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

Monday, April 8, 2013

Another Birthday


If you were still here today would be your 37th birthday. Birthdays are meant to be celebrated. Oh, Jules, what I wouldn't give to celebrate your birthday today. Instead, I'll mark it like a tick mark on a piece of paper, mentally noting the passage of another year of life without you--each year adding to the number of years I'll live without you. 

It's strange, having you frozen in time in my mind, perpetually 34-year old Julie. I try to imagine you at 37. What would be different? What would be the same? Would you be happy to be turning this age? Knowing you, probably not. Would you have found some peace and contentment? Would you have finally found that elusive perfect man? Maybe you would have stopped using the book I gave you,"Settling for Mr. Good Enough" as a door stop and read it, realizing that you had a good man right under your nose the entire time. Would you be a wife? A mother? I'll never know. 

The last three years have been hard, harder than I ever imagined they would be. Recovering from heartbreak isn't easy. In fact, it's incredibly hard work. It's been a grueling journey of learning acceptance and letting go. I think I understand now why you felt there was nothing worth living for. As much as I wish you had been able to see the many reasons to live, I also sometimes feel relief that you escaped your despair. Of course I wish you could have found it a different way, but who am I to say that your life would have actually gotten measurably better? For you Jules, I'm just glad that you're not sad anymore. 

I still miss you, but the pain of missing you is less intense most of the time. The punched in the gut, drop me to my knees kind of missing you happens far less often now. I've learned to live without part of myself, making adjustments for the pieces of me that died the day you died. I've learned how to walk past those dark rooms in my mind, to not open the door. I know what's in there, the memories and emotions tucked away like old boxes on a shelf filled with reminders of the past. 

This year I spent in Easter in Colorado for the first time since the last Easter we spent together there. I was scared to go back. More than scared. Terrified. I didn't want to make new memories that didn't include you, but I knew it was time. Still, like I always do when I'm there, I was compelled to connect with you and your things. Touching things that were yours makes me feel more connected to you, makes you more real again in my mind. I was looking at your books. I like to see the notes you made, the passages you underlined. Inside one of the books I found a scrap piece of paper that you'd copied this quote on. 

"The externals are simply so many props; everything we need is within us. And we have to take everything that comes: the bad with the good, which does not mean we cannot devote our life to curing the bad. But we must know what motives inspire our struggle, and we must begin with ourselves, every day, anew. ~ Etty Hillesum

I wonder why those words spoke to you enough that you wrote them down? Why did you let such a profound quote get tucked away and forgotten inside a book? I guess, sis, you forgot that you had everything you needed within you. You forgot about taking the bad with the good and devoting your life to curing the bad. You gave up on yourself, you no longer had the strength to begin another day, anew. 

Now, instead of being a day of celebration, your birthday is a day of remembering, a marker in a long line of years to come filled with missing you. I'll cry today, I'll go into that room in my mind and let all the memories out of their boxes. I miss you Jules. I wish you were here. Happy Birthday. 


  1. I have had my share of loss, but I cannot imagine how hard it would be to lose a loved one to suicide. You are always going to be in recovery, but it's happening, one day at a time. Sending you blessings and a birthday wish to Julie, wherever you are.

  2. Raw and powerful. You and your mom, through your writings, have also kept Julie alive for many people who only got to know her after her death. I admire your courage in writing about such a painful and personal topic. For those of us who have not experienced the suicide of a loved one, you have given us some understanding.

  3. Hi, Keicha,

    I have been thinking of you and your family lately, knowing that this is always a challenging time. So I send love and remembrance. No one can answer your questions. I wish we could. But I am glad that you took that leap, went to Colorado and faced the terror to find connection. Perhaps going to a different home made it a bit easier. I hope so. Is anything like that ever "easy"? I think not. Just know that you are being held in my heart.

  4. Lovely, Keicha. Thank you so much for this memory.

  5. This was difficult for me to read because I cannot reach out and hug the hurt from you like I want to. I wish I could.
    Sending you love from someone you don't know but who cares....


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