It was Lora's birthday yesterday. I didn't write a post honoring my sister. I always do – on her actual birthday. But our entire family was getting over a major stomach bug and I had gotten behind on laundry etcetera and the words just didn't come. Every time I sat down there was another phone call or thing to do, diaper to change, Evyn-story to listen to, and the words just never came (not that I wasn't thinking of her, mind you). Somewhere in yesterday, in the twinge of guilt I felt for not writing, marks a lesson I have learned: Life goes on. And I can't be afraid of it.
I joined a Sudden Loss group not long after Lora died. Everyone there wanted so badly to be rid of the pain. Not me. I wanted to always have it there as a reminder. To me, the extent to which I hurt, that her name was raw pain–that was a measure of how deeply I loved her. What I didn't know was that whether I liked it or not, time would curb the hurt. Because life does go on. I was sad to lose it. The intense pain, that is. I felt guilty, wondered if I was somehow betraying her by not crying on every birthday, by coming to enjoy mine again.
I was afraid time would take her away. It wasn't too long after she died that I started forgetting just a little. Exactly how she laughed, what she looked like. The mannerisms, the memories. It worried me. And then along came the girls. Those serendipitous little girls.
I always imagined having two boys. There were a lot of boys on James' side of the family so it seemed inevitable. And then we had two girls. Three years and a month apart. I wanted to avoid the obvious trap of bestowing all of my memories and expectations of sisterhood on them, so I have been conscious to not compare them too much to Lora and I, and to nurture their individuality as they reveal themselves. But the effort to not compare is sometimes a little hopeless. I see Lora in each of them – Evyn's passion and appreciation for every little detail of life, Ashlyn's pillowy pudge feet and affinity for the forbiddenest corners of the house. And watching them is like watching the two of us. Maybe it's birth order, but Evyn is smart, capable, well-spoken, argumentative, and overly-responsible (yes, she's only four). Ashlyn (so far) is fiesty, mischievious, loves to cuddle on a whim, fiery mad when she doesn't get her way, and follows Evyn around like a puppy. They are Evyn and Ashlyn, but on some days, in certain moments, they could be Crystal and Lora.
There is a lot of pain and sadness in the fact that Lora, my little sister who adored babies and children, who would have spoiled these two to the moon and back, who would probably already have two of her own by now, is not here. But if there is redemption, if I want to enjoy my life, to respect and honor our loss but have a fulfilling life nonetheless, I only have to listen at the door when my girls are giggling and screeching and squealing in their rooms.
There is a caveat. I do realize it's almost a burden for them to bear – to remind me so much of my happiness with Lora. I'm conscious of it, and I'll toe the line carefully. But my girls will probably pay for that driver's negligence for the rest of my life–when they ask for their license, when they're gone four minutes longer than they should have been, when they go off to college, when they reach Lora's age. That's a consequence of our free will. Good people sometimes pay for others' mistakes. I'll cross those bridges when I come to them. For now I'll pray for their safety, and that they will be blessed by each other as much as or even more than Lora and I were.
Today is my birthday. The tenth without a phone call from Lora. James and Evyn are making me a cake, and later we'll take the girls to the bookstore for coffee and the train table, where Evyn will introduce everyone to Ashlyn and remind the children to not step on her, and Ashlyn will throw trains and look for coffee to spill. It will be a good day. Because the very fact that life goes on has been what has brought my sister back to me. Sometimes the pain, but always the depth of love.