Tuesday, November 20, 2007

RS: Oh Happy Day

November 15th is my favorite day of the year. It is a day of celebration. It is the day my sister died.

Odd, I know, to think of a day of such sadness as a day of celebration. I don't get sad that day anymore. This year marks the 20th anniversary of her death. Last year, strangely, very strangely, marked the year she had been dead longer than she had been alive. I was not ready to celebrate then.

I spoke to my sister the day she died. Didn't say, "I love you." I just didn't grow up in a family that expressed itself effusively, in words or actions, except when I was dancing an improvised ballet to Music Box Dancer in my room alone or pretending my bed was the audience as I belted out You Light Up My Life (and the B side—The Boys Will Have to Find Something Better to Do). And then there was my adolescence where I effusively loved myself multiple times each day.

We all loved each other desperately. We just weren't trained to show it. My parents showed it in other ways, of course. I never doubted that they loved me. I never doubted that my brothers and sisters loved me. But I didn't say it. And I didn't say it that day. I lived for years in sadness wondering if she knew. I found a card among the things collected from her dorm room, a card from me that said, "I love you." So, after years of sadness, I let it go.

I learned that day that it is important to tell people you love them. I have also scared the shit out of a fair number of people by telling them I loved them. Love has so many nuanced meanings. Nuance is not my gift.

When I tried to kill myself a few seasons back and lay in a hospital in the geriatric wing of the loony bin (not because of my age but the non-Depends wing was overflowing and I was late to the rodeo once again: fuck it, I always hated the rodeo anyway)—possibly the most bizarre experience of my life that not only made me want to live but also made me never want to be old or locked up—she visited me, comforted me, sang to me. Not in a voice you can hear or a voice that would have extended lock down. She planted words in my head. The words from a song sung at her funeral. A song that, until that day, I hated.

Now, I sing it everyday. And I feel close to her. It can be a lonely world being all alone. I never have to feel lonely again and that is the greatest gift I have ever been given. I had planned to sing that same song at my grandmother's funeral, but I changed my mind at the last minute. That song is special, just for my sister and me.

When I was home to visit my family two weeks ago, I asked my parents to go with me to the grave site. They go every week. That's where they feel close to her. For me, it is just a place of sadness, a place of death, there is nothing there but a reminder of a hole in the ground and a hole in my heart that I thought would never be filled. When I sing our song, she is alive and with me and my heart is full.

I believe in angels. I hope I have several (God knows I need the help), but I know I have one. And this November 15th, on the 20th anniversary of my sister, Tracy's, death, I sang our song. And she was with me. And I was not sad. And I was not alone. And I celebrated. Not her death, but that she is alive—as close and alive as possible.

Do I wish she were still here? Yes. Would I give up this special relationship to see the life she would have lived, the woman she would have become, the friends we might have been, and to play with the children she would have had? Absolutely.

But I will not be sad. I will sing. . . and celebrate.

1 comment:

The Write Bunch said...

AV: Thank you for a moving and yes, nuanced, tribute to your sister. And for sharing the great love you have with her.