The last week or two in May, the ones right before my birthday are hard every year. My mom and dad are cranky, and distant. My older sister withdraws further. I practice a level of introversion on reserved for the acutely painful parts of life. I pretty much decide most of humanity is useless and not worth my time. All right before I'm supposed to flip a switch and celebrate, yay! I'm older, lets have cake and presents and party. Except I don't want to, the older I get the less I want to. Some people dread their birthdays because it means they're aging, some because it's so close to Christmas that no one wants to celebrate or has any financial resources with which to do so. I dread my birthday because it's a constant, yearly reminder of my missing sister.
I want to do fun things. Months in advance this year I started talking with friends about planning something. I was full of ideas, let's go to a concert or the beach, or dancing or have a game night. We have to do something, I'm going to be 35! Oh my god, 35, it's a big freaking deal. I'm officially old. I can't do nothing, I'll be even more depressed. But the days passed and the birthday looms like a reminder, you're old, you don't want to celebrate and you miss your sister. This year is particularly difficult.
Eowyn is five. The age my sister was when she died 24 years ago. I can't see Blair in Eowyn. I want to; I wish I could but Eowyn's hair is too dark and straight and her body style is too different. Her streak of sass, they share that.
Every day with my daughter now feels like a betrayal. Every day feels like a sorrow, a question. A gift that I pay for. Why God, couldn't you have given my parents the gift of more time? They are longing for what might have been.
I feel as though I missed the gift of a sister who was my best friend. I feel as though I missed the late night teenage pillow talks about boys. I missed out on the wars over clothing. I missed out on what it would have been like to watch her have babies; seeing her belly grow. Having her be there for all of that for me.
Of course, of course, maybe we would have hated each other. Or lived 1000 miles apart or our lives could've take different paths, but it feels like the taste of a promise and then it was snatched from my hands, no, my heart.
Isn't that what death always does?
It shows us what we could have and takes it before we're ready. I remember very little from Blair's years on this planet. I can't conjure her laugh in my brain anymore. I could for a while and then lost it along the way. I can still see her expression of happiness and I remember the feeling of two sisters falling asleep holding hands. But even what I did have with her has largely vanished from my memory with the passage of time. Even my brain betrays me in this.
There are no platitudes regarding the goodness of God that will comfort. There is no gift in trite pity-filled phrases about sovereignty or the need for Blair to be with God. Those just sew seeds of bitterness. Time doesn't actually heal. The great falsity. It changes the tenor of the emotions, it does not heal them, they don't cease, they alter slightly.
The only thing to do now is to allow myself to feel. To honor the place of pain, while enjoying the memories. To flip through photo albums and consider how Blair resembles this cousin or sibling. To honor my parents who's pain could not possibly end, which I shudder to grasp in its intensity. To behold the mystery of my 5 year old before me with a holy, awesome wonder; that I would be given such a gift; while chasing away thoughts of losing her.
God's goodness is untarnished by the tragedies of life. But there is no mandate that we must refuse to acknowledge the pain of tragedy in order to honor God's attributes. We must try to find our home in the paradox; God is good, life is hard and full of pain.
I miss her. I long for what might have been. I am awed by my own daughter's life on this earth. I must feel it all. I will feel it all. To silence pieces of my heart in order to have peace would be the greatest betrayal of all.