of her often. I wish I took the time to truly know her better beyond just being one of my many sisters. My thoughts about her always land on the circumstances surrounding her death. Ife suffered from a vicious addiction to crack cocaine and was also HIV-positive. She was beautiful even with the weight loss. When she passed, I was in the middle of completing a graduate public health degree and studying for the MCAT. I don't know how I managed to finish my degree other than the fact that my ability to compartmentalize my life served as a powerful survival mechanism. I don't hold the same feelings of rage that I once held about why my sister died and who was or wasn't at fault, including societal structures and racial bias in healthcare. Today, I find comfort in knowing that Ife's struggles and death informed my decision to decline acceptance to medical school and then acceptance to clinical psych PhD programs for something greater. It took some time to find my footing and direction, and I'm still navigating. But, Ife's death played a significant role. My love for Ife and the desire to shake the feeling of being a powerless oberver of oppression shifted my trajectory. I no longer wanted to focus on the individual treatment of health conditions but on research, prevention, and policy that improved the health and welfare of populations. Thank you, Ife.
“The practice of love offers no place of safety. We risk loss, hurt, pain. We risk being acted upon by forces outside our control.”
― bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions