My heart feels really sore and fragile today. I’m entering the sacred season of the year for me – I am now within 2 weeks of the anniversary of my sisters’ deaths. December 9, 2007… almost 6 years ago. This year, I am 24 years old, the same age that the shooter was on the day that he murdered my sisters. That’s weird and has been resonating in me all year. I think more so now because I understand what it means to be sick in your soul.
I had the privilege and honor of being invited to speak at a meeting this morning that was held at the hospital where one of my sisters died (my twin died at the scene). So many emotions were involved for me. Grateful, because I feel like my sisters are still so involved in my recovery. In some cosmic way they are a part of my Higher Power. I don’t get how it works, but I know it does. The chair where I sat and spoke this morning was placed such that I could look up at the window of the room where Rachel, my beautiful 16 year old sister, died. Talk about strange. And beautiful at the same time. So much of my life happened at that hospital. I was working there when I got sober. I was invited to speak this morning by a friend who first met me when I was the hospital barista, before I got into recovery and just after. And there I sat, with 2 weeks to go before the sixth anniversary, on a snowy morning that feels so familiar.
I still feel raw. I cried on the way there. I cried when I came home. I am still feeling raw now. I am grateful. I am so honored to share my story in such a sacred room. And I am grieving.
Some days, it feels like torture that I have to live out my life without my sisters at my side. My youngest sister Grace, who is still living and a huge part of my life, is 8 years younger. Though I cherish her deeply and try to spend as much time as I can with her (in fact we saw Catching Fire just this past Thursday, also hard to watch this time of year), I grew up with Stephanie and Rachel. They experienced the same seasons I did in our tiny little life in a 3 bedroom apartment in Denver. I want you to see it – so here are some pictures from Thanksgiving, 2007.
My twin, Stephanie. She looks abnormally somber here. 🙂
Rachel (on the left) and Grace
This is what I remember. I can’t say fondly. I don’t think that Rachel, especially, would say she fondly remembers it either, if she were here. And that’s what I mean by having my experience validated. My girls saw what I saw. I know they saw it differently, but Rachel and I, especially, were fairly similar in thought. And I miss that. I miss the hugs my twin used to give us to say goodnight. Hugs that I used to hate.
It hurts a lot too that I don’t get to see what they would become. Our lives were miniscule. Crammed into a coffin-like apartment. They had so little chance to blossom because my dad and his delusion about “THE MONEY” was stifling us all. I remember so vividly the only time I ever saw Stephanie in her true self, and I cherish it with all my heart. We danced together, crazy and free, at a huge dance party just outside Beijing, China. We stared at each other and smiled, huge grins, finally just okay with who we were. I never had seen her like that, and I never saw it again. But wow. It was beautiful.
Rachel on the other hand was always just who she wanted to be. My dad had tried and failed to tame her. She didn’t care. She just went underground and did what she wanted anyway. She inspired me more than anyone. I shared a room with her. She was my best friend, and the only person in my family I could actually tell the truth about how I felt. It kills me that I lost her.
It kills me that I lost them both.
Yet I am so grateful at the same time that somehow, my life cycled around again and I found myself in a hospital conference room, in the hospital where Rachel died, talking about how they affected my life, how they affected my sobriety. It was like a gift to me, and a gift that I could give away. I felt them all just standing there with me – not just Rachel and Steph but my great-uncle Chan too, who was the first person in my family in recovery. I felt so right. So sad. So honored. And sitting next to a precious woman who was gracious and kind enough to invite me to share my story, who weirdly, I had also met at that hospital. (Sometimes I have to wonder what it is about that place – after having such evil and such good occur there… it’s really quite tremendous I think)
So if I am scrambling for words here more than usual, if my writing stumbles or doesn’t make sense, this is why. I am in the sacred season. And words don’t come easily in this season. But I want to share it with you. I want you to see a little window into how I live these moments out – ungracious, messy, grieving, and grateful. I want you to see it all. Because it’s sacred, and I want to share it… I want to give it away, and hope somehow it makes a difference to you, too.