It never ceases to amaze me how in a matter of moments, everything can change. How something can go from meaningless to meaningful instantaneously. How fragile life really is.
I spent years of my life – nearly seventeen of them in fact – with December 11 being nothing more than another day in December. Maybe it meant something in that it brought us one day closer to Christmas – maybe. But even then it only derived its meaning from the next big holiday I affiliated it with. The day itself blended with all the other mundane activities that we call life. And yet, now it marks the single most devastating and important anniversary on my calendar.
The death of my beloved best friend, sister, and confidante, Nancy Lee.
My dearest sister Nancy,
You are infinitely missed. Perhaps more than infinitely. In fact, if there were something of greater depth and breadth than infinity, the amount I miss you would exceed that too.
I still remember finding out that you were gone vividly. When the troopers came in and told us, it felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me…like someone had knocked the wind out of me to such an extent that I no longer remembered how to breathe. I gasped for breath, trying to wrap my head around what this meant – what life could possibly look like without you to enjoy it with.
I came up with nothing. It was literally impossible for me to imagine my life without you as a part of it. Later that night, I remember thinking that the only person I wanted to talk to about this with and process it through was you. YOU! Nobody else. You just got me. You always understood me better than I understood myself. And I know that I’m not always the easiest person to be close to. I’m needy and annoying more times than not. But you weren’t deterred by that. You just loved me so much and so deeply. I hope you were fully aware of how much I reciprocated your love, in my way. But knowing you, and knowing how you knew me, I’m sure you did.
In a way, these past three years have been primarily me recovering from that initial punch in the gut. Re-learning how to breathe, if you will. The breaths were few and far between at first, very shallow and painful, almost nonexistent. But now they are much deeper, and sometimes I can even breathe without having to think about it. Sometimes.
It’s funny, because I think people think that once a person is gone that they’re actually gone – the whole out of sight out of mind mentality. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are just as much a part of my life now as you were when you were still living on earth with us, if not more so. The person I’m becoming is very deeply embedded in the person that you were – you are an irremovable part of who I am. As you always have been and you always will be.
I never thought I would heal from your death. Or ever be even remotely okay again. And there’s a part of me that will never be, honestly. But these few years have taught me something. Healing doesn’t mean that you are restored to the person you once were. It means you are restored to a better person than you ever were before, and could’ve ever been apart from the brokenness that now dwells inside you. There is a part of me that died with you Nancy, a part of me that you brought out that is gone until our reunion in heaven. I can’t even count the times I’ve longed to ask you for advice…even though I know exactly what you would say, it doesn’t eliminate the desire to hear it from you.
Would you believe that I’m actually a (somewhat) physically affectionate person now? I especially love cuddling. I know, I know. Why did I hold out on you then? It wasn’t intentional I promise. It’s just that all those years of forced hugs eventually wore me down. Apparently even the most stubborn of people have an expiration date when they finally yield to the inevitable. Also, I’ve graduated from high school, the Bible Institute and Jefferson Community College in the time since you’ve been gone. I still maintained my role in Annie my senior year because I knew you’d be angry if I dropped it. And I moved down to the Hudson Valley region of NY this fall. I’m planning on finishing my Bachelor’s at SUNY New Paltz. I stood up for Heather at her wedding this past June, and now Sarah is engaged to David! No worries though, I’m still as single as ever. I have alot of ambitions and things I need to figure out before I even think about inviting someone in on this mess. There was a time that I thought I was ready, but circumstances proved differently. I also not only own my own car, but I pay the insurance on it. It’s crazy. All these big things of adulthood we were looking forward to doing together I’m facing alone.
I still grieve. I grieve not only for the things that are never to be, but for the people you’ll never meet and the things we’ll never share. I grieve for Lorilee and Sadie Mae, who only had a few years with you, for KristiAnn and Emily, who will never be able to share their high school events and beyond with you, for my future children who will never know you, for my college graduation that you’ll be absent from, for my wedding that you can’t witness, for all of the little moments that become the big moments in retrospect. All those big adulthood moments that we spent a childhood anticipating doing together I grieve for. I’m so thankful for your example of faith, because faith is the only thing that has sustained me and kept me functioning these past few years.
There is so much more to be said, but I’ll close with this: Nancy, you have impacted more people than you know, and your legacy of love will never be forgotten. It’s a good thing we have eternity to catch up.
I love you.
Always, your sister,