“How are you doing?” Lots of people ask me this. How am I doing? I don’t know. How can you process losing something that has always been. Whose existence has shaped your current reality.
I keep having dreams where things that always were no longer are. Simple things really. My glasses breaking. Steve asking me not to call him “baby” anymore; saying he’s too grown up. Everyday things missing, being gone. Irreversibly and unchangeably wrong.
I guess that’s what it is like to lose a sister. Something that has always, always been a part of my life very suddenly is not. Besides my parents, Candace is the only person who has been a part of my existence for the entirety of it (as far as I can remember, at least. She was born when I was two). There is no part of my life she hasn’t been in. No major event complete without her presence. No small gathering without her mention. She even joined me at college for a semester and was planning on moving back to Portland to start a new job in the next few months.
And now she’s gone and my brain can’t wrap itself around this new reality. Especially because it’s something you can’t prepare yourself for – a young, unexpected death. It’s not like she was really sick for years and years or that she was old and you’d kind of just expect it at some point.
And so what strikes me most, in all this, is impermanence. The impermanence of everything. Even things that you think will never go away, never change. They do. We take so many things for granted. We take relationships for granted, assuming they’ll always be there for us to come back to when we have time, when we’re not busy attending to more pressing matters. I neglect doing little things, writing letters or sending notes or even just texting someone I should because I assume there will always be time to do that later. I don’t do little things for holidays because I assume there is always next year. I put things off because there is tomorrow, next week, the rest of time.
I’m not saying I don’t seize opportunities. I don’t think that’s a big fault of mine. It’s a little fault of mine. A little fault in which I don’t seize little opportunities because it has never really occurred to me before now that I may not get another chance. There was a book I had wanted to send Candace with a letter about what I had learned from it and what I hope she would learn, too. Just a little thing. A small way that I could have reached out and shared something with her. And I put it off for whatever non-existent reason. Mostly I just kept forgetting to order it for her. And I kept putting off writing the letter about a subject that is difficult to broach. And then there’s the whole task of getting all the way to the post office to mail it. And any other excuse I made because I figured I could do it later. Later. Later. Later. When things are still the same as they always have been and time hasn’t played it’s cruel trick of causing things to disappear.
I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to wait for some magical perfect moment to tell someone that I love them. Or to ask forgiveness. Or to say an encouraging word. I don’t want to put off writing an important letter because I imagine there will always be some other time. There may not be.
It reminds me of a quote from Donald Miller, “Right before you die, you’ll realize this whole life was about loving people. And you watched too much television.” I shudder to think of how true this is for me. Maybe it’s not TV. Maybe it’s checking facebook or online shopping or any manner of things I do that slowly wastes away my day, my life, when instead I could be reaching out and loving people. And doing small things to show that love and appreciation. But I have always taken it for granted that they are there and will still be there, waiting to be loved, whenever I find it most convenient to get around to it. I don’t want to look back in five years and only have really up-to-date facebook information to show for it. I don’t want to miss any more opportunities to love, to talk, to embrace.
I don’t feel like I am good with words, or that I really know how to express the things in my heart. So I have a hard time writing meaningful cards or expressing gratitude or sharing an idea. But I want to stop letting that keep me from trying. I may not be great, but I can try. And I will try.
I’ll begin by publishing this post.