Birthdays are celebrations of life. But even in death, one’s life and memory can be celebrated. My baby sister would have turned 40 today. Five years ago, she celebrated her final birthday in a hospital, hanging on to life support. She left behind her precious kiddos and family who miss her more than she probably ever thought possible. As my sister and I were learning to juggle kids and family in our 30s, we were also slowly learning to appreciate this complicated dynamic called sisterhood…which had been strained for so many years. We were only beginning to understand that the little things are just that…little things. That the big things are what matter…the memories we create, the unwavering support through life’s trials, the understanding that sisters are the ties that bind…no matter the little things. One summer, just as we were figuring this out, not long before we lost her, Mandy and I took a getaway trip to a casino. No kids. Just the two of us. The first time we had ever done a sister trip, we had more fun than I ever imagined we could together. It was as if we suddenly remembered what it was like to laugh together, like we were the only two in on a joke. We hysterically giggled our way through getting lost, losing money on the slot machines, finding that the valet had left our sunroof open for the 2 rain-filled days we were there, and a very wet ride home on squishy, puddled seats. We even giggled at our girlish giggling. I regret that this was the one and only time we ever got away as sisters and left all of life’s noise behind. Now, there are only memories…memories that make me smile or laugh and, of course, memories in the end that hurt beyond words. But the real pain lies in the fact that there could have been so many more good ones, given the time. There were so many things she never got to do, to experience, to see. I find that with every new experience I have, with every new place I travel, with every new life development…regret finds me…regret that she isn’t here to do it with me. That she was cheated of so much that life has to offer. It’s in these moments that the familiar grief washes over me once again. The loss. Her loss of watching her children grow, of having grandchildren, of seeing the world, of everything we take for granted. Her children’s unimaginable loss of having a mother to turn to, to rely on, to love. My loss of a sister, of a friend, of opportunity to build on a foundation we were just learning we had. So much loss.
Five years out, the loss is still so tangible. Today that loss lies in the inability to wish my baby sister a happy birthday on a day we celebrated for so many years. Her day. This grief is a roller coaster of memories, tears, and regret. Regret that instead of birthdays, all I have of her are yesterdays. But after some thought, I have realized that throughout our life, I never shied away from giving her my two cents, often times two cents more than she wanted. It may sound silly…it may be silly… but one thing that can live on is my two cents. The one thing I have left of our sisterhood is that behind closed doors, whenever the mood strikes, I can still talk to her. She may not answer me with words, but her memory lingers. Memories of her answer me when she cannot. So, with that, I’d like to wish her a happy birthday. What I would give to celebrate it with her today. What I would give to have, with her, birthdays…instead of just yesterdays.