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long overdue

i stopped writing. i did. i’m not apologizing for it. it was a mandate, direct from my soul. i retreated into a shell of denial and waved the white flag. just couldn’t bring myself to spew about being “there”. you know, the dark, painful place called “this is your life now – deal with it.” and besides, if i had written, every post would have been the same: i am lost. i don’t understand why this happened. i can’t move on. and on, and on, and on.  being “there”, stuck in this place… it’s awful.  this place doesn’t just suck. it threatens to kill you, slowly, day by day. i can see why (and how) people fall into depression and lose years of their life after a traumatic event. how can you not? your world is suddenly flipped upside down, and yet you are somehow supposed to be able to cope effectively with the loss, (effectively, being the key word here) and also somehow move forward. what in the actual fuck, who can do that? with no training, with no prep work… there is no manual for what to do when your sister suddenly dies, no cliff notes on how to not only keep your head above water but still be a mom, a wife, an employee, et cetera. i could barely remember how to drive to work, the rest of it faded away.  i didn’t know how to deal, and i couldn’t share it with you as i simultaneously tread the dangerous water and held my breath.

there is no rule book for this. there is only time. lots and lots of time.

time to let your mind wander to those places it shouldn’t: the couldas, the wouldas, the shouldas. the what ifs. time to contemplate all the things you suddenly regret now. i should’ve visited her more. i really wasn’t as busy as i thought i was, i could’ve made time for her. i should’ve made time for her.  what that really means is i should’ve made her more of a priority. i am a shitty sister. i wish i had known her better, like… the real her.  towards the end of her life (that is so hard to say, it’s as if i’m talking about a 90 year-old lady) she started sharing with me real grown-up things, like her fears, her stressors, her dreams. things that surprisingly blindsided me. for a long time i guess i had only known the happy-go-lucky angie. angie didn’t have “fears” or “worries”… she laughed those things off, she scoffed in the face of danger. she was sunshine and rainbows, all day every day. she never wanted to bring anyone down with her own crap, because her mission in life was to build people up and shower them with love. there’s no room for your own shit when you are showering people with love. and in the last couple of years, as she allowed me to see her vulnerability, i tried my best to shower her with love and support, just as she had done to me a million times over. i wish i had been able to support her better. in the seemingly infinite time that has passed since she died, i regret this almost on a daily basis.

i would’ve complimented her more. on her beauty, her one-of-a-kind style. she, like most women, struggled to take compliments. she hated her cuban nose. i can remember clear as day as a girl my grandma offered to pay for plastic surgery to reduce its bridge. in fact, she may have repeated this offer many times over.  so i can see why she had a complex, maybe, just a little? she complained about her butt. ok well, what woman doesn’t complain about their butt.  too big, she’d say. you’re cuban, i’d reply. it’s in your DNA. no getting around that. i wish she was here right now, i’d tell her she’s perfect. big nose, big butt and all.

i wish i could’ve done something to prevent her death.

there. i said it. it’s what we all naturally try to do… look back in hindsight and play the coulda woulda shoulda game. only this particular game gets real dangerous, real quick. because before you know it, you allow guilt to grab hold of you and wrap its hands around your neck.  my brain knows for a fact no one could’ve stopped angie from dying that night. but my heart is non-sensical, purposefully illogical and flighty. it whispers to me that perhaps something could’ve been done, something, anything, and the outcome would’ve be different. maybe if i could’ve done those things i would instead be sitting across from her at a table, staring into her big brown eyes, watching her raise a venti quad soymilk hazelnut latte with 3 pumps to her brightly-colored lips. i would hear her raucous laugh, echoing around the room. i could reach over and place my arm around her shoulder and squeeze her tight.

this game can get real dangerous. i don’t like to play it. in fact, i try very hard not to. but i did, for a while there, and it was not a good situation. i was detached from my life, my family. i couldn’t concentrate on anything, it was like i had amnesia. i “slept” like crap, nightmares all the time. i’d wake up like a zombie. it took months before these things started to fade away, and i watched others, some of my closest loved ones, succumb to this game. some are still in this game. and it’s almost as hard to watch as it was to hear she was dead. because this mind fuck, these coulda woulda shouldas, sap you of everything and leave you nothing in return. they leave you a heap of tears on the floor, they scream in your ear “you weren’t good enough for her, you didn’t deserve to have her”. and when you’re in that nightmare of grief and loss and depression, you don’t have the ability to discern the truth. you believe those words.

it took an epiphany for me to realize something had to give. i was having a breakdown in my room late at night (one of many) and suddenly i felt as if she was right next to me, watching me. i could see her face, feel her there… and she was so sad, so heartbroken that i was grieving her loss so violently, and blaming myself. and it hit me, angie would never want that for me, for anyone. in fact, she’d probably yell at me (while giving me a hug, because that’s what she did) and tell me to cut it out. i don’t know what changed in that moment, but i felt a switch inside. i had this revelation, and somehow was able to forgive myself for the self-imposed guilt and let go of it. it’s okay that angie’s death is traumatic and weighs heavy on my mind and heart, but i realized in that moment, for whatever reason, that it can’t be my everything anymore. mostly because it would cause her pain and i can’t do that to her. i won’t do that to her.

there is nothing anyone could have done to prevent her death. if you are reading this and you too feel the self-imposed guilt, i beg you to let it go. nothing good comes from it, only more pain and unnecessary punishment. she would want you to let it go.

i’m trying to be strong. the holidays are coming and i’m tempted to crawl back in the hole. i miss you so much angie. getting this all out is so very long overdue. i’m not even sure this passage makes any sense. i’m dusting off the cobwebs and taking baby steps. it feels good to get this stuff out. and since it is Halloween for a few more minutes i’d like to share with you one of my favorite Angie costumes, naturally self-made. i can’t explain why it’s my favorite, hell, i’m not even sure what she actually was going for… monster? yellow zombie? regardless, she rocked it and was so proud of it because she made it with her bare hands. of course she did.  and although the hot pants probably didn’t help to minimize her butt, i wish i could tell her she looked amazing and not to change a thing. i love you angie. ❤

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your day

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i’m supposed to call you in 26 minutes. when the clock strikes midnight. it’s what i do. i am “the first” to wish you happy birthday. it’s a silly family fake competition, with an origin no one can really remember. we all race each other to be “first.” but there are serious rules, you can’t just say the words ‘happy birthday’. you have to SING. the. whole. song. and the honoree can dole out bonus points for vibrato and enthusiasm (aka volume). as everyone calls over the course of the birthday they are naturally met with disappointment when they hear they weren’t first. because being the middle child, i am fiercely competitive… it’s how i got noticed as a child. i am the first to call you. pretty much since we started this competition. until today.

i instinctively reached for my phone like i’ve done this time year after year and it hit me that i won’t sing to you in, now, 20 minutes. your name is still there in my phone, on my favorites list. i can’t bear to delete it. i can’t erase it, and sometimes i almost call it in those fleeting moments where i forget reality. when i’m walking down the street and see something that makes me think of you and i want to share it with you. and then i am snapped back into the harsh present like a thunderclap.

the thought of your birthday has been giving me such anxiety these last few weeks. i’ve been dreading it with all my being.  it’s here so soon. i am not ready for this. this day was once devoted to celebrating you, full of happiness and love and opportunity to connect… and now is replaced with a harsh reminder of the loneliness and disconnect. your birthday without you is cementing the blocks around my feet. i can’t escape this reality. we are all broken without you. i am watching us all unravel and we are powerless to stop it.

this hurts. so. much.

8 minutes now.

you are a constant in my head. i see you everywhere. the lanky girl at the coffee shop with her hair in a messy up-do carrying a giant bag. the tattooed girl in the produce aisle inspecting her fruit. and when i can’t find you in the semblance of others i am forced to channel you through the little bit of tangible memories i have left within my grasp. hidden under the blanket late at night i play your music, where no one can see the tears roll down my cheeks. i pull your plaid shirt out of the closet and run my hands over its sleeves, and breathe it in. it’s been worn so, the fibers are beyond soft under my fingertips. and then if that’s not enough self-inflicted pain i start going through the pictures. i have to. because as time goes on i fear i am forgetting things. i’m not adding any more memories to replace the ones my tired mind loses track of and i panic.

it’s here now. it’s april 13. you took your first breath 34 years ago today, it doesn’t feel that long ago. i’m certain you made mom and dad cry tears of joy with your deafening cry (setting the tone for your inability to regulate the volume of your voice). i can imagine they marveled at your big brown eyes, your chubby little body. and as you grew we all marveled at you. you were the most beautiful soul i’ve ever known. and just 2 months ago took your last breath. i remember my papí used to say when you are born you are given a book to carry.  the pages in the book are the blank pages of your life, for you to fill with your stories. and at some point, your story will be finished. it was much too short, angie, the book you were given to carry. true, the pages of your life were filled with such beautiful stories, their color spilling from their edges. i was so blessed to be a character in some of those stories, allowing your color to seep into my own pages. you had this gift of brightening everyone you touched, you made us all better humans. but your book deserved to have more blank pages for you to fill. i don’t think i’ll ever be okay with this.

i miss you with everything within me. i feel as if i’m missing a part of my body, my leg or something, and i am being forced to learn how to walk without it.  there are no words that explain how badly i want to hug you again. catch your warm gaze, see your smile. or whisper “horses horses horses” in your ear and send you into a laughing fit. this. is. so. hard. it’s getting harder every day. we were supposed to grow old together. there were so many things left undone. if there is any shred of peace it is having no regrets of words left unsaid. we never allowed that to happen. i knew how much you loved me and i did the same.

i love you. so very much.

today is your day, and yet it is also so much like every day of the last 2 months. today, like every day, your absence will weigh heavy on my mind. today i’ll be looking for you, like always, in the cool breeze, or the sun on my face, trying to find you and know you’re with me somehow. but today, like no other day, i wish i could sing to you like i used to. you know i would if i could… i would belt it out at the top of my lungs just to make you smile. and you best know i would be first. ❤

a little bit of love left

sometimes it’s the innocent words that hurt us the most. the most harmless thoughts become real words that float out our mouths into the air, and cut the deepest. they have no motive behind them, no malice or aim to injure. but they are daggers to the heart.

“mama, are you still sad because tia angie is dead?”

the not so subtle reminder. the now-5-year-old easily senses i am dying inside, as i lay next to him in his bed, and try to get through our nightly rendition of “somewhere over the rainbow.” i can’t stop the tears as they pool under my eyes, my voice cracking. i beg the song to hurry up, but as i sing the words their meaning strikes my rawest nerve more than every before.

“someday i’ll wish upon a star, and wake up where the clouds are far behind me”

my voice breaks, unable to finish the line. i look down at the sweetest face staring up at me… deep breaths… he asks me again. when Angie died i didn’t hide it from him. i couldn’t. i was woken from my sleep with the worst news imaginable, and instantly he knew something was seriously wrong. i filled every inch of the house with the sound of pure uncontrollable anguish, unable to control myself. he ran into my room, in tears, utterly confused and terrified as to what was happening. “mama what’s wrong? what’s wrong?” i laid on the floor, wailing until the breath stopped coming from my lungs. when i could make words i managed to tell him i was so very sad because tia angie died. and i hugged him tight, showering him with tears while i wailed. and he wouldn’t let me go. i’m fairly certain i scarred him for life.

yes sweetie, mama is still sad that tia angie died.

in the immediate week following her death we talked about death and dying a lot. he was coming with us to San Francisco for the week to get everything ready for her service, and to visit with family flying into town. it would be impossible to avoid talking about death when it would be surrounding him for the next week, so we ventured into unknown territory. i thought he would have so many questions but he really was most fixated on the $64,000 question… why did she die? i felt he was old enough to understand that death is a part of life, so i told him “at some point our body doesn’t work anymore and we go to be with God.” because that’s typically what happens to people, right? our physical body craps out on us and BOOM… do not pass Go, do not collect $200. but this was different. she wasn’t sick, her body wasn’t weak. and yet she left us regardless. so when he asked, i did what many parents do when they don’t have the answer: i lied to him. i lied to him to protect him from the terrifying reality at my mind’s forefront everyday: we may never know the why or the how. the reality is that i will have to find peace with the unknown, and i don’t know how to do that.

death terrifies me, that’s totally normal right? my fear comes mostly from selfish reasons: i am not ready to leave my loved ones, and i sure as hell don’t want to be separated from those i love. losing angie at such a young age has further emblazoned into my psyche the fear of dying. it terrifies me to know i will never know when my number is called until the moment is upon me. i agonize over her last moments that night… did she realize she was dying… please God, i hope not. did she suffer… i can’t believe i think these things. there is something seriously wrong with me. she was alone… was she scared… usually by this point i am sobbing hysterically, pleading with God that all these answers be “no.”i am seriously sick, i can’t help but feel these painful questions bubble up. my heart is so pained with the unknown because it leaves the door ajar for these unimaginable, tremendously awful thoughts. after drowning in that pain for  a while i manage to shove them down, out of sight, and remind myself that she would not want me to obsess like this, she wouldn’t want me to think these thoughts. it will just make me crazy. if i’m not already. but every now and again they return, uninvited.

i suppose i shouldn’t be surprised he keeps bringing up death, he had more exposure to it in 1 week than most do in years. exactly one week after angie passed away we lost my Oompa (my Dad’s dad) at the ripe age of 93. i loved my Oompa (and i know how bad this sounds) but i wasn’t sad over his death… mostly because i was incapable of grieving anything other than angie, but also because for years he had been telling us “i’m ready to go!” (as in, “upstairs”). he’d even not-so-subtly point to the sky when he said it. he had lived a long life, longer than he wished to live, and finally gone on hospice not even 2 weeks before angie’s death. we as a family chose not to tell him of her passing because we thought it would only hurt him (and he struggled with some mild dementia already, would he have to re-live that over and over?). looking at this picture now, i wonder what went through his mind when she was the one welcoming him into the party in the sky… i can imagine a good amount of confusion, then a chuckle under his breath, and a comment to the effect of “got any new tattoos since the last time i saw you?”

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we all had death on the mind. the weeks that followed were rough, with many nights spent sobbing and wandering the house aimlessly. no amount of effort could hide my own collapse into darkness, my son saw it. his little ears heard so much, more than i wished. as a parent you never want to burden your child with your own pain. your job in life is to protect them, not hurt them. to know i may have hurt him just adds to my heavy heart.he was reminded on a daily basis that his mama was more than sad, she was broken. maybe that explains why he continues to innocently cut me deep with the reminders that my beautiful sister is gone. maybe those painful memories are just as much in his brain as they are in mine. or maybe he doesn’t know how long i’ll be sad, so he keeps asking. i can’t bear to tell him “forever”.

he can tell i am struggling. i try to finish the song, having to whisper at the end because my voice is broken for good. he sits up in the bed, and turns to look at me with his big dark brown eyes. they have the same eyes, so full of expression. his plump little cheeks still make him look like my little baby boy but what comes out of his mouth is anything but…

“you know what mama? tia angie was young but her heart only had a little bit of love left in it and that’s why she had to die.”

he rolls over to snuggle his little teddy bear, wrapping his arm around mine in the process as if he is the one comforting me. the tears stream down my face like rivers. it was so matter-of-fact. it hits me… he is right, that is the answer. her heart only had a little bit of love left in it. she had given her heart to everyone else, and left nothing for herself. i may never have a tangible explanation for the loss of my angie, but i hope i may find a shred of peace with this one. at least for tonight.

particles

i am starting to see the dust settling… the particles fall slowly through the air, they appear weightless in the air… before they reach me they are harmless. they are the motions, actions, decisions of everyone else in the world moving on with the exception of me. i am still here, in this dark place. i am safe in this hole, nothing can touch me. i see the dust settling, and i blow it away, it cannot reach me. i am “moving on” and yet my feet go nowhere. i sit, emotionally stagnant in this place, even though my physical body navigates through the world. my heart sits in a place stuck in time, a place where life was how it used to be. before it was turned upside down, when things made sense. when angie lived. when i could hear her raucous laugh, feel her embrace. i want to stay here forever. i am living and reliving everything i can that brings her closer to me. i pull out all the photos, i spend all night wracking my brain for memories. i listen to her favorite bands, i even gently cradle her clothes in my hands, run my fingers over their threads and breathe her in. this is all i have left of her. and i see the dust settling. the world moving. and i refuse to move. i see the particles… they are weightless, harmless, and yet they come to rest like a suffocating film on my mouth.

nothing prepares you for this. i can’t breathe. how i’ve gone a day without crying is a miracle and out of nowhere comes the inevitable collapse and torrential downpour of tears. i am supposed to move along. how. sometime tell me how to do this. the day in and day out. i wake up. why, why am i allowed to wake up? why me? why not her. i have no answers for any of this. and perhaps even if i did, would it ease the pain? nothing will bring her back. answers will not give me any more precious time with her. and yet i agonize over not knowing the “why”.

ironically i create these particles. my physical body navigates the world. i go to work. i push papers around and send empty emails. i beg the clock to hurry up. i just want to be home, let me surround myself with amazing husband and son. those are the only things that matter. day in and day out, i go through motions. i move. i “move on” and yet i don’t. i create the particles that ironically try to suffocate me.

and i am not the only one suffering, i know this. i am reminded of it with every beat of my heart. this constant reality cuts nearly as bad as my own pain. at least with my infertility grief, the pain was in limited in some ways to just me and amazing husband. this is a whole new level of torment. everyone is wounded, everyone is cut deep, exsanguinating before me. i watch those i love the most crumble into heaps on the ground. i wish i had the strength to lift them up off the ground, but my own knees are untrustworthy. how can i help anyone, i can barely get out of bed myself. and so i watch it all fall apart. i watch the destruction ensue. there’s no stopping the aftermath of this. angie’s death has blown my family into pieces and all i can do it watch the particles float weightlessly down to the ground and create a damage far more excessive than you could ever imagine. how do you get through this?

i can’t move. i want to stay here forever. don’t uproot me from this place, i will blow away the dust until i am out of breath. i will. i cannot leave, i cannot leave her here. i need her. i need her close.

 

“the atlantic was born today and i’ll tell you how…

the clouds opened up and let it out.

i was standing on the surface of a perforated sphere

when the water filled every hole.

and thousands upon thousands made an ocean.

making islands where no island should go.

oh no.

those people were overjoyed; they took to their boats.

i thought it  less like a lake and more like a moat,

the rhythm of my footsteps crossing flatlands to your door have been silenced forever more.

the distance is quite simply much too far for me to row

it seems farther than ever before

oh no.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer

i need you so much closer.”

-death cab for cutie

transatlanticism

i love this photo. it’s angie just being angie, no intense makeup or silly expression.

just her and her little sonny boy.

just her day in and day out.

i miss her so much. words don’t even come close. i need her closer.

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there she comes

somehow another week has passed since angie died. i cringe writing that. the words “angie” and “died” should not be seen sitting adjacent to one another, it’s unnatural. it is much too painful, i cannot look at them together and yet i stare at the words. i stare until they look more like blurry pixels, begging them to shift their shape into different words… a different name, a different reality. a world without her. today i had to revisit some pictures of her, as i am prepping them for an upcoming slideshow to present at her celebration of life party. why i thought i was strong enough to go through them (again, first time was just before her funeral) is beyond me… it was a million times harder this time around. at one point i threw the laptop in the general direction of amazing husband and begged him to do it, i couldn’t bear another second of seeing her face so full of life. it was so incredibly painful to see this face so full of love and light and positivity, because my sick and twisted mind insisted on triggering the glaringly disparate image of the last time i laid eyes on her.

you guys, i had to see her at the memorial. i HAD to see her again, i couldn’t pass on the chance to gaze upon her face one last time. i was terrified, but called to do so. i knew it wasn’t “her” lying in front of me, this person before me was a shell of what she once was. i “knew” she was already gone, but that was all i had left at the moment, this person that looked like my angie but definitely wasn’t. it was my last chance to do all the things we should do every day with our most loved ones but we let life get in the way… i had to hold her hand again. i studied her fingers, she always complained she had ugly hands. i loved her hands because they were working hands, always busy knitting, or gardening, sewing… they reflected her, they represented everything she loved doing. i had to stroke her long beautiful hair, it didn’t feel the same but in that moment it was all that i had. i soaked her in. i stared at her face, bargaining with her and God to have her suddenly wake up. i begged her to stop this insanity. i knew it was useless and i knew i was temporarily crazy but i couldn’t stop pleading for it to be a cruel joke. i HAD to see her again. i had to tell her i loved her, a million times over. i know she knew that, because i had said that to her over the phone 4 days before she died. but it had to be said again because i would never have the chance to stand before her and tell her. i laid my head on her chest and told her over and over and over again, my tears dropping into her shirt, carrying with them everything i needed to tell her. i’m never going to see her again, and it kills me.

the tears are unstoppable. they sink into the cracks of my keyboard like salt creeps into the cracks of my gaping wounded heart. why is it so hard now. maybe the reality is sinking in that she’s really gone… maybe i was in a state of shock the first time. maybe i just couldn’t allow my brain to accept the truth and i blocked out the pain? the pain, the sinking hole in my heart that only she can fill. i cannot count the holes in this heart. i am reminded of her constantly. i have seemingly held it together these last couple of days, saving my breakdowns for the middle of the night, when i’m finally getting to bed.. when no one can see me lose control. i don’t want to cause undue stress on my family, we are all suffering and the last thing i wish is to burden anyone with my pain. but i can’t turn off my head. i keep replaying the events. i am sick. i am sick with hurt. broken.

and somehow i put one foot in front of the other. it’s been three weeks and somehow i am still breathing. i am still here, not present by any definition of the word, but i am here. i am showing up. i showered, and ate and even left the house a few times. and today went back to work. not sure how i did that, or if i did anything that contributed to society but it happened. and as i ask myself how the hell do i have the strength to do anything, i can only credit everyone BUT me. i would not be breathing without my family and my friends. i have suffered a great deal of pain these last few years with infertility and pregnancy losses, but as i have said before, the pain of losing angie trumps everything. my support group, my friends and family, have literally held me up when i could not stand, now more than ever before.

i cannot thank you enough for your love.

i am so very grateful to all of you who have reached out with letters, emails, texts, hugs… words cannot describe how important your support has been to keeping me from drowning these last few weeks. i’d especially like to thank a group of women, most of whom i’ve never met in real life… my potatoes. a tribe of kind souls who have suffered similar journeys of miscarriage and pregnancy losses, who welcomed me into their family and offered unconditional love and support while i navigated the roads of infertility. they have faithfully continued to wrap their arms around me despite almost all of their journeys taking them over the rainbow, while mine has left me in the perpetual storm. we may be at very different places in life now, but our hearts are alike. i received these engraved plates in the mail today, and bawled my eyes out the moment i held them in my hand. so thoughtful and touching. i will proudly wear them to honor her memory. the picture on the right is one of my favorite series of pictures with angie, just a reflection of her fun-loving wacky personality. i miss her so much.

Pic Jointer

i know i posted this poem already but i feel called to let it jumble around in my head again… i’d so much like to think of her arriving to welcoming arms.

the ship

“what is dying-

i am standing on the sea shore,
a ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
she is an object of beauty and i stand watching her
till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says:
“she is gone.” gone! where?
gone from my sight that is all.
she is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when i saw her
and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
the diminished size and total loss of sight is in me,
not in her.

and just at the moment when someone at my side says,
“she is gone”,
there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout:
“there she comes”
– and that is dying. a horizon and just the limit of our sight.
lift us up, oh Lord, that we may see further.”

-bishop charles henry brent

#rememberangie

a beautiful scar

it’s been 2 weeks since angie died. 14 days, 9 hours and some amount of minutes i will never be able to calculate exactly. two weeks already, but it feels like i just lost her yesterday. those days somehow blended into one unending nightmare. the stress of everything turned them into a tear-soaked blur, making any given moment indistinguishable from the next. all i could do was keep waking up, breathing, and going to bed. anything outside of those directives was to much to bear. one minute i was catatonic and then next laughing and then crying. grief is a strange beast, isn’t it? the memorial service came and went, tears fell, hands were shook, and i was swallowed up by countless hugs… drowned with “i’m sorry for your loss.” and so the days passed, and passed and passed. the sun rose and set and here i still sit, now that everything is “over”, everything is settling… i find myself facing the hardest part of all: learning how to live life without Angie in it.

my innate desire is to be selfish in this new way of living, to retreat, curl up and rock back and forth. i want to lay in my bed, arms enveloping my pillow, and sob. do not disturb me. no, i do not want to leave the house or eat…i don’t care about a shower… i don’t want to move. i am not ready to make half-hearted attempts to change my outlook, searching for silver linings that i am certain don’t exist. i want to lay here in my grief, i want to bathe in it… because it keeps my focus on her. i can see her when i close my eyes, i can feel her warmth, hear her laugh. let me lay here forever, she is here with me. i want more time with her. i want to feel her arms around me. i want her back, and if this is how i can do it, i will lay here forever. let me be selfish. allow me this.

i want to be selfish but i know i cannot carry on like this forever. my brain tells me i need to get on with it. with anything. “take a freaking shower already, it’s 4 o’clock.” i can argue with my brain, and i’ve been winning these last 2 weeks… but i cannot argue with my heart. my heart tells me Angie wouldn’t want to see me like this, and it’s right. it would hurt her to see me like this. she would be sitting next to me, rubbing my back, and gently coaxing me out of bed. she’d distract me from my sorrow by telling me some ridiculous story of her being clumsy again, her latest crazy show at Slim’s, anything to cheer me up. she would bring me something to eat, because that’s what she did, she took care of me. everyone, really. she’d open the blinds and let the sun in…  but i don’t want to open the blinds. i’m not ready, i am scared. i don’t want to burn up in that bright light.

the bright light is overwhelming… the world is moving on, moving on without her, without even blinking. people are going to work. the bills still need to be paid. baseball practice is in full swing. the dog is sick. enough. i want to scream at the world to stop for a minute and acknowledge that something is wrong, a piece of the puzzle is missing and why aren’t people alarmed… the world cannot ever be complete. nothing will make sense ever again. but it is useless to stop and scream, my screams would not amount to even a whisper. life is going on whether i like it or not.

i never imagined my world would look like this. i wasn’t prepared for this, people aren’t supposed to die young. you’re not supposed to bury your children. the brightest stars should be allowed to burn forever. i don’t know how to live in a world without her.

i want her here with me again, and although i will never see her in the flesh again, i can hold her with me in mine. i can take the weight of this pain and sorrow and express it physically, bearing the physical pain far easier than the emotional pain. and what is left behind is but a beautiful scar to remember her by.

i will carry you with me forever, my sweet angie.

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i love you so – a letter to my angela banana

your eyes.

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that’s the first thing i see when i look at you. those enormous dark eyes, like a warm cup of black coffee… commanding me to stare, and refusing to be outdone by those colorful frames. your warm gaze is almost always followed by an equally warm smile. god, your smile. you are beautiful. in a heartbeat i feel your arms around me, and instantly i am at peace. you give the best hugs, i don’t think i told you that. because you never let go first, always holding on to let me know how much you love me. i love you so.

but let’s be honest, your eyes weren’t the first thing i noticed about you: i heard you coming a mile away. that voice, oh that voice. loud. damn it’s loud, isn’t it? one time you got SO mad at me for shushing you when we were having dinner at a restaurant. the couple at the table next to us couldn’t handle your “energy” and literally moved tables to distance themselves from you. in hindsight they must have been lunatics. what i wouldn’t give to go back and relish in that moment and tell you how absolutely perfect you are. that voice… booming, full of life, glorious. just like you. i love you so.

when you walk into a room everyone turns to look. and not because of the tattoos. or the nose/lip/tongue ring. not the ear plugs or hair color, or hair colorS. not the hair cut, nor the colorful makeup. it isn’t the hand-sewn/knitted/crocheted clothes on your back, nor the innovative (and sometimes hilarious) hand-made creation in hand (messenger bag, stye healer, you name it), it sure isn’t Sonny Boy (although he is adorable when he’s not biting someone)… not even your voice.

when you walk into a room everyone turns to look, because we have to. we are compelled to turn our collective head and see you, compelled to witness life flowing into the room. you literally exude life with each breath that leaves your body… joy, love, hope, kindness… they are exhaled from your mouth and we inexplicably find ourselves fighting to breathe them in.

you are love. when i’m with you i’m a better human. i can feel my heart swell, my spirit bubbling with happiness. you laugh… that booming laugh that you try (and fail) to hold back by covering your mouth. you laugh and the world is brighter. and you are beyond kind, somehow finding only the good in others and pulling it out of them. you give of yourself more than anyone i know and ask nothing in return. i love you so.

you are courageous. no, not courageous. FEARLESS. even as a little girl you didn’t give a shit about what the world thought of you. what i wouldn’t give to have a shred of your confidence. you walked to the beat of your own drum early on and we all stopped to marvel. if you could conceive it, you made it happen. bullfrog tightrope trainer. Olympic gutter swimmer. ballerina (the tallest, gangliest girl [picture a dancing giraffe in a tutu], but your smile was the biggest on that stage). student council/ASB leader. painter. map-maker (who makes a living doing that? angie, that’s who.) avid biker, until that hip mishap and then some. knitter, officially killing it in your knitting club. seamstress. cook. world-traveller. coat-checker then bartender and music-lover. Giants-fan extraordinaire, mom to Sonny Boy, (a prime example of you always found the best in all living things). i love you so.

and wife. it is here i have to tell you, you shine the most. you are an amazing wife to ryan. because you are angie, you are lovely, kind, gracious and hilarious. you are his sunrise, the hours in his day… his moon. his rock. you are love. and when love incarnate devotes its existence to another, there cannot be anything other than love abounding. i can still remember you first telling me about him, trying hard to be nonchalant about your feelings early on (for the record no one believed he was just your friend, btw). fate tried mischievously making you love each other asynchronously… but nonetheless love won out and together you were unstoppable. i am so grateful to you for bringing ryan into our lives, i never told you that. thank you for allowing him a peek into “the crazy cubans” and allowing us to witness your devotion to each other. he is forever stuck with us. i love you so.

to know you was to love you. i loved you so.

my mind and my heart are at war. i know you are no longer with me on this earth, but my heart refuses to believe it. i find myself picking up my phone to text you today, because well… i need to talk to you. i need to hear your voice. instead, i pore over old videos, playing them on repeat and repeat and repeat. i spend hours upon hours staring at pictures of you, carving the lines of your face into my memory, terrified i will forget what you look like at this moment. and the other hours in the day i wander aimlessly, alternating between hysteria and complete shock. i am overcome with grief, i am past drowning… i am sunk. i don’t want it to stop, bring on the water… because it brings me closer to you. it forces me to keep you in my mind, my heart, at all times of the day. let me sit with this grief for a while, let me soak you in now more than ever before.

my angela banana, angie, angela victoria, big bange (pronounced “BAN-juh”), angiepants… my amazing little sister… you are the best. i know people have the habit of posthumously boasting exaggerated positive traits of their loved ones, but anyone who knows you knows i speak the truth. you are the epitome of life, light, and love. your spirit is like none other ever created on this earth and the world is a darker place without you in it. to know you is to love you, and we are the lucky ones to have known you.

i love you now, i loved you so, and i will continue to love you until i can catch your gaze once again and tell you in person. until that day please hug my babies tight (i know you won’t let go first), and i promise to find you whenever i can. it shouldn’t be hard, i’ll just look for the brightest star in the night sky.