Submitted by Meredith’s sister, Hilary Casillas
Meredith was my closest friend
Meredith was fiercely protective of me from our days on the elementary school bus to the very end. We lived in a house with alcohol and drug addiction, as well as abuse. Meredith did her best to protect me from all of that.
She had a wide circle of friends and loved to be surrounded by people. She loved dogs, books and laughing.
To me, she was my closest friend and the person with whom I had the most intense, real relationship in my life. We could be screaming at each other one minute and, when it was over, giving each other a neck rub and saying, “Hey, can I borrow that skirt?” She was the first person I called when I learned I was pregnant and the person at my side when I married the love of my life. She was my competition for dates in our small-town high school world, but it was no competition — she always won. Meredith was my high school tennis partner with a killer serve and was a little scary when she rushed the net (which is how she was off the court, too).
When she left for college, I was excited to take over her old bedroom, but instead I just inherited an echoing part of the house that felt cold and empty without her. Meredith is still known for her signature gut-busting lasagna made with crescent rolls instead of pasta — sounds gross, but it was delicious. Our sibling rivalry was robust even into our forties; our parents would cringe because we bickered like junior high girls and never stopped jockeying for the “best daughter” position.
After Meredith’s death, one of her friends contacted me to share this story: The friend had a daughter who was born with significant disabilities. When the daughter was 9 years old, she died suddenly. Meredith’s friend said that as soon as she heard the news, Meredith came to her home and helped her make arrangements. When her daughter’s body was moved to the funeral home for the wake and funeral, Meredith stayed at the funeral home with them overnight so the friend and her daughter wouldn’t be alone.
She was funny and endearing
She would want people to remember how funny and endearing she was. My husband recently reminded me of this Meredith story: She called him one morning and said, “I woke up today with a cat snuggled right next to me in bed, then remembered that I don’t have a cat. I need to shut my windows at night; these stray cats are out of control.”
Meredith was proud of her role as an advocate for children
Prior to the final 10 years of her life, which weren’t filled with a lot of proud moments, Meredith was an accomplished social worker, at one time working for the State of Oklahoma with children experiencing abuse. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, she also worked with the tribe on kinship foster placement of Cherokee children. If she couldn’t find relatives to take a child, she would find a non-related Cherokee foster family.
How drugs came into Meredith’s life
Meredith didn’t really fall into the alcohol/drug scene until her early thirties. We lived in the same neighborhood, and I was aware that she was binge-drinking and using drugs casually. I became aware of her opioid use in 2002.
I have two vivid memories from 2004. We spent the holidays with our families in the Midwest. My dad was recuperating from hip surgery at home. He told me that he suspected Meredith had stolen his prescription pain medication and replaced them with over-the-counter pills. I confronted her, and she admitted that she had stolen the medication and had already taken all of it. Because my dad was in terrible pain, I took him to the emergency room, where we were told that doctors don’t replace opioids that have been stolen. I was shocked. Meredith’s reaction was also shocking: She locked herself in a bedroom and refused to talk about it. The next day, she acted like it had never happened. During that same trip, Meredith joined us for dinner at my father-in-law’s house. During dinner, she was so high that she fell asleep while attempting to put food in her mouth. Everyone acted like nothing was happening, which was uncomfortable and odd.
Our relationship changed
We were estranged for long periods during the final 10 years of her life. She stole from me, ordered medications online using my identity and contacted me from jail twice, begging for bail money. I finally had enough and severed contact.
One year before her death, someone I admire greatly shared the sad news that his son had died of an overdose. He shared that his family never gave up on their son and always loved him. That inspired me to rebuild my relationship with Meredith. I’m glad that I did. I had always prepared myself for the worst happening and decided that I wanted to know I had tried to reconnect. The guilt I feel for my actions/inactions has been overwhelming at times.
What Meredith did to fight opioid-use disorder
She battled the disease for 10 years. She entered rehab multiple times but always relapsed. She was active in NA/AA during periods of sobriety. At first, everyone was hopeful that she would stay sober. Then she would stop going to meetings. It was a financial drain, too, because she had no insurance, so my parents and I had to pay for rehab.
She called me the morning she died
I was traveling to Atlanta for a meeting, and she was joking about how I should react if I met one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Meredith was outrageous, hilarious, infuriating, beautiful and lovable. And she is desperately missed by her little sister. If you love someone who is struggling with addiction, please tell them Meredith’s story. Show them her picture. Tell them that she was an intelligent, beautiful, dynamic woman who never dreamed she would die of a drug overdose at the age of 46.
If I could say one thing to Meredith now, it would be
I wish I had known that recovery is a winding road that sometimes has U-turns and dead-ends; it’s not a straight line. Thank you for being my protector during our turbulent childhood. I love you and miss you every day.