1,460 Days (An Open Letter to Nancy)

“And can it be, that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep, that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up.”
– Charles Dickens

Four years.

Forty eight months.
Two hundred eight weeks.
One thousand, four hundred and sixty days.

And yet, without fail not a day goes by that I don’t still miss you.

When you first passed away, I was told repeatedly to just give my grief time, that I couldn’t expect to just “be okay,” that time is what ultimately heals everything. I heard what all the well meaning people were saying; I even acknowledged the grain of truth in their trite words. They meant well. They loved me and my family (our family). They wanted to help. I hold no hard feelings towards them. The constant outpouring of love and support is what sustained me in those first few months – the first few months of the forty eight that have transpired since your passing. I’m thankful for the unwavering support of everyone. I am blessed.

However, now that I’m on the other side of four years, I have to say that honestly, in my experience and opinion the phrase “time heals everything” is a hoax. It sounds nice. It’s short enough to memorable, but long enough to be convincing – a vital trait in all those cliché phrases we hold so dear.

But no. Time does not heal everything. There are some things that you never truly recover from.Time does nothing more than create a buffer zone between one event and the next. It is a unit of measurement: a way of creating something tangible from an intangible. It helps us make sense of the world in which we live. And it has its place, as all forms of measuring do. But that’s it. It is a unit of measuring, not a healer. That isn’t to say having space from an unalterable event doesn’t help. It allows processing, and grieving. Grieving properly takes time. However, time itself changes nothing. It is we who change in the midst of it.

“I sometimes wonder whether we are moving through time or if time is moving through us.”
-Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

And oh, dear Nancy how I’ve changed. Some days I wonder if you’d even recognize me in my current state. I’m so vastly different than I was four years ago, it honestly amazes me to reflect on it. However, I’m fortunately never subjected to wonderment for long, because my memory of you quickly recollects how well you always knew me and understood me. You always understood me better than I did myself. And there’s not a single doubt in my mind that that statement would be as true today as it was when you were alive. You just knew. Occasionally words were needed to supplement. But not often.

I still love you so much. The time that has elapsed since your passing has done nothing to extinguish or lessen my affection for you. I can say as confidently today as I did the day you died that you are my best friend on this side of heaven. You will always be. The bond we shared is irreplaceable. The time I was able to spend with you and the memories I have as a result are precious to me – perhaps the most precious thing I’m in possession of. To have loved so deeply and lost – it’s changed me Nance. Something within me broke the day you died.

But of course, it only follows that someone who had always lived so graciously died with equal grace. You’ve given me a gift: the gift to live fearlessly within the knowledge that God is in control and that His grace is indeed sufficient. The Gospel is enough. You’ve empowered me to live each day in view of eternity, recognizing that any day could be my last. Therefore I need to be conscientious of the decisions I’m making, even now, because it’s on these decisions I’m building a life. And it’s on this life I’m building a legacy. Recognizing this helps me to be the Amy you saw in me and faithfully drew out – the same way you drew out the best in everyone. I’m thankfully forever in your debt for you teaching me these things. Some people never have the privilege of knowing these things throughout the course of an entire lifetime. It takes others a lifetime to understand. And then there’s me, in the midst of “the best years of my life” already able to put these truths in application. Incredible. What a unique and glorious privilege. And, as with so many other things, I owe it all to you.

“A generous person will prosper;
Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
Proverbs 11:25

Of course, I’m not perfect, (not even close) but thank God neither were you. You made mistakes. You got stressed over the little things that aren’t important in the grand scheme of things. You would clam up when you should’ve talked. You didn’t always handle being confronted with patience and grace. To be honest, Nancy, I make a concentrated effort to remember your faults right alongside your attributes. I strive to remember the darkness that intermingled with your radiance. I have to. I want to – lest you become less human, less real and tangible, in my mind. In fact, remembering you weren’t perfect is a continual source of encouragement to me. The way you lived your life is not unattainable for us other lowly mortals. You have not set an impossible standard. You simply lived in habitual love. You chose love more often than not. You were kind. You were gentle. You were unassuming. Therefore Nancy, in a little under nineteen years you left a greater impact on this ol’ world than some people do in eighty. One person truly can make a difference. You did. Your life is still a constant testimony to me of what can happen when we entrust our brokenness and imperfections to perfect, loving God: a God Who restores and isn’t content to simply leave us where we are. And I think having the honor of being so close to someone who recognized that at a depth few people even realize exists within them is something to daily thank God for.

I still mourn. I still miss you. I will always miss you. I mourn for the things I’ll never get to experience with you at my side – the life events that will pass by without your smile lighting them up. And I mourn for those who will now never have the opportunity to know you. I pity them, to be honest. It’s an injustice that they had no control over. However, I know that through your indelible impact on me, you’re still impacting others. I take comfort in that. The way we love people looks vastly different (I’m much more inclined to sarcasm than you were) but the love is the same.

“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
-Stephen Schwartz, Wicked

We’re different people Nancy, and I rejoice in the fact that you never would have wanted me to change who I am in your memory. You also never would have wanted me to identify myself by your death (“I’m the girl who’s sister died.”). I’m more than happy to emulate the way you loved God (first) and others (second), but as previously stated, it looks a bit different when I do it. And that’s okay. You wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. You would’ve encouraged me to continue living, with as much sass and joy as you ever knew me to have. I’ve striven to do so. I hope I’ll make you proud, my dear sister.

I love you.

Amy Joyce