I have been trying to write this post for several weeks.
Next week, my family and friends will celebrate and grieve the one year anniversary of Hali’s death.
I’ll be honest, this has been one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. Up until a few months ago, I don’t think I could state I was dealing with her death at all, never mind well. In August, after a string of weeks of insomnia and deep unhappiness, I decided to seek out the help of a grief counselor. Her help is probably the only reason I will actually be attending any memorial next weekend. She is also the reason why I am writing this blog. She challenged me to write a goodbye letter as my final step in letting Hali go. She never asked me to stop grieving, just to start healing.
I have been unwilling to do this for about a month. I think, instead, if I write of this past year, what she’s missed, and the realizations I have had about how much a big sister means to her little sister, it will help. I hope it also reminds me, and whoever reads this, that no matter what, your family (blood, half, step, adopted) is your family; there is no walking away, or cutting ties.
My dear Hali Mae,
With the risk of earning mom’s ire, THIS SUCKS.
I miss you an incredible amount. I often think about calling you; too often I catch myself doing something ‘Hali’ and laughing/crying about it. It’s getting a little easier. A little. Kurt and I joked in the car about your need to add your arm to our seat belts when breaking a little too quickly. I think I will start calling it the Hali clothesline.
I’m not really sure how to write about this year; The weekend of your death, I also said goodbye to Ry, Sarah and the kids for the last time before their big move to Nicaragua. I poured my grief into a distraction of love and business playing with the kids, loving on them before they left. I think that initial distraction tactic worked so well, I spent the next 8 or 9 months trying to forget you had died. It’s only been a couple of weeks since I’ve actively tried to catch myself talking about you in the present tense.
I threw myself into the arms of school, teaching, and my friends. When I felt sad, I had a dinner party; If something reminded me of you, I went and planned my next lecture. I was terrible at letting you go slowly. I have been clinging to your life like you’d still be sitting on the couch at mom’s with an icecap in hand, waiting for me after my first day of school as a PhD student.
The first time I ate Taco Bell since you died, I cried silently the whole time. I’m pretty sure I freaked the entire restaurant out. (I definitely just heard your laugh there).
But I couldn’t ignore your death forever. I might weep as I write this, but I know in my heart that you are gone, yet still a part of everything I do.
I know I’m not the only one who cries at night when I think of you. I do know, however, that Rox and your mom have been the anchors your kids need in storm of grief everyone else is experiencing. Eliannah, your Ella Rose, is a joy of smiles and life, and I think a beautiful little girl. She is the light in the darkness you left us in. Little Z: I know Isaiah is missing you fiercest of us all. He lost his champion when God took you. If there is one reason over any other I am angry at God/the injustice of your death, its for Isaiah’s sake. But I know your folks are doing the absolute best they can by him.
I haven’t, though. You would be so disappointed in me, if you knew how I have behaved this year. Hali, I’ve hid from all the responsibility, love, grief, joy, and healing that our families are going through. Too scared to see Isaiah’s face, or watch Eliannah get bigger without your love, I have been the most selfish of sisters. What’s worse is I know you would still understand and love me for it. I know you would tell me it’s OK, even when it’s not.
I promise I will do my best to make this right.
I can talk about what happened to you now without crying. (mostly.) But I can’t do so without feeling very angry. I’m angry at the doctors and nurses that caused your death, I’m angry at whatever part of the universe allowed this happen; losing you cause the cracks in my faith to tear my world apart and remake it. There are days when I mourn this, the loss of familiar strength through trust in God. Mostly, though, I feel free. I think you’d be pretty sad to hear this too, because you found so much strength in the church and your faith, especially when you were pregnant for Eliannah. But this isn’t something I regret or wish to spare from your knowledge. I think I’m stronger without it.
Oh. I got a tattoo for you. Yoshi and baby mario…I can hear your fake Mario cry if I listen closely enough. That has become a talisman for talking about your death, your life, our relationship, and all you mean to me. So much, I’m even going to write a paper about it (and yes, I just heard you call me a dork.)
I wrote a long list of things you’ve taught me over the years that I never said thank you for; I have thought about sharing them in this letter, but I know you would already know them. You are the keeper of my childhood, the first person I would go to with my secrets, my example, my competition; you marched to the beat of your own drum and made sure I felt confident enough in myself to do the same. I went everywhere with you, not because I was your sidekick, but because you always made your world available to me. I was never too small, too young, too silly, too weak to go on adventures with you. There isn’t a space of the last 25 years that isn’t coloured in the paint of your love, friendship and sisterhood. This last year without you has been like traveling to hell and back. Yet, through my grief and sorrow, I have learned to hold on fiercely to our family, to never let an I love you go unsaid, to cherish the wonderful supportive friends who have distracted me and mourned with me, and beyond all else, to revel in the beautiful memories of our short lives together. I hope next week I can spend the day with our families remembering you, visit your grave for the first time, and learn to let go a little bit of the anger and sadness I feel, and simply feel love.
We will never grow old in farmhouses next door to each other like we said we would, but you will always be in my heart. I love you, so very very much. Miss you!
p.s. Un roquin va te manger pour diner. I hope they teach French in Heaven!