Submitted by her sister, Vanessa Price-Dater
What Brooke was like
Brooke was my younger sister; we were 13 months apart. She was a hilarious person with a magnetic personality. She never met an animal that she didn’t want to adopt, including cats, dogs, snakes, lizards and rabbits. She designed and created incredible jewelry for her family and all of her friends. She was all-in, all the time, in everything she did.
She loved birthdays and special occasions
Brooke always remembered birthdays. And it was always super important that she had a cake. I remember when I turned 20, or 21. We grew up in Chicago but were both in Vermont, going to UVM. She went to the old Edelweiss Bakery in Winooski and picked out a cake for me — chocolate pistachio. It said “Happy Birthday Vanessa.” It was a real birthday cake, big enough for 15 people, even though it was just the two of us. She would just do stuff like that.
Brooke’s proudest accomplishment
Brooke was a tremendous athlete. She played field hockey and ice hockey in high school, and then field hockey at the college-level. That meant a lot to her.
How drugs became part of Brooke’s life
Drugs became a part of Brooke’s life after a sequence of events in high school and a terrible, years-long struggle with eating disorders. She eventually got into heroin through a relationship she developed after one of many rehab stints. I found out because my parents told me.
How our relationship changed while Brooke was struggling with opioid-use disorder
After surviving a catastrophic overdose in 2004, Brooke wasn’t really the same. Our relationship completely disintegrated. By 2009, Brooke was back in the Chicago-area, and I was a new mom living in Vermont, and it was impossible to stay connected.
How Brooke fought opioid-use disorder
Brooke and my parents did everything possible to get help over 10-plus years. Methadone, inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, therapy — you name it. It was an uphill battle because Brooke couldn’t get help for drugs because facilities wouldn’t treat drugs and eating disorders at the same time. If her eating disorder was active, she couldn’t get into rehab. If she wasn’t sober, she couldn’t get treatment for her eating disorder.
The last moments we shared
The last time I saw Brooke was during a trip to Chicago when she was well enough to spend time with me. We went to the Brookfield Zoo with my daughter and our best friend, and we had dinner at my grandma’s house. I feel very lucky to have had that time to do something normal with her, because those times had been very limited over the 10 years prior.
Brooke died of an overdose
When this happens to somebody you love, there aren’t a lot of good ways to tell people about it. It’s just a really weird, lonely place to be. It’s really, really terrible.
When Brooke died, I got a letter from our childhood pediatrician, whom we both loved. Our doctor sent her sympathies for my sister’s death and all of the suffering that preceded it. I got tons of letters after Brooke’s death, but that one just captured the situation perfectly. I think about it all the time. She used the word “suffering,” and that’s exactly what it was.
If I could say one thing to Brooke now, it would be
I would say that I’m sorry for how much you suffered because of this disease.
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