Two months of waiting, wondering, Google searching, grief neglecting.
I ignorantly believed I could run from my grief as we waited on a cause of death. Cloaking myself in the chaos and laughter of child rearing, I floated through the last 8 weeks. The business of raising four souls and keeping a marriage alive has been more than enough to keep my mind occupied.
The first few weeks were overwhelming as I found my place as not only mother and aunt, but guardian. As someone driven by purpose, I felt simultaneously strong and afraid. There was a lot to accomplish immediately following Kristen’s death, and I channeled all the energy I had into my family. Holding onto Taylor and Michael gave me strength, and cuddling Carter and Pierce reminded me that there is beauty through heartache.
But the weight of suddenly being responsible for two grieving children is a heavy one. I’m continually terrified that I’ll mess things up irreparably (what parent doesn’t worry about that), and I carry the anguish of knowing that I will never be enough to ease the heartache of losing their mother. They’ve gained two live-in cousins and a wonderful father-figure…but they have also lost an incredible and irreplaceable person.
With all of that weighing on me, I felt like any room for my grief was taken up by helping everyone adjust.
And all the while, I was waiting for an answer, hoping it would bring closure.
Last week, my mom called me with news. She had talked to the medical examiner.
Kristen’s cause of death was organizing pneumonia. Until that moment, I had never heard of the condition. Essentially it’s a rare type of pneumonia that’s not caused by bacteria, and is treated with steroids. I don’t want to get into the logistics of her hospital stay, what she was treated for, etc. and ask that for the time being, all speculation be put on hold. We are looking into her medical records and will be examining the coroner’s report for a more thorough explanation.
Until then, I sit here with only half an answer for what happened, and my once muffled grief has crept in.
In the quiet moments, walking through a store alone, or sitting on the couch with no one else home, I feel lost, as if I’m not sure which direction to walk without her guiding me.
I am at the precipice of loneliness, finally ready to fall into the ache of losing my confidante.
The silence of a cell phone in my pocket, one that will never ring with her laughter again. The deep emptiness of knowing I’ll never laugh, cry, ramble, or vent to the person who loved me most perfectly in this world, who cheered me on through every step of life, no matter how many miles it took me from her.
It is a grief that lingers and feels inescapable.
It follows me – through the grocery aisles as I grab lunchables for her baby boy, in the wit of her daughter, and in my own reflection.
But then Michael smiles, Taylor hugs me, and I know that we will push through this together. Our love for her will bind us, and strengthen us through the years ahead. We will tell stories, we will laugh, and we will never forget the woman who shaped and nurtured us into who we are today.
I’ll carry her strength across the ocean as I fulfill the promises I made her, to love and raise her children.
In June, we plan on returning to Hawaii as a family of 6. Though I am sure there will be struggles as we find our new normal, I know in my heart that this is what Kristen would want for all of us.
I am weak without her collaborative spirit and constant encouragement, but I will hold our lifetime of love deeply inside as we begin to heal. What a beautiful privilege it was to be her sister, to love her children, and to start life anew in a land of healing. Though the grief may never leave me, I will feel her in the churning waves and warm sun. I will smile as we remember, and rejoice as her love carries me through.