January 8th. A day I’ve microblogged about many times.
Every year, my siblings and I post about the loss of our sister, Christy, who died at just 20 years old on January 8, 2002 from Hodgkin’s Disease.
It’s been a day that stings for the past 17 years. A day I’ve held onto because it felt wrong to let it go. Not feeling emotional felt like a disservice to my late sister.
Last January 8, I went to get acupuncture in New York and saw my therapist, Miriam Pineles, from Conscious Health and Wellness. She amazing, and I interviewed her, please watch that here:
She could tell just by touching my skin that something was bothering me. I told her it was the anniversary of my sister’s death. She said, in a totally compassionate tone, “Wow, it’s still very raw for you isn’t it?”
The truth was, 17 years later, yes it was. Because I’d chosen to keep it close to the surface. I hadn’t really dealt with it. In fact, I don’t think any of my family had. It’s a hard thing to discuss. We often want to hold onto to our pain and identify with it. It’s part of us. It makes us who we are. If we move past it, who are we?
Except, it can be part of our story without being the only chapter.
Last year, when I was Saudi Arabia, I got a series of angry texts from my sister. She was intoxicated and mad about me ruining a surprise party I knew nothing about. A massive misunderstanding, but what really came out of that text exchange was that she was harboring anger at me over the death of our sister.
She told me I wasn’t there when our sister was sick. She’s right. I wasn’t there. I was in my freshman year at Mizzou. I’d asked my mom several times if should drop out and be home with her. She constantly told me no. To this day, I know that was the right choice. What could I have done?
I felt guilty about this for years. A decade even. But that’s kind of narcissistic, isn’t it, thinking my presence would have changed anything?
My sister and I were close, but it was a love/hate relationship, typical of teenaged girls. She liked Biggie, I liked Hanson. We were very different creatures. Would she have even wanted me there 24-7? I think I would’ve annoyed her. I was there for her emotionally and we talked both via text and on the phone, though at 18 and 20, neither of us were equipped to deal with the magnitude of what was going on.
I have done a lot of soul searching since that day. I have discovered through yoga and mediation that it’s not only okay to release the pain of our past, it’s healthy and necessary. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my sister. It means I’m ready to heal and move forward and find freedom in love.
One way that I do that is through volunteering.
I have mentioned the Art of Elysium in a prior journal. One reason I’ve identified with this particular organization is because of my sister’s death. At first, it was hard to process the experience and I internalized each and every kid’s illness.
I’ve learned to not make it about me. It’s simply about giving love and bringing a few moments of joy and relief to a kid that’s dealing with a fragile medical condition. I wish this existed for my sister in Missouri. Currently, these programs are only available in California, but are soon expanding to New York.
My husband and I attended our first Heaven Gala this year. It is a star-studded event and a different side of the coin than the volunteerism of the org. We enjoyed getting all dressed up and rubbing elbows with Usher, Jennifer Garner, Linda Perry, and Topher Grace.
While the glamour is exciting, we saw it as a way for us to step up financially. Volunteers are the heart of this organization and we’ve both enjoyed giving our time and showing up for these deserving families. But every non-profit also needs money to operate. So we hosted a series of backyard fundraisers as members of the host committee. I look forward to the day when we are so abundantly blessed that we can afford to contribute on a more extravagant level.
Until then, we will continue to give our time and raise whatever funds we can and that is certainly a welcome contribution.
On this January 8, I found myself at Kaiser , face to face with children who may have been dealing with the same illness as my sister. Though I couldn’t always physically be there for her in my teen years, as an adult, I can use my time and talents in service to others fighting a similar battle.
That, to me, is true healing and I know she would feel the same way. I know she would rather see me smiling than crying.