I had dinner with a mom-friend the other night and she said, as a few of my mom-friends have, that having kids is the best thing she's ever done and the hardest thing she's ever done. I thought about what she said after I got home and realized that statement needed a bit of qualifying. I'm not a mom yet, but I'm sure that burying my sister was the hardest thing I will do for a long long time.
Saturday, April 17th, will be two years since Jennifer died. Two years. The time has flashed by in a blur of tears and work and joy and good stuff too. (Life is life.) The two years has also been a whole lifetime away, and I don't mean that symbolically or metaphorically. Jen's death was an end not just to her life, but to all of ours that we knew before. Once she died, we had to start new lives without her. Another friend in mourning told me something her therapist said about death and I'll paraphrase here. The me that Jennifer knew is gone. That me left with Jen.
When someone significant in your life dies, no matter how you felt about them, you are thrust into a new you. Even if it is as simple as knowing "one of my parents is dead." I know this sounds ridiculously simple, but it's earth-shatteringly huge, even when you are in your 40's and your dad was in his 80's. There was a balance to your life, but suddenly someone took the weight off of one of the scales and you tip wildly. Even better - it's like being on a teeter-totter and when you are high in the air, the other person suddenly steps off and you slam into the ground. That's what it feels like. Times infinity.
Thinking about this horrible anniversary on the 17th, I emailed my mom the other day:
I was thinking about coming to see you for Mother's Day just a few weeks after Jen died. How were we even functioning? So strange to think i could just do stuff, like fly to Maui and drive a car and stuff. Strange.
Honestly, how did I keep breathing? Where did I get the strength to call both my mother and Jen's father to tell them their first baby girl was dead? How is that humanly possible to even do? Maybe we have to become superheroes for that time. Death mutates you into a superhero simply so you can keep doing mundane things like driving cars and making phone calls.
In June we are going to Maui for the Seabury Reunion. It will be my 25th and would have been Jen's 30th. (Seabury is so small we do all school reunions, not just by classes.) There will be a short memorial service before the party, to honor Jen and another member of her class, Ramon, as well as others who have died. I will go to that service, but I'll go kicking and screaming in my mind. I'm a two year old in this new life and I DON'T WANNA GO TO A MEMORIAL FOR MY SISTER!!
But I will, of course. Of course I will. I'll put on my superhero cape and be strong. I'll cry buckets though, that's the one thing no superpower can stop.