This month marks the one year anniversary of my oldest sister’s passing and I’ve been thinking a lot about the influence that she had on my life. When she died, I was already on this journey of self-discovery and enlightenment, but when she left, it pushed me even harder down the path which I was already heading. It wasn’t because of anything particular that she said, but because of who she was in this world.

My grandmother’s passing, months before my sister’s, urged me to publicly write. My grandmother, a beautiful poet in her own right, was relentless with me on doing something with my writing. Every time that I saw her, spoke with and wrote to her, she would respond calmly telling me in her loving voice that I was a writer, and needed to accept it, and go after it. After she passed, I thought it was time to honor her and her words of encouragement and try to make something out of the words which I hid away from the outside world. I started this blog and put up my poetry and began exploring how to become on the outside, the writer that she believed me to be on the inside. I took a page from her book and began publishing my writing, each day. And each day, I also felt her gentle pat on the back to keep going.

But when my sister passed, it happened so suddenly. It felt like an earthquake, shaking my world to tattered pieces and crumbled foundations. I stepped back from the plans which I had in my head, and thought about her life. The kind of ways that she gave of herself, thus contributing to the world. My sister was a writer, too, and a passionate one at that. She didn’t write about just anything, but instead the things that pulled so violently on her heart strings. The things that mattered to her. There were many times over the years that she and I got into debates over beliefs, opinion, ideals and theories, but the one thing we could always seem to do was agree to disagree and carry on loving each other, all the same. Nothing ever seemed to surpass that level of unconditional love, for the other. Don’t get me wrong, we could frustrate the crap out of each other, as most sisters can, but it didn’t make a difference to the outcome, for either of us.

After she passed, I was bombarded with thousands of memories of who she was as a person. How easily she handled situations that would bring most of us to our knees, if we were faced with the same. I kept being drawn to the memory of how fiercely she loved and never let a mistake or an experience define her. She was committed to evolving. To being a better person the next day than the one that she was the day before.

In those memories of who my big sister was, I found truth along with a road map to who I wanted to become. I wanted to be the person who held on to only the good. One who could effortlessly learn from and then let go of the bad. The person who wanted to be better and was willing to the do the work and make the sacrifices that doing so, would call for. I was already on this journey but who my sister was within her life, propelled me in the right direction. It was as if she was standing over my shoulder whispering which way to go and how to go about it, every second of the day. It was within that time that I began to see my writing take on a different form. I wanted to write what I was passionate about. I wanted to see the world from many different angles, and then apply that to my writing. And whether one person read it, or no one did — I felt the fresh, clean air of speaking my truth. Which came with it a feeling of success, no matter what the outside spoke to, because I was doing what felt right and necessary inside of me.

Today I woke up with a longing to talk to her, to share all that I have discovered over this year alone and hear what all she has overcome, as well. I wanted to hear her laugh and her sarcastically funny comments to my truths – And yes, even her debates against the way that I see things from my perspective. I even wanted the feeling of frustration for what we could not agree on, and the “I love you,” at the end of the talk. I wanted all of it. I guess that’s what makes death such a hard thing to accept, is the letting go of all future experiences of the same. All of the discussions that erupt in gut-busting laughter, around the kitchen table. All of the heated conversations illuminating difference of opinion. All of the sharing of experiences that wind up holding such immense truth and insight into your own life, as the other person recounts.

I watch a lot of the television show ‘Roseanne,’ in my down time. The relationship between the character of Roseanne and her sister, Jackie, remind me so much of the relationship that me and my sister had with each other. We could dig at each other, fight, cry and laugh all within a small window of time and there was never any love lost. Yes we have even had those moments of me as the little sister putting my older sister in a headlock and smashed against the carpet while she begged for me to let go. Which also ended with us immediately making up, seeing the other person’s side of the argument and laughing hysterically at our own foolishness. Each time I watch an episode I think about her and what is missing.

As family, we don’t often tell each other how much the other is needed. We tend to think though it’s unspoken it’s just common sense to know that we are. We think saying, “I love you,” to our family is all-encompassing, but when they’re gone it doesn’t feel as though it was. It feels as though, “I love you,” just wasn’t quite enough.  We pick and poke at each other, tease and make fun, but the truth behind the words of telling them how important they are goes unsaid. I kick myself a lot for not telling my sister how much the very essence of her life, made a positive difference to mine. How incredibly important her role as big sister was and how much she was valued as a person, by me. I’ve beat myself up over the many times that I was too busy to talk or show up. The days where I put my exhaustion or mind-numbing errands over connecting with my loved ones. The moments that I let the phone calls go to voicemail because I was enthralled in what I was doing in that second and couldn’t be bothered. Maybe that’s the biggest lesson learned through the death of someone close to us, is that we are able to clearly see where we could have shown our love more. Maybe that is what I had to learn, anyway. And though I know that she is not looking on from where she is holding all of these offenses against me, just as she never did in life, I still feel bad. Like I could have done better and I failed. I try now more than ever to let those whom I love know how much they mean to me, by saying it as well as showing it. I want them to KNOW, and not ever have to convince themselves of it or wonder if it’s really true.  

My sister taught me a lot. She taught me humor, which has been my greatest weapon and friend throughout life. She taught me unconditional love and acceptance, which I may have never learned to the extent that I have, if not for her modeling of it. She taught me how to let go, something that has always been hard for me to do. She taught me how to go after my passions with unrelenting boldness, as she did in all things that she was passionate about. She taught me how to embrace life’s successes, mistakes and disappointments, in the exact same liking as the other and to let them build me. She taught me to never give up on striving to be better than who I once was. She taught me that it was okay to have a big heart and to always keep it open. And she taught me it all, by her living example – By leading the way. Though I miss her more than words can say — Today I am truly grateful for the one whom taught me so much and for having been lucky enough to be loved by her.