Tonight marks 5 years, 8 months and 27 days since I’ve last talked to my sister. On a Tuesday in December, I said my last goodbye. I don’t know if it is the date, the rain, exhaustion, or a combination, but the tears (in the eye that makes them) have been superfluous. On many 29ths of the month, I find myself drowning in a reflection pool. One thing that keeps lapping over me is questions I’ve been asked over the years. If you’ve been one to ask, please know that your words mean so much to me. They mean you care, they mean you remember, and they mean you acknowledge that my family is still convulses in pain. I’ve given the same responses time after time. Just like you, I haven’t wanted to make you feel uncomfortable, and I’m TRULY thankful for you. However, I usually haven’t shared my heart. So in the vein of radical, open conversation, I’d like to strip away the kindness for a minute. I’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions (or statements) and the real responses I won’t give to them. Please keep asking, it is comforting to know that you acknowledge her, and maybe one day, I’ll give you a real response. In the meantime, nod your head at my pacifying answers, and check here to see what I would say if it weren’t so dang awkward! Maybe MolkyROCK can revolutionize the way we look at grief, and we can all start “Keeping it real!”
FAQ/FS (Frequently Stated)
- How are your parents?
My knee-jerk response: “They are doing okay.”
Keeping it real: “My parents? The parents I had for 29 years and 11 days are gone. The parents I have now are never going to be the same. They have belly laughed again, they still do some things they enjoy, they have grown closer to each other and to us. But, the belly laugh is now accompanied by dull eyes. Sometimes, they are just going through the motions of things that once brought them joy. Some days, they can hardly be in the same room because it kills them to see the other in pain. Some days I can’t answer when they call because I’m crying or down, and I have to be strong for them. Some days I hate my sister because she took my happy and free parents with her. Don’t you know Molly was their favorite? My brother and I were accidents. They moved heaven and Earth to bring her to us! But, they’re okay.”
- People give birth at home all the time and don’t die, why did she die?
My knee-jerk response: “The doctors have said it was the perfect storm of twins, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and blood loss.”
Keeping it real: “Clearly not all the time. I hate science, and I don’t even know what the hell “eclampsia” means. Also, here’s a history lesson on my family: we defy the odds.”
- Doesn’t time help.
My knee-jerk response: “In some ways, yes.”
Keeping it real: “In most ways, NO! In many ways, time makes it harder.”
- Did you know she was pregnant?
My knee-jerk response: “No, nobody did.”
Keeping it real: “Yes, and I told her she should suffer the consequences. Hello?????? Have you seen my Facebook posts? I’m a wide-eyed liberal who can’t bear children of my own. I would have done WHATEVER she wanted to do. I’d have raised those babies, I’d have taken her to an abortion clinic. I would have driven her to counseling every day for the rest of her life.”
- Did the babies survive?
My knee-jerk response: “No, they didn’t.”
Keeping it real: “Do you see two little girls on my ankles? I would never have let those two out of my sight!”
- “But, you’re so strong!”
My knee-jerk response: “Thank you.”
Keeping it real: “I’m a believer in, ‘Fake it till you make it.’ What you don’t see are the days I can’t get out of bed. You aren’t in the car the moment I get in it after a day at work to see the tears start flowing. You don’t hear me sing cuss words in my head to the tune of ‘Amazing Grace.’ You don’t see how I exhaustedly crawl into my bed each night after expending copious amounts of energy, ‘being strong.’ You haven’t been on the receiving end of my emotional outbursts that aren’t really related to the situation at hand. You don’t know that I take medicine to get through each day. You aren’t there the nights that I lie in bed praying that the Ambien works so that I can recharge enough to be strong tomorrow.”
- Will you ever be happy again?
My knee-jerk response: “One day.”
Keeping it real: “Generally, I’m a happy person now. The happiness is tempered with sadness and anger, but I’m not a bitter person. Happiness has a different meaning, a different feel than it did before. I certainly don’t have the blind naïveté that cancer will be the worst thing to happen to me, but I have relief knowing that I can survive worse. I fear that hopes of contentment have been buried with my sister and nieces. Every fiber of my soul will yearn for them until I have them in my grip. But, if she’s taught me anything, it’s that no tomorrow is ever promised. Life is hard. It’s sad. It’s stressful. But it’s also funny. Beautiful. Worth-while. Life is meant to love and be loved. I do that and I am. By my friends, my students, my family, and everyday– by her. I’m as happy as a person who is broken can be, and aren’t we all broken?”
So, there it is. Real, Open Conversations about my grief. I try to keep it kind in my spoken word, but the pen (keyboard) strips away the covering of platitudes. For all of your questions, statements, support, kindness, patience, and love… As always…
More than meat loves salt,