I was my mother’s sixth pregnancy, with that information alone you’d assume I’d come from a big family. But I don’t. I’m the youngest of three.
The one question I hate being asked is “how many siblings do you have?” When I was a kid, I always through my teachers off when they’d ask that because I’d always retort with “alive or dead?” To me, that question was always so complicated to answer. I mean I have one brother, I grew up with one brother. But I also have a sister. She existed in a span of time where I wasn’t there, and even though we never met her absence leaves an ever-present emptiness within my family. A piece that is forever missing.
Growing up, every kid sees their parent as these unshakable pillars. They are these superheroes that are invincible. But, I grew up seeing my parents bawl, broken, empty, somehow trying to pick their pieces.. and as much as they were grateful that they had my brother and I there’s nothing that they wouldn’t give to have my sister here too. I learned that tears to others are a sign of weakness, but to me it was a sign of healing, it was strength, it was power.
While most kid’s bed-time stories were that of princesses or fairy tales, mine were of my sister. Her life and legacy. Her likes, her dislikes. Her characteristics and mannerisms.
Something that has always stood out to me when we go to visit my sister’s grave is how my parents, mainly my dad but both of them do this, is how when we visit her they are always cleaning her gravestone. They make sure that the flowers are in the perfect place and that the dust and dirt is swept away. I always thought it was weird, because in my mind it was just going to get dirty and messed up as soon as we leave. But over time I’ve come to realization that in that moment, they aren’t moving dirt or fixing flowers. They are taking care of their daughter. It’s like when you have something on your face or a hair is out of place, your parents are the first people to take care of it. It’s the same idea put into action in two different types of ways.
I would sit there as I would hear my dad cry saying he would have rather to have been the one to go through that pain, that it would have been easier that way. He wish he could save her.
Growing up with a bereaved parent you learn about loss in the deepest depths without ever going through it. You see the joys and the sorrow.
My parent’s parenting was forever affected by losing their first child. I didn’t get my ear pierced until I was 18. Some people think it was because I grew up in a Pentecostal Christian home, but it wasn’t that. My dad said that he saw his daughter (my sister) get poke and prodded with needles so many times, so why would he do that to me unless it was absolutely necessary?
I remember when my brother had to sign for his shots for the first time (because he had recently turned 18.) My mom made a big deal about it, my brother told her to chill out. Others thought she was simply being over-dramatic. I can understand where someone might think that, but she wasn’t celebrating him signing his own shot. She was celebrating the fact that she had raised her child to be old enough to do “adult things.” She’d never reached this point before, it was a big deal.
Growing up with a bereaved parent is celebrating life, celebrating accomplishments big and small. Celebrating who we are and who she was.
My mom was afraid that when my sister passed that everyone would forget her, but no one has. And even if everyone else does, the four of us will always remember. March 9th will always be spaghetti dinner, another date we will never forget is May 21st. We will always remember her life. She existed and left her own distinct mark on this world.
Growing up with bereaved parents, teaches you to find value in every moment because in one moment your whole world can be turned upside down. It taught me that people change people. That true love can truly make it through even the darkest of times. My parents will forever be the most strongest, most invincible people I know. Not because they weren’t broken during hard times, but because despite being broken they were able to pick up these pieces and be the best parents they could be.