If you read my Impeccable Misfit blog, some of this will sound familiar. Forgive me, I'm still processing. Happier posts coming soon.
This isn't getting easier. If anything, it just hurts more. You weren't supposed to die, Wren. Especially not like that. It was excrutiating to see you in immense pain, emaciated and weak, lying there limp and helpless as the cancer ravaged your body. You were our strong one. You, the stubborn, vibrant, independent, spit-fire. How could anything have defeated you? I miss your lion loyalty and rebellious spirit. I ache for your soft-spoken gentleness; your soothing words when I'm sad or feel alone. I grew up with you leading the way. You blazed the paths through the deep snow, I just followed behind and used the footholds you created. You were so powerful, so sure. I believed everything you ever told me. You never told me you were going to die.
Your mother blames the doctors. Your sisters blame our society's treatment of cancer, modern medicine in general. I blame...I don't know. Sometimes God, except that I basically told Him to fuck off after you died. It's hard to blame something I refuse to believe in. I blame the gene mutation, the poisonous combination of chromosomes that you and I share. My risk is higher than yours. Why did YOU die? Statistically, the cancer is supposed to hit me. The genetic counselor couldn't even pretend to think I'd make it through life without getting it. He kept saying "When you get cancer" instead of "If you get cancer." I was twenty-two when I sat in that room, frozen, mind reeling, the damning numbers on the page a dizzying blur. Those numbers were mine. THEY WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE YOURS.
I never thought you'd have the mutation too. If you have it, it's possible your sisters do too. It's possible your nieces do too. Your sons? They certainly have it and are unable to prevent passing it on to any daughters they father. We could do this sickening dance of death again and again and again. You knew that. It terrified you.
I never told you I have the gene mutation too. For a long while, I never told anyone what I learned in the genetics lab building, because it was depressing and there's nothing that can be done about it anyway. I left the lab and dumped the test results and pamphlets in a box in the back of my closet, unread. I vowed that this cancer would NEVER touch my life. I would simply refuse to permit it to. I would put it out of my mind. I did. A few months later, you got sick.
You didn't tell me you were going away, I wasn't ready. There were things left unsaid. Dammit, I wasn't ready to lose you. The cancer was supposed to be in remission. We talked about the future. We planned your 40th birthday party. It never occurred to me that you weren't going to make it! Fucking hell, Wren! Do you know how bad this hurts? Surely you must. You were the one who had to tell your children that your cancer was terminal. You were ripped away from your life and loved ones, extirpated. Your sons will get married and have children without you. You didn't want that anymore than we did. I'm so sorry, love. Sometimes I forget that you were heart-broken too.
Our nieces are delightful and amazing. They're brilliant, creative, kind, funny little people. Most of them are stubborn, like us. You'd like that. That would secretly please you. I know, because it pleases me. Sometimes, I glance at one of the girls and there it is, your grin. It always takes me by surprise. Once in a while, I catch a glimpse of you in my own reflection. I'd never before noticed the similarities in our faces. The year after you died, your mom, sisters, and I took the girls to your beach. We taught them how to make the sand sing. We held their hands and ran with them. You were supposed to be the one to teach them that. I wish you could have seen their little faces. They were awestruck by the magic of your singing sand.
You shared my adoration of the little ones. Loving them with you is one of the things I miss the most. I love them extra hard now, trying to love them for both of us..trying to make up for your absence. It hurts like hell. The girls are the biggest source of beauty and joy in my life. They talk about you. They hurt too. They don't understand why you died. I talk to them gently, trace the freckles on their cheeks and stroke their heads. I cheer them on until I'm hoarse. I throw myself full-force into loving them. I try so hard to love them for both of us. It is both the best and the most painful thing I've ever done. It is the one thing I am sure I am not fucking up in my life. Even so, all my love isn't enough, Wren. I know it isn't. My love doesn't bring you back to them. I'm unable to give them the memories and experiences with you that they would have cherished.
But when we are sad or weary or crabby, I take them to the water. I take them to your beach with the singing sand. And we run, our bare feet kicking up the sand, the way you ran before.
I love you, Wren.