Sunday, October 6, 2013


October 7th... it marks five years since you left us ...

This is the first letter I write to you since you went away.

I can't believe it's been five years.

I think of you all the time still. When you left I cried every day. Every day.

Time passed and it was every week. More time passed and then every month. Now it's every couple of months... when I dust my dresser and hold your picture frame in my hand - and I sit down and my heart aches because of the small traces of denial still there... how can you be gone?

Still grieve when my heart aches in life and I wish you were there to talk to. When our crazy family does or says something funny and I want to laugh with you about it. When life is unfair and I want someone to vent to. When a monarch butterfly floats past me, free. When someone tells me I look like you...

So much has changed since you left. Our world. My world. I wonder how it would have been if you were still here. I think about the conversations we had, the encouragement you gave me - it may have been long ago but it has lasted me through the hard times. I hold on to it when days and nights hurt. When life is unfair. When people are cruel. I remember your road.. and that nothing was ever truly easy for you either when you were here. Yet you lived each day with that beautiful smile and a faith that another day would get you through. We all miss the way you lit up a room even when life was dark.

Your daughter misses you. She is growing up to look just like you. My goodness.. spitting image of her momma. Those legs and beautiful eyes. Gah, the dimples. She is an admirable portion of you. I know what she meant to you - and that you miss her dearly. I have to believe that like all of us who ache to see you again, you must ache to see her most. But you also see that just as He provides for the sparrow - the birds of the field, He too cares for her. Her heart is precious - and every day on earth that I am here - I will pray for it and her. For her path and her journey... though we are miles apart - she is often on my heart and in my mind. I can't imagine the ache she feels to see you again.

After you left Jess, I lost myself for awhile. I couldn't watch the sunrise on my way to work - it reminded me that even though the skies and heaven must be beautiful... you weren't here with me. I got lost in my grief and it stole my joy. I couldn't talk to God - couldn't even lift my voice to sing to Him. I was angry with Him - for taking you so early. Didn't He know how much I needed you, not just now but to grow old with??? And every song I tried to sing to Him left me in tears because I was broken and trying to worship with a broken spirit - a bird with broken wings and no song voice. I lived like that for a good while. And I knew that part of loss is grieving. But sometimes - I had to acknowledge the loss again when I'd forget that I couldn't just pick up the phone and call you. And that first year.. wondering, "why hasn't she called me." I was mad at you for a good while too. Cuz you went way, how dare you, I miss you. Death is something we have to get used to. We accept it and then forget how real mortality is because we are still haunted by the memories in our heads that make us forget - death leaves a sting. Still... wish you were here.

I hope I never forget your voice. If I play my own voicemail reminders sometimes I hear you - in my voice. Sisters. Looked alike, sounded alike. I kept your number on my phone - I couldn't delete it. Still haven't. I wanted to save it to hear your voice, but I never could listen to it... hurt too much. I hear it in dreams sometimes. And I watch home videos... and cry... and laugh. I loved you so very much little sis. You are so very missed. Every season change. Every holiday. Every quiet hour.

I know you didn't know you were leaving us - but I know He was packing your bags. Thank you for journaling like you did your final days. Your words - a balm. Thank you for putting that butterfly in your Bible. It gave me comfort in ways no one will ever understand. I know you loved butterflies - and finding that one in your Bible - in the midst of losing you - changed my life.

I think you would be proud of me. While I may have lost myself for awhile after you died - I decided that carrying the pain of missing you was too heavy to keep dragging around. And that I could continue to be one without song... immobile. Or, I could shout life at the top of my lungs and use the pain and hurt of death to fuel LIVING. So that's what I did. I funneled it all into living today. I quit my job. I started my photography business full time. I opened a studio. I became so busy with work that I thought I might lose my mind. I dedicated it to you. All of it. Life is too short to not live it now, life is too short to not live your dreams. Thank you Jess for inspiring me to push past the fears and find courage in living today. Thank you for inspiring me to document life - it is a vapor that passes too quickly.

I have faced some hard years since you left. But your memory still stays with me, keeps me strong. I wear you on two tattoos and feel you in little ways. Sometimes I find you in a quiet moment at my desk. Or watching the light change in the afternoon. Sometimes when I see a cross on the side of the road, I pray for that family and remember that mine still misses our lost beloved one too. I am thankful you did not suffer and that you went quick into the light. They said you looked like an angel when they found you lying there on the grass. Beautiful in life and death - of course you were.

I'm learning not to accept life with broken wings anymore. I know life is a lot of change. You taught me that. You used to sing this song... Every blue bird has a little pot of eggs. You silly girl, you made it up. That was the best part of you.. your zany, crazy humor. I have thought about your songs, your quirks and what made you you, many, many times. And I am realizing that change doesn't have to hurt forever. Looking back on you is becoming bittersweet - it still invokes tears, but mostly happy ones... I had you for 28 years. Such joy you brought each year, and I am all the more blessed and lucky because of them.

“The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” J.M. Barrie

Your wings? You once told me I was the wind beneath them. That song you dedicated to me across several states - "Wind Beneath my Wings" the one we both bawled to in the car listening to it on the radio - that will always be my favorite memory of you. Mostly because we laughed at what crying ninnies we were.

You spoke of faith before you died. You loved that word. You gave your daughter that middle name. You loved butterflies. You sang about birds. You were the definition of free bird. You wore a butterfly ring and left a monarch butterfly paper in your Bible - one I would see the day of your funeral and the day after watching one fly around my head as I thought of you.
You sweet girl..
Of all things winged, you certainly were the most beautifully free to fly... even if it meant away from here.

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you're going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”- C. JoyBell 

Even though you are not here, and days pass... I am learning to fly Jess. And now it is you who is the wind beneath my wings.

Faith. Wings and a journey. It all makes more and more sense - even though I'd trade tomorrow to have you back today... Not having you today teaches me more and more about tomorrow. Winged soul and spectacular beauty that you were - I can only imagine the wings you don now.

I remember you like yesterday.

Love you Jess,