ten years | a guest post by ashley gill

ten years later

Ten years after the suicide of her sister, these words speak to the experiences of grief, healing and community by a sister over the ten years since her loss. You can read more of Ashley’s work by following her blog “There is no later, this is later.” Thanks, Ashley, for sharing your words. 

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In the early morning of this day ten years ago, I slept in blissful ignorance. When my dad woke me up, I opened my eyes to see his, red, but dry. My blissful ignorance vanished as he spoke.

I can count on my two hands the days that have passed in the past ten years without thinking about my sister. When she sneezed, it sounded like she was yelling. When she walked, her right foot stuck out ever so slightly at the wrong angle. She hated board games, and changing plans. She drove a hideous car, the horn screaming from the red frame like a dying animal. She was great at being a sister. She was a good listener. She quickly admitted when she was wrong, and forgave even faster. She taught me how to love without even realizing it. She never owned a cell phone, never had a Facebook account; she is forever nineteen years old.

I’m not sixteen anymore. I feel like a completely different person. It still hurts to remember her, to think about her for too long. I am not writing this to dwell on the past or to make a shrine to someone I’ve lost. The reason for this post is to thank all the people that have been in my life for these past 10 years. I wish I could list you all by name, but it would take ages and I would of course probably forget more than one.

So I put you in groups.

My family. We talk. We talk about Meghan and we laugh about all the silly things she did. I have never once felt afraid or guilty about bringing up her name. When my parents lost their daughter, they did not forget about their other children. They loved us well. My brother stopped yelling at me. He let me sleep on a mattress in his room for the first week. My extended family never counted the cost. They traveled for miles, just to sit with us. They helped me get ready for my prom. They took pictures at my high school graduation. They sent me birthday cards. Years later, they acknowledge that it still hurts.

Meghan’s friends became a part of my family. They talked for hours on the phone. They listened to me recount all the memories, trying not to forget. I got to sing with them while we all cried. They love Mom and Dad like they are their own parents. They love my brother and me like we are their siblings.

In high school, I had two best friends. They never made me feel dumb for being sad at the wrong time. They threw me a surprise birthday party when I thought my birthday had forever been ruined. They tried to make me laugh, even when I felt guilty for smiling at anything. Through trips to Lubbock, a certain Italian food place, and countless other tiny things; they made what could have been the worst days of my life into some of the best. They continue to be my best friends.

Over the past years, I have made so many good friends who never met my sister. They have remembered her birthday, listened to my stories, asked questions about her, and asked to see her picture. They acknowledge and validate a part of my life they likely don’t understand.

My brother hasn’t always been known for having the best judgment. But he married this girl that is fantastic. It’s been a joy to have a sister again. Like a breath of fresh air, Klaire, my niece, was born in March, three years ago.

You have all been the bandages God has used to patch up a wound I never thought would heal. He has used your hugs, letters, phone calls, laughter, time, money and flowers to show me that He is good. He can create beauty from ashes. And He does. Every day.

Some of you don’t believe in Him the same way I do, but He’s used you just the same. This restoration of my heart is what He’s done for us all. He’s taken our shame and guilt and replaced it with Goodness. He is the Great Physician. Even though I’ve doubted Him, I’m reminded, today more than ever, that He is good and He heals.

Grief is the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. I miss my sister very much. I wish things could have happened differently. But I think she was healed too. Judging from the sixteen years that I knew her, I think Meghan would probably want to thank you for taking such good care of me.

You smell like a banana!

***

For more work on grief, loss, resilience and faith, click HERE. 

For Rayna Bomar’s guest post “A little help from his friends” click HERE

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