Today is the one year anniversary of my sister’s passing. It is a day I have highly anticipated, both with anxiety and hope. It is a day I wish in some ways would never happen, but it has also been a day I have wanted to experience, with the hope that with the first year of grief under my belt, I might be able to move forward with my life with plenty of hope for the future.
If there is one thing I have learned this year, it is that grief knows no bounds to the amount of pain one can experience at any given moment in time, nor does grief consider personal calendars and other personal preferences when it surfaces. I have gotten used to crying in public – sometimes the eyes water, I take a drink of water, and escape with only a few tears shed (damage to my eye makeup = minimal); other times I have fled to a private place for a full-blown, Vada in My Girl, meltdown (eye makeup = obliterated).
There have been days when I have cried so much I have thought there is no way I could cry any more tears, and yet the tears still stream down my face, but there have also been weeks when I have only shed tears at random moments and life feels perfectly fine. (Please note that when I have experienced those weeks this year, I have been extremely grateful for the respite from grief.)
I am not ashamed of the process. It is what it is. Grief is hard. It is unpredictable. It demands significant amounts of emotional and physical strength. It doesn’t care about any other difficulties in life being experienced. It is difficult to discuss without crying (at least for me). It is to be endured rather than resolved.
Furthermore, even if multiple people are simultaneously grieving over the loss of a certain individual, each person’s journey through grief is markedly unique. I have 5 living siblings, 2 parents, 3 sisters-in-law, etc, and if every one of us had charted the “worst” days of the past year, I bet there would be little overlap. So even with so many loved ones who are going through similar experiences, grief is still a solitary voyage for each person.
This morning I woke up early, just as I did a year ago today, but instead of doing the same run I did on this morning last year (too painful and quite frankly, too short), I ventured out to my favorite place in Dallas, White Rock Lake. Not surprising to any person who knows me well, I’ve never been to the lake early enough in the morning to experience the sunrise. In fact, this morning when my alarm went off, I turned it off with the justification that “this is my day and I can sleep in if I want.” Fortunately, as I was dozing off again, I realized how dumb my justification was.
I listened to classical music for 6 miles as I experienced the splendid beauty of this crisp autumnal morning. I cried a few times, but for the most part, I felt peace. Peace that hopefully can be conveyed to a partial degree by these moments captured this morning:
As I ran, I kept thinking of this verse of scripture from the book of John in the New Testament – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
This was the only verse of scripture I read during my eulogy at Madie’s funeral last December. I haven’t thought about this specific verse in months, but as I ran along the sun-kissed shore of the lake, the words of the verse came gently, almost as if God himself were whispering those words to me.
I know there have been times this year when pain has been more prevalent than peace in my heart, and I am smart enough to know that there will be times in the future when pain prevails, but I hope to be wise enough to know that in the end, I will be reunited with my sister, and when we do reunite, we will not care about the missed milestones of mortality that we did not share together – we will simply be sisters, forever.
Till then, I will keep on running. Five half marathons down, five more to go until the end of next June.
Love you, Madeline Rose. You will always have a special place in my heart.