Today marks 21 years I have lived without my sister. Desperation and depression took her from me. She was only 32 years old.
Every year I think I can get by without it affecting me. This “tender day” of July 9th shouldn’t hold such agonizing memories for me, yet on the way to the wildflower field this morning I kept having flashbacks to this day in 2001. The scene that unfolded 21 years ago was just as vivid today riding down the interstate as it was the day it happened. Fighting back tears, I tried to think good thoughts, and even turned on loud music to drown out any thoughts that tried to haunt me. At one point I am almost sure my husband’s ears were ringing from the thump of the bass. Blinking back the tears, I shifted to thoughts of happier times.
Later, at the wildflower field, I was able to escape in the beautiful array of colors. The variety of vibrant colored Zinnias in light pink, hot pink, red, white, orange and yellow took me away for a little while as we strolled throw the meadows along the pond. Being among nature is good for the soul.
We left the wildflower field and continued on toward an old mill in the upstate. We love going on little adventures and exploring all of God’s beautiful countryside. While we were there, we stepped inside an old structure filled now with graffiti and litter. As we looked around wondering what it was like back when the mill was active, the writing on the wall seemed to speak to me.
“If the world was coming to an end, I don’t wanna close my eyes without feeling like I lived.” MGK
There’s so much my sister has missed since she has been gone. She missed her daughter growing up, graduating high school, and having two children of her own (a boy, three years old now, and a girl, six months old at the time of this writing). She missed my youngest daughter being born and my oldest daughter doting over the baby sister she asked God for. My sister missed recitals, family vacations, cheer practice, volleyball games, silly Christmas pictures with everyone wearing matching pajamas, graduations, weddings, and all the things she SHOULD have been here for but wasn’t.
I wonder with the time she did have on this earth if she truly felt like she lived.
I’ll forever remember the feeling that washed over me shortly after her passing. No one knows how long they will live. We all hope for long, healthy lives, but none are guaranteed this gift. I’m sure you can think of people gone way too soon at an early age as well. Several people come to my mind, too. That’s why I have tried to live, truly enjoy life, for myself and for all the things my sister didn’t get to do with her short time here on this earth. We are made for much more than just to work, deal with stressors, and pay taxes. Our time on earth should be to make a difference in the lives of others and to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. We should go on more adventures, tell people we love them a whole lot more than we do, and spend more quality time together making memories.
I want to feel like I have lived … and so I took swimming lessons and went scuba diving in the Grand Cayman Islands shortly after my sister’s passing. I’ve hiked down the side of a steep mountain to the ruins of an airplane crash to pay respects to those who lost their lives. Sailing in the ocean feeling the wind in my hair or putting the top down on my little convertible has allowed me to feel completely free. Riding on the back of my horse has given me the ability to connect more deeply with God as we explore areas we’ve never been before from the North Carolina mountaintops to the sandy shores of the beaches. We’ve traveled to Hawaii and experienced the culture there while respecting the land and local residents. We have LIVED … in honor of my sister.
Her passing made us all realize that although we don’t want to think about a tragedy occurring in “our” family, sadly, it can and does happen. No one is immune to loss. Our worlds can be totally fine one day with us happy one moment and our entire world crashing around our feet the next.
No one is promised a happy life. You will get beat up and knocked around as you try to merely survive at times. The world won’t stop for your broken heart, just like Reba McEntire sang in her song from the 90s. The world will keep on turning as you pick up the shattered pieces of your heart and life.
From suicides, to random shootings, to drug overdoses, these are just a few things that can seemingly destroy your happy life and family. When someone is ripped from your life, you find yourself wondering how you will be able to breathe from one second to the next. God … that is how. He has been the only reason I am still here today. The Lord truly is close to the brokenhearted as scripture promises us in Psalm 34:18.
So live. For yourself. For your family. For the loved ones that left this world too soon.