i looked at a photo of me and our sisters from our vacation in Spain. the photo felt so heartbreakingly incomplete. it was you. you were missing in that photo. looking at it hurts. i smile but a sadness permeates my body. words go nowhere near describing how grateful i am for my beautiful sisters and their adorable smiles in that photo, just as well as they can’t go anywhere close to expressing how we’re never complete anymore, how there’s always something missing.
we come in halves now — that’s our whole. this is how it is without you. even though we do feel you in us, with us, always, sometimes reality strikes like lightning and our bones just give up and break. so we feel the lack, the incompleteness, the brokenness, even through our smiles and bright eyes, even during our pleasant travels and fun adventures.
we hide it — all of us. we never speak of it. you never come up in pain; just in love. but that doesn’t mean you don’t hurt. it doesn’t mean your absence in our home is unfelt. it’s so heavy, we can’t look at each other’s eyes and speak of it. we just stay in bed longer and cry it out. that’s how grief happens in our home; it’s been two years but it still comes in waves. when we’re together, we laugh, and when we’re alone, we let ourselves cry. it sounds very separating, isolating, dishonest; but that’s how we keep each other strong and whole — by not showing how weak and broken we sometimes feel inside.
we were five sisters and two brothers and this is how it’ll be forever. no matter how long some of us live without seeing the others every day.
mom gave birth seven times and when they ask how many siblings i have, i say six. when they ask me where i come, i say third. when they ask me about my older siblings, i say two beautiful sisters. they never did, but when they do ask me about my eldest, i’ll smile and say, ‘she’s in Heaven’.
that’s what family means: to keep one another alive through our own lungs, our own hearts, our own thoughts, even when they’ve passed and let go of their bodies, their lungs, hearts, and thoughts.