Monday, March 05, 2012

Life Goes On

Although it often seems that I received the news only yesterday, today marks the one year anniversary of my sister in law's death.  Even after all these months, the fact seems totally unreal, impossible.  I can't help but imagine that when I go home to Minnesota, she and my brother will appear at my mom's and we'll spend the afternoon eating and chatting like we've done a hundred times before.  I'm afraid that it will all finally hit me when that doesn't happen.

When packing earlier this week, I brushed the dust off of the last family photo I have of us all together and then sat down to have a good look at it.  I looked at her face and peered into her eyes, analyzed her posture and looked for clues, any signs of unhappiness.  And all I saw was the person that I thought I knew.  The one with the sassy personality, the really big laugh and the love of fancy hats.

A recently discovered photo snapped on my iPhone during our last MN visit in Dec 08. 

While the rawest of emotions have softened with time as one would expect, the grief and sadness, of course linger. Grief at everyone's loss of such a lovely and caring person, but in particular for my brother.  I wonder how he's managed to the get through the last year; he speaks about it all very little.  Sadness that she will never meet her nephews.  And then anger that she chose this outcome.  It seems to me that the things that trouble us are often but a memory years down the road.  Clearly, I still struggle to find compassion for her actions.  It's all made even worse (if that's possible) by the knowledge of such a violent end.  It still makes the breath catch in my throat to think of her heading off into the woods with a gun...

Then of course, I can't help but wonder how I could have made a difference.  What if I called more?  Let her know I looked up to her?  Thought of her as a friend?   How could there not have been someone or something that made a difference?  A song on the radio.  The twinkle of snow on a branch.  The smell of pine needles in the crisp air.  Any little thing could have given her pause and reminded her of the beauty in the world.  Except that nothing did.

With the best of intentions, people tell me to "focus on the good memories that you have."  That's all well and good and of course I try to do just that but just as one can't add a splash of vinegar to a glass of fine wine and then hope to savor only the complex fruity bouquet, I can't relish the good memories without tasting a touch of the tragic with each thought.

Bec bought me a ticket to fly to Alaska so that we could spend a week exploring, adventuring and car camping out of a Mustang convertible when I was a junior in college.

A lot has happened in the last year.  For those of us left behind, life goes on, anger, sadness and all.


  1. Anonymous3:45 AM

    Mental illness is difficult to understand and rationalize for the outside observer, and wildly overwhelming and frightening for the sufferer. It doesn't make the sufferer less kind, selfish or miserable to others, it just makes them feel lost and sad and so ill inside. I hope she is in a better place and that you can understand that you'll never really understand her suffering unless you experienced it yourself.

    1. Does someone who commits or attempts suicide invariably have a mental illness? I'm not sure what the definition of mental illness is and I never thought of her as having such. Hence my attempts at rationalization. I hate that she was suffering and we had no idea. And since I cannot understand and don't think she's in a better place (I think she's just dead), the search for compassion continues.