On the morning of February 16th, 2009, I wake up restless before my trip. Mom and Dad leave to see you because you are feeling sick. Just the flu. I want to go with them, but they insist I don’t miss out on a trip with my friends. I lie in bed, my mind racing, and I think I already know.
My concerns in February 2009 are plenty, or at least they seem like it. I am struggling through my seventeenth year of life depressed, anxious, and in relationship turmoil. I feel so alone, and so helpless. The people I feel loved by are few and far between. You know this, and you are my source of unwavering support and comfort. You are who I call when there is no one left to turn to. You don’t always tell me what I want to hear, and you know that. I never tell you how bad things are, how terrible my thoughts sometimes get, but I think you know. I think you hear it in my voice, I think you see straight through my lies and façade. In my mind you hold the key to everything, you know all the answers. When I hit my lowest lows, I run away to you.
During the bus ride, I sit quietly as Colin assures me that everything will be fine—I am overreacting. The whole day feels surreal. I can’t stop thinking about you. I try texting Mom, Dad, Greg. I tell Greg to tell you how much I love you, and he says he did. Maybe that doesn’t matter, I think you know. Then everyone stops responding to my text messages. No news is good news they say, that keeps running in my head, like some sort of sick joke.
Then I am in the car, Uncle Joe is driving, I see him holding back tears from the rear view mirror. My phone rings, it’s Dad, and again I just know. I think how sick it is that he has to be the one to tell me. He has to tell me that you’re gone. You’re not gone yet, but they are going to let you go. The nurse puts the phone to your ear. I beg you not to go, I remind you that it’s almost my eighteenth birthday and we have plans. You have to be there because we made plans. You are going to be a mother. Maya will need you. Greg needs you. Sarah needs you. I need you. You can’t go, we need you. Uncle Joe hears this and pulls off the road, he can’t drive anymore.
Then I am outside a gas station, doubled over, I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. There must be people around staring at me, but I am unaware. I can’t see. I can’t think. If you have stopped being, then so must my world. It doesn’t exist without you. It must, but I don’t know how yet.
Finally I get to you. I brush away the hair from your face. I touch your forehead. I hold your hand. You are cold, lifeless, but you are there. I don’t want to touch you like this, I don’t want to see you like this. You are my big sister and you are perfect. You are beautiful, you are vibrant, and you are my source of joy. You are my comfort that no one else can provide. I need you to hold my hand back. I need you to tell me it’s OK, I need you to help me through this, you are the only person that can.
Then I feel nothing.
On February 16th, 2010, I receive text messages and calls. People are thinking of me, people know how hard this day is. The memories of last year play through my head on loop, like an all day horror movie that I can’t turn off. I wake up, and Mom and Dad say they are going to check on you. I head off with my friends. Then dad calls. Then Mr. Howard takes me to Uncle Joe’s, then Uncle Joe drives me to you, then I am at the gas station. Then I am with you. Then I need you, and you are not holding my hand back, you are not telling me that it will be okay. I need you, you can’t leave me.
This February 16th, as those in the past few years, I will not get any text messages. I will not get any phone calls. No one will check to see if I’m OK. No one will post words of support on my Facebook.
I will replay moments, but they will not be the same. They will be the first time you dropped me off at soccer practice. You stayed until it was over because I was scared. They will be of our trips to Tahoe, and watching fireworks with you on the 4th of July. They will be of the day Greg asked you to marry him, and the smile on your face. They will be of the day you told me you were pregnant, and your baby bump. They will be of your last phone call, your excitement that you were having a girl. This is how I will choose to remember you. Beautiful, vibrant, full of joy. You are the best person I have known. I am who I am because of you. I know that somehow you are still with me, because without you, I am not me.
This February 16th, I will remember you. I will feel grateful for every moment I spent with you. And I will enjoy each moment that comes knowing that you are with me, in me, part of me. You are my comfort, you are my source of joy.