I try to mutter something. Anything. I try to find the right words. I open my mouth and nothing comes out.
The best I can come up with is, “I’m sorry.”
First, I was in denial. I could not accept the fact that you were actually gone. I did not cry. My body would not allow me because it did not feel real. It felt like I would be seeing you again. Everyone around me was crying, eyes swollen from the excessive hours of sitting there because they had accepted what was happening. I did not. Mom stood tall and was brave. I felt like a coward. I hated myself for not feeling anything. I wondered why my body would not allow me to feel something, not one thing. I remember seeing my brother cry like he never has before. I never saw him cry, but this, this hit him hard. We left the funeral home and still nothing. Not one tear was shed until I made it home. Then it started to sink in. You were really gone. For real this time.
The next stage was anger. I was angry. All the time. I felt crappy, consumed by my guilt and shame. I was ashamed of how I treated you. Up until your last moments, I did not understand the stage of pain you were in. How your moments were limited. You would not be here with us much longer. I was selfish. Consumed by my own priorities. How naive I was during my teenage years. I did not yet understand the importance of cherishing each moment because I would not know which would be my last. I am angry at the world, angry with myself mostly. Why do all the good people need to be taken from us? You were a light within this darkness and we needed more of you. I have felt this rage inside of me, coming out to play every now and again. I would suppress it until I could no longer do it. My anger would come out in bursts. I would yell at my loved ones over minor spats like leaving dishes in the sink, or the house being a mess. The only thing that has been a mess is me.
You traveled from hospital to hospital. When you were in the last one, I knew this would be the final stop on the train for you. Your body was brittle, fragile, thin. It was like each hospital took more from you and your body grew thinner. Your bones consumed your skin. You were you, but not at the same time. Your body was there, but your mind was not. You could hear us and you would make motions with your hands to let us know you could hear us. The air conditioning in the room was always turned up high and that annoyed me. I remember hearing the AC turn on and off, feeling the bursts of air hit my face. I would ask myself when was the last time they cleaned the vent? The air reeked of dirt, instead of circulating air, we were greeted with dust. This mixed with the overbearing smell of Clorox was too much to handle.
My denial mixed with bargaining, the next stage. But, really all the stages have been sewn together for me. I thought it was a bad dream. Like you would wake up miraculously recovered. I did not take your illness serious because once again, I was just a naive teenager. I thought we had more time. This was my biggest mistake. Time is something we do not have enough of.
The depression hit me like a truck at a time I did not expect it to. All those years of not being able to feel anything as much as I wanted to. I suppressed my feelings and let them out as anger. I guess I struggled with learning how to process my emotions. It was as though my body, mind, and heart were at war.
I had moved out of the house when I was 22, searching for more in my life. I felt like my city held too much baggage and brought me a sadness I could not explain. As much as I would miss my family, I felt like they were broken for a while and no one wanted to accept that truth. I had to find myself out there in the world and decide how I wanted to carry out my days.
I was in another state, living in an apartment, setting the tone for how I wanted to live, but I still felt incredibly alone. It was in these moments I missed you most. I moved away from family to be on my own, but to my surprise, being by myself somewhere new did not offer me what I thought it would. Loneliness became my best friend. It consumed me entirely. It would join me at the dinner table, when I drove to work, when I sat with friends. It did not matter how many people surrounded me in the crowd, I still felt this ache in my chest, this constant sting of anxiety.
The last stage: acceptance. I do not think I have completed this stage yet. I am still learning, still evolving. I have accepted that you are gone. But, I do not think I have accepted myself. My mistakes and my actions. How I treated you. The words I said. The things I did. Will I ever reach acceptance? Will I find a way to forgive myself for how I wronged you? These questions haunt me.
Mom always says, “She has already forgiven you, so you need to forgive yourself. It will help you find peace.”
Your suffering was tragic. We could not witness how sick you had grown. All those years of taking care of others, and during your last moments, you still ensured your family felt safe and loved. I wish I could hold your hand one more time or embrace you in a hug.
As much as I crave your presence here on Earth with me, wherever you are, I hope you are smiling down on me. I hope you have found somewhere to call home. I dream of you being somewhere warm, drinking your morning cup of coffee, eating your favorite meal, and being welcomed in with open arms by the other angels.
I will see you again. But for now, I will do everything in my power to accept my wrongs, and try to become a better daughter, sister, friend, and lover. I want to spread the kindness and light you did throughout your entire life.
I hope to make you proud of me.