I still remember her words as I stepped into the funeral home’s limousine and sank into the seat, exhausted and empty. Everyone had expressed their condolences, and one last family friend put her hand on mine before she closed the door behind me. “Crystal, right now you are dealing with the tragedy of this. In a month, you will start to feel real grief. Be prepared for that. Grief is a long process.” I didn’t know what she meant at the time, but within weeks after Lora’s funeral I felt what she meant.
Of course it was a tragedy. My little sister was only eighteen, just finishing freshman year in college. She was wearing her seatbelt. She was driving on her side of the road. Everyone was shocked and upset. But when the shock wore off, those who loved her most were left with the grief.
Just three years apart, Lora and I shared everything. All of the fun and icky of growing up – we did it together. We were partners for life. But I didn’t know just how intricately woven into my life she was. How she filled my life and my heart. Until she was gone. I expected the sweeping sadness. I expected to fall apart during a Sunday choir’s “Amazing Grace,” or while flipping through old photos, and on all those holidays in the first year. What I couldn’t anticipate were all the sudden, piercing holes in my life where she used to be. That was grief – loss and emptiness in everything. In an answer to the question “do you have siblings?” In the quiet and boredom on a Sunday afternoon. In the longing to call her for comfort after waking up every morning, realizing again that the nightmare was real. She was missing in so many places, and I felt completely lost without her.
Just as our family friend had warned, it took years. For a while I wore the hurt like a badge; I held onto the pain to fill the space, so that I was reminded how much I loved her. But over time, the grief subsided, and instead of feeling lost, I felt blessed. God gave me an incredible gift – a best friend and sister - for eighteen years. It wasn’t long enough, and yet it was plenty. Lora was talented, bright, spirited, spiritual, compassionate, loyal – a faithful steward of it all. And I am as aware of her as ever. There aren’t so many empty places anymore—just memories and familiarity everywhere. I don’t have to go far to find her. My little girl covers the furniture in stickers, the way Lora did at her age. My husband is patient and forgiving, and I sit back in awe and pride, just as I did with Lora. I can appreciate Lora’s talents and dreams and idiosyncrasies when I find them in others. Sometimes I find them in myself (she would have a good laugh about my newfound thrift store hobby). I still have bad days, when the loss pains me. But I find her there, too. In the quiet moments after a good cry, I remember how she used to hug me, quietly, and with complete acceptance. And I imagine her there again, the person that understood me best, reminding me it’s going to be okay. And it is.
When I look to the sky, something tells me you’re here with me
And you make everything alright
And when I feel like I’m lost, something tells me you’re here with me
And I can always find my way when you are here.
~ Train, “When I Look to the Sky”
This is a part of the March Blog Exchange - the topic was to choose any song and write a post related to the song's content. This post was written by Crystal, who is an Army spouse, mom to the chattiest two-year-old ever, and an amateur seamstress. She writes about it at My Longest Year. She is technically a twenty-something (but who are we kidding here; twenty nine is practically thirty). She wishes she were more like her sister.
[For my (Lara's) Blog Exchange post, hop on over to My Longest Year. But first, give Crystal a nice hand-raising welcome!]