For most of you, today is just May 22, 2008. For me, for my family, for those who love her, it's nine years. The first few years after she died I approached this day with dread, and I couldn't help but count back the hours as if they were happening again (right about now I was getting the first call...right about now I was on a plane...right about now I prayed over her body in the hospital). Every time I saw a LifeFlight helicopter in the air, every time I had to re-pack my "Lora boxes" for another move and rifle through the sympathy cards and newspapers and other paper memories, every time I heard the words "car crash" and "fatality" in the same sentence on the news, I would cry.
Time has healed a lot of that raw pain and for the most part I have moved past the tragic-ness of it. The crash, the coma, the fact that it was such an abrupt end to a life full - full - of love and joy and youth and hopes and promise. I have finally accepted my life without her. And I cling to the things I can do, hold, remember - to still feel connected to her. My daughters carry her names, her pictures are peppered around the house, I still wear her hat on bad hair days, and I carry this Bible she gave me for graduation just two weeks before she died.
Isn't that something? It was her last gift to me. A Bible that she had pored over to highlight favorite verses, organized by category. Can you tell she wanted to be a teacher?
You see that last category - "Hope; comfort; courage and strength"?
I read it at her memorial in Ohio, the day after her death. It was one of her favorites. It was her way of life, and her hope for her future after death. And its my peace and comfort now that she's gone. For years this page was bookmarked with a Kleenex tissue from the service.
I cling to memories, often reliving them as I think to the years ahead with my girls. One of my favorite "things" besides the Bible is this envelope from the card she gave me that same day.
They're some of her favorite memories as a kid, scribbled out for me to laugh at. This one is hilarious. Sometime during the elementary school years, we got to pick out the carpet for our rooms. Lora picked green. Kelly green. Why? Because she had a Cabbage Patch Kids comforter and she thought it would make a nice "grassy lawn" for them. I loved to chide her about that one.
I told you I used to make up "assignments" for her. I loved playing "Teacher." She mostly hated it, but endured it nevertheless. Actually, it was during one such assignment that she discovered a hidden talent for poetry. In fact, as a teen she wrote a beautiful poem for the family of a dying father who could not speak. Someday I'll share it with you.
Do you get the feeling I was a bit, er, bossy growing up? We loved to pretend the sidewalks were actual roads and I had an assortment of rules for the road, none of which she cared to follow.
Anyway, it all makes me laugh and cry at the same time. There's something about losing a sibling - the person who was there all your life, who could remember and commiserate or commemorate all those moments. She was my other half for eighteen years. I won't ever be over it. But I've learned to live with it.
And while I'm pausing to talk about her life and her death, I should note here that this was a big day for several families. Today nine years ago four ailing people and their families got the news that their long wait was over. They would receive an organ. Her heart, her kidney, her liver - all went to help save lives. It was a tough decision that my mom was forced to make on her own while waiting for me and my father to get to the hospital. And it was a decision we are proud of and encourage others to make as well. Lora was, above everything else, a giver. She would be ecstatic to know that such painful circumstances bore life and happiness for someone else.
I miss you, Sis. Deeply, terribly, painfully miss you.