"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Cruelest Month

Easter used to be my favorite holiday and breathtaking sunsets that stop me in my tracks never used to make me sad.  Those are just two examples of things that changed when Julie died. There are thousands of other things that will never be the same for me.  

This year what would have been Julie’s 36th birthday falls on Easter Sunday. The day will be a bitter reminder of my loss.  My sister, our family’s Spring baby, whose birthday has always been celebrated during glorious April when the flowers are in bloom and the world is reawakening after a dreary winter, is gone.  Having to face her birthday on Easter, a holiday filled with symbolism about life and rebirth seems especially cruel.  

I’ve spent most of this week trying not to focus on what was coming.  I should be over it by now I tell myself.  It’s been almost two years, why now? Why this year?  Last year it wasn’t this hard, but last year her birthday wasn’t on Easter.  Two years ago we were together for Easter in Colorado.  I wrote about that weekend here.  My contentment was complete.  I never dreamed something I cherished so deeply, our sisterhood trinity, would end so abruptly, without warning or choice.  

Amy and I tried to prepare ourselves for our sister’s birthday, knowing we’d both be feeling bereft and unmoored when April 8 rolled around.  We made plans to run a half marathon together in San Francisco on the 8th.  It would be the perfect way to remember Julie and acknowledge her birthday.  

I knew better than to register for an early spring race.  Winter training is challenging for me. I’m a fair weather runner and despise running indoors on a track or treadmill.  I also have severe spring allergies that trigger my asthma. Two weeks ago I was literally sick in bed with asthma, struggling to breathe.  Needless to say, my training has suffered.  Amy too has struggled to find the time to train.  Earlier this week we both admitted we were far from ready to run 13.1 miles and neither of us felt like walking the course rather than running it.  We cancelled our trip and I was once again left trying to figure out how I was going to navigate an emotionally loaded day.  

Celebrating her birthday doesn’t sit well with me.  What is there to celebrate?  I wish I was in a place where I could once again celebrate the day she was born, but I’m not there yet.  Her birthday is a sad reminder to me of how young she was when she died--a life cut short, defeated by depression and hopelessness.  If she were alive, I’m almost certain she wouldn’t be celebrating it either.  She didn’t like being reminded that she was growing older and was still unmarried and childless.  Her birthdays in recent years were reminders to her of all she had failed to achieve.  Sure, we did the cake, candles and singing.  We celebrated her because we didn’t see her in the same harsh light she saw herself.  We adored Julie, and her birthdays were true days of celebration for us, a day to acknowledge our thankfulness for being blessed with our beloved sister, daughter, aunt, granddaughter, niece and friend.  

Julie on the dance floor - January 2010
Well-meaning friends have suggested that I remember Julie by celebrating the way she would have.  Ha!  Julie would have been goaded and cajoled into going out, resisting every step of the way.  She would have most likely chosen a country bar with plenty of cowboys, maybe the Grizzly Rose in Denver.  Then she would have started shooting tequila.  After about three shots she would have been surly and ready to start a fight.  Either that or she would have been up on a table shaking her booty, showing off her exceptional dance moves to an appreciative audience of men until I found her and convinced her to come down from the table top. Been there. Done that.  

Yep, that was my sister.  Sweet, funny, silly and more than a little unpredictable.  She was the one who after refusing all night to come out and join my friends and I on the dance floor, ended up dancing solo to Pat Benetar’s Heartbreaker, while everyone stepped back and watched.  After ending her dance with a big air guitar flourish she announced, “Thank you very much Ogden! I’ll be here all night!”  

Instead of celebrating her birthday, I’ll instead be remembering and acknowledging.  Acknowledging my loss and how much it hurts and always will. Recognizing that loving someone so much that you’d do anything to save their life is futile if they don’t love themselves enough to save their own life.  Acknowledging that Easter will never be the same for me, that beautiful sunsets now give me pause, making me sad that Julie gave up on living, choosing to ignore those small moments of grace and beauty like sunsets and spring bulbs in bloom, blowing out birthday candles surrounded by loved ones, and being nuzzled by your dog, all of which make life worth living.  Remembering all of the happy times we spent together--our silly sister moments, miles logged together running, walking, dancing, hiking, celebrating, loving, living.   

Ready to see Dwight Yoakam in concert at the Grizzly Rose in Denver
The night before running our first 1/2 marathon together - Vail, Colorado 2009
Showing off our footwear to mom

Super Diamond concert in Denver 

We did it!  Celebrating finishing the Georgetown to Idaho Springs 1/2 marathon
Hiking in Zion National Park - October 1999
Thanksgiving in Utah - 2008

1 comment:

  1. It's heartbreaking. Those pictures show a real bond between sisters. I don't know how I would cope, I just know that you are doing it, and writing in here and sharing your journey cannot help but be a lifeline to somebody you'll never know about, never meet. But I know it is. My heart is breaking for you.


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