On September 6, 2015 I lost my sister, Annie. She passed away from a severe stroke before I had a chance to really say goodbye. A little over a year later I found out that my brother, Kent, was losing his battle with cancer. We were given the gift of having time to say everything we wanted to say, or at least trying to, before he passed away on June 11, 2017.
Losing Annie felt like getting hit by a semi truck. Losing Kent felt like slowly bleeding to death. I honestly don’t know which way is worse. We just did the best we could with what we were given. When I found out Annie was on life support, I threw a few things in my backpack and hopped on a plane. I barely remember getting from the airport to the hospital, but when I reached the nurses station I just broke down. Through my sobs I told them I was trying to find my sister. When I found her, my family members had gathered in a meeting with the doctor so Annie was alone in her room. It is so difficult to explain how I felt when I saw her. I sensed she was already gone, and yet I knew she was somehow still there, aware of me and aware of my kisses on her forehead. Her hands were warm and I held them as much as I could over the next few hours until she was taken off life support and she passed away.
My brother, Kent, battled advanced cancer for many years. He’d beat it down and it would sneak back in. It seemed to always be lurking in the background, but I would ignore it because I wanted my brother. Despite our 18 year age difference, I felt very close to him. He would find ways to spend time with me and when we were together we could talk about anything. He was a hero to me. When he told us the cancer was going to win this time, I immediately wrote a letter to him, detailing all the things about him I was thankful for and making sure he knew how much I loved him. I spent as much time as I could to visit him, which wasn’t nearly enough. He and I lived several states away. We had often plotted about how I could move out west so we would be closer, but none of that mattered anymore. It was too late. The doctors gave him weeks to live. He gave us months. By the time he passed away, we were relieved for him that he was no longer suffering.
After Kent’s death, the pain of losing Annie came back. Every morning I woke up sad. I didn’t want a day to go by that I didn’t think of them, but I needed to escape the crushing weight of grief. I decided to pour myself into my garden and little farm. Focusing on growing plants and caring for little animals distracted me from the sadness and helped me feel the sunshine of the beautiful life and many loved ones I have been blessed with. I photographed the beauty of our little farm and wrote articles to share my experience.
Then, almost a year later, the Grief crept back in. This summer I suddenly struggled to find the joy that gardening, nature walks, and photography used to bring. I stopped writing altogether. I missed my brother and sister with a dull ache. Vicki Harrison wrote, “Grief is like the ocean. It comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overflowing. All we can do is learn to swim.” And so I just kept swimming. I kept caring for the little plants, kept taking time to pet and hold all the little animals, and of course kept caring for my family the best I could. I even tried something new: having a booth at the farmer’s market. These are just little things, but somehow I tried to connect with Kent and Annie again through quiet moments in my garden. Once a blue butterfly circled around and around me and I had to laugh and wonder if Kent or Annie, or both of them, were somehow creating that magical moment for me.
I have a strong belief and faith that I will see them again. My testimony is that because of my loving Savior, Jesus Christ, and his miraculous Atonement for all of us, we will be reunited and they will always be my brother and my sister. Words cannot express how eternally grateful I am for that gift.
I miss you Annie and Kent. If grief is the price I pay for loving you, I’ll take it. I am so thankful you were in my life.