Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On Losing Candace (One Year Later)

Today marks the first anniversary of my sister's death. Has it really been a year? It seems like yesterday. It seems long ago. It seems impossible. It seems mundane. It's strange to have one day in your life which you can point to and say, "That's when it changed." Of course, not everything changed dramatically. But since she left us, everything has been coated in a layer of sorrow. Sometimes the dust is so thick I can't see what's underneath. At other times, it only thinly veils something really enjoyable, delightful even.

In December of 2012, I read The Time Traveler's Wife. I didn't know then how much the story of the ill-fated lovers would prepare me for the year ahead. That beautiful book made me fall in love with sadness. Audrey Niffenegger's words showed me how wonderful tragedy can be in it's own way - because it fills us with awe at everything good we would have just taken for granted. I'm not saying that the tragic thing itself is anything we have to be happy about, but if we let it, sorrow can increase our joy by magnifying our feelings of it.

It only hurts so much because I loved her so much. Because she was a part of me and I was a part of her. I could be endlessly bitter about that pain. But I can't bring her back. So instead I'm going to be grateful I had someone to love so much.

In a whole year of grief, sometimes unbearably hard, sometimes a new piece of my regular existence, I have learned to be immensely thankful for the 21 years I had with Candace. For all the lives she touched and the way she made her world a little better. She had her struggles. She had her pain. She even caused pain. Because we all do. But I wouldn't give any of that up to not have her at all.

We can't chose how people treat us. We can't choose when or how the ones we love will leave us. We can't even change how they perceive the relationship we share with them. But we can chose to love them anyway. We can to choose to support them in their struggles. To listen and try to understand the pain - and maybe make it easier to bear by sharing.

Dearest Candace,

I can't believe it's been a year since you left us. I won't be able to believe it next January when it'll be 2 years, or the one after that when it'll be 3 years. No amount of time will lessen the disbelief. Maybe it won't lessen the pain either. Although it's always changing, for me it's like a dull, perpetual ache right now. Like when you're feet hurt from walking in heels but you don't notice until you sit down. And then you can't stop noticing.

It's crazy how you can be everywhere and nowhere all at once. I try to remember every detail, but they're already fading. I don't want the only thing left to be the hole created by your absence. I won't let it be. I'll keep remembering. I'll keeping seeing you and looking for you. I'll keep you close in my heart and forever on my mind.

Yesterday I went to that Cinnabon in the mall. Remember the one we ate cinnamon rolls at while Mom and Dennis shopped for rings? I wish we could be there together. We could laugh at how hard it is to eat so much sticky sugar with such flimsy plastic silverware. But instead of us laughing together I was there alone, threatening to burst into tears in the middle of the mall.

I miss you. I miss the part of me that was made up by your life, by your love. Sisters have a special bond no one else can understand. A bond that comes from sharing everything in life. There's nothing that can replace it when it is taken away.

If I could talk to you now I would ask you so many unanswered questions. I would say so many unsaid thanks. Tell you my fondest memories.

Do you know the earliest thing I can remember is playing with you under the dining room table on that nasty orange carpet? Remember that stuff? It was awful. And I also remember coming upstairs one night wearing that old Little Mermaid shirt. You must have still been up in the nursery because I told mom and dad I was lonely and I wanted someone to come sleep with me. And then when we finally did share a room, I crawled into your bed so many nights. You filled that first void, relieved that first feeling of loneliness. You became like a second nature. Just being with you lessened my fears and gave me confidence.

It makes me so happy to see Ellie and Olivia together. They're always singing and dancing just like we did. They hardly leave each other's side. It makes me think of you and long for you. Long to tell you that I'm sorry for the ways that I hurt you. That I'm sorry for being so selfish and stubborn. I wish I could thank you for being so thoughtful and generous - a perfect opposite of me.

I wish I could have seen a way to help you. I wish I could tell you how beautiful you are. What a kind heart you have. How proud I am of you for making the difficult decisions that you did.

Many memories have flooded back to me throughout this year. A few months ago I came across a little monogrammed bag you gave me for my first trip to Mexico when I was 13. You were only eleven, but I remember you saying you didn't have much, but you wanted to get me something that I needed for my trip. I used that little bag to keep my necessities in on that trip and over the years it has many different uses. I have come to take it for granted. But when I found it the other day that simple act of generosity and kindness overwhelmed me.

It's these little things, these moments almost lost to time, that I carry with me. The love we shared, the five of us, will always be a part of me. No matter where I go, it will always be a part of who I am.

Thank you for being a part of my life and a part of me. Thank you for loving me. Though you are gone from sight you are never gone from my heart and mind. I love you now and forever. And I'll be missing you until I join you someday.

To sign off I'll take a line from one of our favorite movies, "...with a loving guarantee, that even if we part, I will hold you close with a thankful heart."

Love you always.

P.S. To anyone who has read these posts, who has shown us their love and support this past year in any number of ways - thank you. I realize that in the blinding flurry of grief we may not have actually expressed how much your kind words meant to us. But all of them have been re-read many times. Your thoughtfulness has brought us comfort in this storm. You and your love have not gone unnoticed, but have been deeply felt and embraced. Thank you.  


  1. Beautifully written Michelle. It has been 40+ years since I lost my 21 year old sister, and your musings bring tears and also happy memories that I sometimes forget or just don't remember until I read a tale that is similar. It is still painful, but I am so thankful that by reading your story I am reminded of all the wonderful times she and I had together. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart once again. These musings will be a tremendous blessing to your children in the day when they are begin learning themselves and understanding family and life and love. Time heals, though memories forever remain.


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