And everything falls into place…

Today was a really good day.  A really good day.  I was so ecstatic about how everything was turning out that I wasted a good chunk of my morning talking on the phone, unable to focus on work.  I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt like this…like everything was falling into place.  Certainly, not in the last six years.

Six years ago, I started grad school.  That was great, the starting.  But, I proceeded to also start a new relationship that was…not so great.  I will spare the details, but the relationship twisted me in a way that made me sever ties with my family and many of my friends.  I was in a weird place – I made my own decisions and acted of my own free will…but at the same time, I was being manipulated in a way that, when looking back, makes me feel that it wasn’t all my fault.  I did talk to and visit my family, but I didn’t think of them as my family. And, per usual, feel extremely bad about this point in my life.  My sister needed me, but I was too caught up in the my own drama-filled life to notice or pay attention to her.  And her inherent brattiness made me feel justified in not putting much effort into our relationship, since she was so difficult to deal with in the first place.

It took a few years, but I got out of the unhealthy relationship and slowly started to put myself back together.  I became closer with my family, again, fixed the friendships that were fixable, and met my current boyfriend.  That being said, it was an uphill climb…through the mud and the sledge with the wind blowing in my face and rain pouring down on me and some intermittent hail to really make me hate life.  But that all lessened with time and today, the sun is shining so bright that I’ve been walking around blind with happiness.

Because, my future boss (start a new job in a new city in two months) e-mailed me this morning to tell me that he has found extra funding to extend my research position.  I also found out that my temporary housing in my new city looks like it could turn into permanent housing, because the owners are rarely home and would like someone to look after their dog.  My boyfriend and I have been dreaming of the day when we are settled somewhere long enough to get a dog.  When we found out that they wanted a dog sitter, my boyfriend joked how great it would be if it was a weimaraner (his favorite dog – see photo above by William Wegman).  Five minutes later, we found out that it was, in fact, a weimaraner.

Now, my days don’t normally swing on the positive side.  They ebb and flow – up and down – hovering around neutrality.  Especially since my sister died.  But, today reminds me how much I have to be thankful for…how appreciative I should be for…well, my life.

At the same time, I can’t help but feel sad.  Today, I would have called my sister. Today, I would have told her about all of this.  And, today, she would have been happy. Because, when it came to big things in my life, she was always supportive.  The jealousy may have come out later…but whenever I initially told her anything, she was always genuinely happy for me.

She would also have been happy, because my “new city” is less than a three-hour drive from our hometown, where she lived.

I told her that once I graduated and moved, she should come stay with me.  That – wherever I went – she should plan on spending a few months at least with me.  In my mind, I imagined this could turn into something semi-permanent, because I wanted to get her out of our hometown to experience…anything.  She was so depressed and I thought being in a new place would help…and, now, to find a a job so close to home – if she didn’t want to come to me, I could easily have gone to see her any time, all the time.  Whenever I wanted.

If she had just…had just made it one more year…..not even……8 months………….

How is it possible to be so happy and so completely heartbroken at the same time?

Death on My Mind

Everyone dies.  No getting around that…well, I guess if the Singularity happens, we won’t. But let’s assume for this post’s purpose, that it doesn’t.  Then, everyone dies. Everyone on the planet dies and we don’t know what happens afterwards.  There are all levels of theories on what happens, ranging the religious/spiritual spectrum, but the truth of the matter is that we don’t know.  If I had to be defined, I guess I’d be considered agnostic (or, rather, an atheist with hope).  But my beliefs, or lack thereof, weren’t nearly as important to me as my sister’s.  I wanted my sister to believe in God or gods or in reincarnation.  I didn’t really care what she believed in as long as she believed in something after death.  I didn’t want her be scared – I wanted her to be comforted in thinking that she was going some place better. That all this pain and suffering wasn’t “it”.  That there existed a wonderful, amazing afterlife in a wonderful, amazing place that she would inhabit some day (a day that would probably be sooner than later).

I thought she did probably have some sort of spiritual/religious view.  We were raised Catholic and every frickin’ night that I can remember with her, she God blessed every single animal that she had ever owned that had passed away (this list was long – mice, guinea pigs, fish, birds, lizards, cats, dogs…).  More than that, though, how could you be as sick as she was and not at least hope for something better?

We didn’t often talk about serious things.  We discussed Grey’s Anatomy and our parents. Cute boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  But, one day, probably a little over a year ago, I decided to just ask…ask her what she believed happened after we died…

Me: Do you believe in something?  After we die?  What do you think happens to us?
Sister: Nothing.
Me: Well, that’s…
Sister: Unsettling.

The way she said “unsettling” was so…unsettling!  So honest, blunt, straightforward – as if she had dismissed this issue long ago and full well realized that it was unsettling to the rest of us that she didn’t think there was life after death.  I was so disappointed.  I didn’t want her to be scared.  But, she was.  And I couldn’t do anything about it.

The last week with her in the ICU…she was mostly unconscious.  They had her heavily sedated for numerous reasons.  All I could think to do was to make sure no one was sad or cried in her room.  If there was a .0000001% chance that she could hear us, I didn’t want her to hear anything to cause fear.  I talked to her normally.  If someone entered the room and looked as if they were going to be emotional, I started making jokes or talking to them as if nothing was wrong…that’s all I could do for her.  Try to make it less scary.  I guess that’s what big sisters do.

My beliefs haven’t changed since she passed away.  Not like there was much there to start with anyway, but I’m much less scared of death myself now.  It’s almost as if the mere notion that she could possibly exist…in some way or some form …somehow….. …somewhere…. is comforting.  Maybe she is out there…  Or, maybe I’m just hanging on to whatever thread of hope that I can.

Eventually, I’ll find out.  We all will.