2 birthdays have now passed since Lea’s death. Although it’s only coming on 1 and a ½ years since she left us, it still feels like a bad dream. I pinch myself because I still can’t believe it, and living within this moment of time, makes me feel like I need to pinch myself even harder. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m the sane one, imagine that.
Every time I come back around to the realization that we’ve actually lost her, it hits me in the gut like Mike Tyson just connected and I have to say, instead of it getting better, it only hurts more. It may not come as often, but the only feeling that I can only describe as pain is felt that much more. I had no idea until I experienced it myself. My only hope is that time heals all and that that becomes true one day.
It’s bizarre because I swear I can hear her in my mind and over the last while I keep continuously hearing, are you dying? Are you the one who is sick and knows that the expiration date, printed on the underside of your left ass cheek where you can’t see it, is looming? Although no one truly knows the date, I can only think, no to either of those things, which is followed by her same inquisitive voice that asked me a few years ago, then why are you living this way?
A couple of years ago, my sister and I had a conversation about living life, shortly after her lung cancer diagnosis. I was beyond struggling with her illness and eventual, looming death, much like if I myself were ill and dying. I also had an overwhelming fear that I too would possibly face the same fate. I remember being so far down in the hole of desperation, that my quality of life was drastically affected.
I remember being in Lea’s kitchen while she cut my hair one day, after a couple of months of me living like this, and her point-blank asking me why I was living the way I was with her fate. She stopped snipping away at my hair when I didn’t answer immediately and she paused for a moment. She seriously expected an answer from me.
I was stunned because my thoughts were, isn’t this the way I should be? Obviously, she didn’t agree. As she looked at me sternly, awaiting my answer that day, she allowed the thoughts to race through my head as the silence stretched between us.
A valuable lesson
After what felt like an infinite stretch of time had elapsed, I had no answer, other than trying to explain all of the emotions I had been feeling as if I’d been in her shoes, and I was portraying how I would feel if I was her. She smiled and said,
Exactly. You’re not me and you’re not sick and dying. You may not have a guaranteed lifespan, but for the moment, you are well, alive, and have a future ahead of you.
She basically told me that maybe instead of fretting about the unwritten future ahead, I needed to change the very way I thought and perhaps live more like I was dying and enjoy every single moment. She went on to explain the obvious, that when you are sick and dying, sometimes that enjoyment is impeded by the illness which affects the experience. Don’t wait. She was basically going to live the remainder of her life to the fullest and expected me to do that right along beside her.
Over the two and a half years during her journey, if we so much as mentioned anything about possible future events, my sister would round on us and hiss,
Don’t make up stories!
She’d always say, don’t make up or tell stories about the future because it hasn’t been written yet. I’m not sure where she got this from, she’d mentioned that it could be a Buddhist quote, but I’m unsure. Wise words anyway.
The gifts of now, from the sown seeds of the past
Now, I had been privy to a quite few of her many lectures over those 2 ½ years of her illness, and to say that they were enlightening in the moment, pales in comparison to the meaning they hold now. All I can say is that life is a journey and there are lessons we accumulate and pick up along the way. Sometimes their meaning is understood immediately, and other times they’re not.
If we are wise, then we hang on to the lessons we don’t understand until we encounter the situations that give rise to their meaning. Many times, it happens while we’re still walking the path if we’re paying attention. We hear the lessons and acknowledge them, but sometimes the meaning doesn’t come until later on and sometimes more meaning is added over time and with experience. Now that, I can attest to.
As I sit here writing this today, I can only focus on my own life. The things going on outside of it, I cannot control. In knowing that, I have been trying to live the life I know I should be. I remain hopeful, pessimistically so, that the future outside of our own little bubble is known and hoped for, to be as bright as our own.
Sowing the seeds for future lessons
Dwelling on the fear of the things we cannot possibly control is one of the many thieves of life. I refuse to waste this precious gift that so many appear to take for granted because they act like they’re all guaranteed. Lea wouldn’t want this for anyone, so maybe that’s why I felt so bloody inclined to write this today…my sister and her persuasion I tell ya!
Today, I am celebrating the fact that Clem and I have received an early Christmas present a week and a half ago, which although seems small and trivial to most, is the ultimate gift to finally live the life we need and want for our family. After years of kicking ourselves for the past mistakes we’ve made, while sitting and doing nothing to change it (out of fear), we finally bossed up and did what we needed to do. It was difficult because we were afraid of making another mistake, but I can’t help to think that by how quickly things have happened, it was meant to be all along.
In this case, lesson learned. In order to make up for past mistakes, we just needed to take the first scary step. 3 months ago, we bravely stepped and that step recently paid off. I’m so happy we did and I can certainly celebrate that.
I don’t know if the stars have aligned or my mindset has changed, but I am thankful beyond words for what is to come within the bubble that is our life. We’ve been on pause for far too long, and I acknowledge what a waste of time and life this was. The tone seems to have changed within my own mind, and I continue to hear my sister’s wisdom bouncing around inside my head that I need to move forward and that it’s okay to do so…don’t be so afraid. We need to live our life to the fullest with the realization that the future hasn’t been written, and not waste our life and precious time waiting and dwelling on it.
It may certainly be her birthday today, but I am definitely feeling like I’m the birthday girl. Thank you for all of the valuable lessons Lea, I understand and have connected some of the many dots. Happy 38th birthday, wherever you are. We miss and love you so much.