letters to my sister, on the eve of what should have been her 29th birthday.

i had a moment yesterday, walking around goodwill, where i suddenly realized i was grieving. why it’s hard to concentrate at work. why i am not as fast to return emails, why i haven’t been wanting to cook. or bake. or talk to people.

i don’t know why it surprised me – this week has been hard. actually, this spring has been hard. i see you everywhere – in the cherry blossoms, in the blue skies, in the change in weather. i made ham at easter, and have had a very hard time eating it, because all i can think of is your digestive system shutting down, slowly, for years, and you eating ham everyday. because it didn’t cause muscle spasms and injure your already injured body. and so it’s in these little things that i miss the fact that losing you is a trauma. and i shouldn’t be surprised that i’m having a hard time.

i guess i expected to be crying all the time. i mean, i do cry, but mostly when i’m at my therapist’s office. or when someone posts something on facebook i wish i could share with you. our cousin posted something on your wall, and he said he’d talk with you about it the next time he saw you. that phrasing struck me, as it’s something i’ve caught myself thinking over and over and over again.

i think that’s the part that hurts. or one of many parts. that there won’t be a next time, at least not here, not in this life. i took tomorrow off, because i don’t know what to expect from your birthday. i’m making you a cake, but i don’t even know what kind to make you. i’m thinking lemon, but i don’t know. i don’t know anymore. it had been so long since you were able to eat cake or sweets (and good for you, for being a compliant patient.) that i don’t even remember what kind you liked. i’m not sure if i can ask mom.

it’s been hard for all of us. grief counseling only prepares you for so much, and the enormity of losing you shows up in everything. dad and i were on the phone, and we had to cut our conversation short very quickly, or it was going to be messy for both of us. i’m not angry you’re gone, but i struggle with being afraid i lost you without you knowing how much you meant to me. that’s harder than being angry. the fear that it wasn’t enough.

my therapist and i are addressing that fear, because it shows up in everything in my life these days. but i’m trying. my beloved favorite artist said it best – “I am seeking, I am striving, I am in with all my heart – always seeking without absolutely finding.”

i’ve been working on being good to this body that i have. seeking to prolong my life, to be healthy, to live longer than i was on track to. it’s hard. but you did everything necessary to make your lungs work one more year, your body to keep going, to miraculously recover over and over and over, and so much of it was due to perseverance in doing what your doctors told you to. so if you could, i can.

i had so many things to tell you, but the lump in my throat is getting too big to breathe, and i still have a work day to make it through. tomorrow, i’m going to bake a cake, and plant some flowers, and walk around the botanical gardens. and miss you.

happy should have been birthday, Marlene. i miss you.

just one more…

one more day, one more breath, one more football season. and with every scare, every coughing jag, my fear crops up. i’m trying to hard to be present, to connect as much as possible while she’s here.

i’ve never been good at being grounded – flighty, future leaning, always looking forward to the what ifs and the possibilities. fear doesn’t exist for me in the future – i can be optimistic about what comes, but what is here is what scares me. afraid that the video conversation we had on saturday was the last time i’ll see her face. afraid that when i hugged her last, it was the last.

i read about the vagus nerve on the internet today… why your heart aches when you feel emotional pain, why your chest feels heavy with grief. it’s odd, because one nerve, running from stomach to brain can get overstimulated, and bam. you can’t breathe, your stomach feels cold, and you’re aching somewhere inside. knowing that there is a real reason it physically hurts is reassuring. because this body is temporary, and the pain will pass, one day or at the end.

i’ve been so afraid of grief for so long – so afraid of hurt. so afraid that i all but cut off contact with all the things that have the power to hurt me, usually the things that i love. the people i love. and my sweet sister has always reached right back in. she’s figured out the the moments she has are the ones she is in. that tomorrow isn’t promised, only the time she is in, right now. she’s rooted. grounded.

i’m trying to lean in. not lean into the pain, because it’s coming whether i embrace it or not. but lean in to the one whose arms are strong. and when i rest in Him, throwing my pain and fear and longing at His feet, i can breathe again. if this is our last football season, then i want to be here for it. even if it hurts. because the pain makes these moments precious, and instead of begging for one more, i want to be present for the one i have. the one i’m in.

the other side of the coin

so i’ve received some lovely emails and phone calls, making sure i was doing alright. it was immensely heartening, because it’s easy to pretend it’s all fine. i’m on prozac, everything is great now! except there are times when it’s not, and i’m always a little scared of sharing when it’s not. i’ve hidden the fear for too long, so baring my heart in a public forum like this blog is simultaneously liberating and terrifying. but i’m on the other side of the valley i was passing through, with the understanding that there will be others – there will be days when the shadow of the mountains falls over the path i’m walking, and days when the light shines through the peaks.

i’ve been watching the hobbit a lot lately, so give a girl a break. but in the same vein of mountains and valleys, i’ve been listening to a band called “the oh hello’s,” serendipitously  linked from a facebook friend’s status. their latest album, “through the deep dark valley” sums up so many of my thoughts and hopes and fear. plus, they sound like the lumineers met mumford and sons, with a hint of the last bison. basically, i’m a happy girl – they’re excellent.

i’m linking to my favorite song on the album, the very last one. it’s a reprise of the opening track, which is a question directed outwards – will you lead me? i am feeling ebullient, joyous, loved, and the song makes me think of all those things. i am lead, i am loved, i am never forgotten. i know that faith and medicine and depression and fear get mixed up sometimes, in ugly ways sometimes too. but i was reminded of the hope i have, and cling to. it is not in my circumstances or the outcome of situations – my hope and faith are placed in a God who loves me. screwed up, broken, sinful me. and He leads me anyway – sometimes through dark and narrow places, but i am not abandoned. even if i am convinced of it. i guess that’s called faith – having to believe something i do not feel at times. or at all when the valley is dark.

at any rate, this was an unexpected post, because i didn’t anticipate having a down couple of days, or the opposite side of the coin – the reassurance and hope that comes from knowing that i am not alone. or choosing to believe it when it is scary.

also, i posted post #350 with the mocha mascarpone cake. which is gone already. it was so good! i want to work on tweaking it a little, seeing if i can’t get more substantial layers out of it. even if it was a cake post, i was excited to see that this little blog, begun over 6 years ago is still pushing onwards. hard to believe at times – i’ve got a lot of pavement under my feet since the first day i posted. and, i hope, a little more maturity, and a lot more hope.

here’s the song, and please remember all the ramblings i posted today. even if you’re feeling lost and alone and abandoned, you’re not. you may not feel the hands that hold you, and the world might be dark around you, but you are not forgotten. your pain is not ignored.