I wrote this in 2015, one year after my sister passed away. I like to revisit it once or twice a year and walk through the memories again. Her life and her death. Her own story and my story as her sister.
My sister died one year ago today. Her loss hits me all the time, of course, that’s nothing new. Here and there, random times, usually when I’m driving. Then today comes and it’s like all those moments piling up into one long moment, like when you stop getting breaks between contractions and you’re not sure how you’ll ever breathe again. No matter how you try, the memories come flooding in and they don’t let up. But it’s okay because today is for remembering. Today is for grieving.
So I grieve. And I remember.
I remember the call from my sister, she immediately said just two words, “Erin died.” We talked about the details and we hung up and I was completely lost. In skydiving, they call the free fall portion a “mindfuck”. Your brain can’t process what’s happening in real time and it goes all rush and static. That’s how this felt. I remember sitting in the bathroom sobbing while Jt was in the shower. I remember going into avoidance mode and taking the kids to school because what are you supposed to do? What else can you do?
I remember running in to grab a coffee and coming across two friends. I remember saying out loud for the first time, “my sister died this morning” and tears flowing right there in the coffee shop.
I remember panicking then that they would take her body before I got there, like my brain was finally figuring out that there were things that needed to happen. I called my other sister, freaking out, and she just said, “hurry.” I remember getting there and seeing the sheriff’s car parked out front. I remember sitting in her room with her, alone first, and then with my mom and sisters. I remember the outfit our mom put her in, cozy jammies, exactly as I would have done. I remember how I stroked her cold face, put socks on her cold feet, wondered about her nose beginning to purple before any other part of her.
I remember the funeral home arriving. I remember them wheeling her out of her room on a stretcher, her body encased in a thick plastic bag. I remember kissing her face for the last time before they zipped the heavy bag closed.
I remember staying with my parents and sisters for several days as we made arrangements. I remember writing her obituary together, choosing her burial plot, and pissing off my dad as we giggled at the weird grave markers throughout the cemetery. I remember staying up most nights, smoking and talking to my sister, eventually lying down on the couch just before dawn. I remember never quite getting to sleep before hearing the wails of my mother from the back of the house as she woke up only to remember. There is no sound on earth like that one.
I also remember though. I remember rides to church on Sunday morning, Erin between me and another sister, each of us pushing her back up as she would lean heavily against us. I remember the smell of Cheerio and OJ burps. That one is unfortunately seared into my brain forever.
I remember holding her during seizures. Gently so that she wouldn’t hurt herself and on her side so she wouldn’t choke. I remember now how that prepared me for my own child’s seizures.
I remember the time she was staying at my apartment and I thought I’d make her something different for breakfast so I made scrambled eggs with my last two eggs and, being a self-centered 20-something, I thought of it as a tiny sacrifice I was making out of love. When she spit them out I quickly remembered she hated eggs.
I remember another time she was staying at my house. A different house, one I shared with my husband and baby. I remember she was giving me fits. She refused any food or drink and I was getting the feeling she was just being ornery. I remember how Jedd told her to knock it off and she smiled. She was just doing what sisters do.
I remember that she loved my first baby. Whether Elliet was screaming or laughing or sleeping, she brought Erin a rare smile.
Today, I remember and I grieve and it’s supposed to get easier but today it’s not easier.
It’s 2018, Easter Day. This year has been less… brutal. The shock and horror of it has dulled with time into a more bearable form of sadness. I think this is the best we can hope for, I would never want to lose the sadness but it’s no longer so powerful as to overwhelm. Today we celebrate Erin, that’s something else that gets easier with time. Grief is a hell of a journey, crushing and invigorating, it’s the most human I’ve ever felt.
September 7, 1975 – April 1, 2014