Sometime, shortly after my sister died, someone told me the grief would change. I was almost bleeding my loss during this time, the grief was turning into anger, and there were days when it felt like someone was digging a scalpel into my ribs, trying to separate the bones and dig out the places where I carried my emotions.
I took this to mean it would get better, that I would stop hurting so much. So I waited, and waited, and waited, for it to get better. It never has. Grief is not present every day, I do not spend hours staring at her pictures, or her jewelry where it hangs on my Mom’s bedroom wall. It comes and goes; gone and then back again, threatening to pull me away like a vicious undertow.
But my grief is not gone.
Grief, I have found, make me angry. Once I am doing crying (for that moment), I have to do something, anything. The anger makes me restless, and I find myself cleaning the school corner at 11 am at night. Writing fanfiction until I can see the light of dawn creeping over the horizon. Or chasing down unsuspecting Alliance players, across a battleground in World of Warcraft until my eyes are gritty and I cannot focus my eyes to see the screen.
Last night, as I surfed facebook, wasting away a few minutes after the girls fell asleep, I found a picture my sister had tagged me in, before she was even sick. And so I found myself scrolling through her wall, until I came to one picture, posted a little over a week before she died. It was Sprout, sitting in a recliner, with a little mouth open wanting food. We were in Texas then, I had come for a visit and stayed as long as I could.
She posted that picture, along with a couple others, a little over a week before she died. It was probably the last time she was on facebook, before she became too weak to even sit up and scroll through the pictures and well-wishes and prayers and all the positive energy that was pouring in to her wall.
One of the last things she did, was post a picture of my firstborn.
Seeing that picture, everything hit me. The phone call where I told her and Mom I was pregnant, the calls where I asked for advice about morning sickness, maternity clothes, foods to avoid. The shrieking and giggling and “I TOLD YOU SOOO!!” screamed into my phone when I called to tell them Sprout was a girl.
The mounds and mounds of baby clothes and blankets and socks they had bought, and how I had to buy another suitcase to get them home when I visited that Christmas, my last trip anywhere before the baby was born.
And the toys and clothes that waited for us when went to Texas, when she was barely able to walk, but insisted on buying things for Layla. Of the final day, when we had to leave, when I had to go back to my life in Georgia, when I had to leave my Mom’s house, knowing I would never see my sister alive again.
With those memories comes the knowledge that she is gone. There is no coming back. All the things we would supposed to do, we will not get to do. Everything that was supposed to happen, has not. And my life changed course forever when she died. I can divide my life into before she got sick, while she was sick, and after she died. The memories of my first year with Carl, of a long deployment and a first pregnancy, are mixed with the memories of her diagnosis. Just a couple of months after him and I reunited on a parade field somewhere around 1 in the morning; her cancer was terminal, and we got the you need to come home phone call. Her death stands as one of the most monumental moments in my life, nothing has been the same since.
And the grief continues to come. It has changed, leaving and then sneaking back in. But it is still there, still digging in under my ribs, making it hard to breathe. Or maybe I cannot breathe through my tears. For in the worst moments, I cry so hard I nearly puke, I almost always end up bent over the toilet, heaving in gulps of air as the anger and bile rise in my throat.
Her birthday is this Saturday. A day I always called her, to tease her about growing old, about gray in hair or crow’s feet around her eyes; will come and go. And I will not be able to call her. I kept her last voicemail in my phone, and the day I upgraded my phone and lost her voicemail was a painful day.
I want to spend the next few days curled up in my bed, under the blanket she took to chemo. But my girls will not let me. The baby she loved so much, and the baby she would have loved just as much, need me. So I will do what I did the morning she died. I will follow my girls, and let myself fall into their world; where death has not touched them, where even rain is something to be celebrated, and the sunshine is a gift to be treasured.