It's somewhat ironic that Fall is my favorite season and that typically this is my favorite time of the year - but I cannot stand October.
The first week of October always floods me with tons of painful memories. It has, historically, been a very bad month for my family.
The night before he died, my father sent me a message on e-circles saying that he loved me and was proud of me. I can't tell you how I treasure those words, to this day. I also remember that I didn't reply - I was tired and was going to "do it tomorrow."
I didn't grow up with him in my life (my mother wouldn't allow him to have anything to do with me until I turned 18), and while I adore my adoptive father and completely consider him my Daddy, there was always a part of "me" that was missing, and I didn't discover what it was until I met Dan and my sisters and brother (they are my half-siblings but I don't make that distinction in my heart. Mike, Kara and Melissa are my siblings, I don't care that we have different mothers).
So when Dan and Kara were tragically, senselessly taken from us, I lost some of myself. Some of that new identity I'd found only 8 years before. I grieved not only for their loss, but for the lost time I'd been cheated out of, a lifetime of love and memories I'd never know. I grieved for my brother and his lost time with his Dad. I grieved for Kara's son, only 15 months old, who'd lost his mother for no reason. I grieved for my baby sister, my M'issa - the little Daddy's Girl who was less than 2 weeks shy of her 16th birthday. In those dark days after this tragedy, I sort of became protective of M'issa, I wanted to shield her from ever getting hurt again, by anything or anyone...
But I couldn't shield her from another October.
Six years later, so much had happened, we'd lived so many different places, but by 2006, my family was living in Washington state, and so was Melissa and her family. I had my sister! We hadn't grown up together, but we were forging a closeness and a bond that we both needed on some level, and I just loved it.
In August of 2006, I was in the delivery room as she gave birth to my beautiful and perfect niece Kyerra. It was the only birth I've ever witnessed. And OH I took so many pictures of her in her young life! I used to joke that she'd never recognize me without my camera in front of my face.
That beautiful, perfect, precious little darling was gone. I got my kids off to school without telling them, I couldn't tell them yet. And then I drove to my sister's house - quite literally the longest drive of my life. She was still there, laying on the bed, she looked like she was sleeping. Somehow I ended up alone in the room with her, holding her in my arms, crying, begging God to let her take a breath, to cry, to move.
The last time I saw Kyerra alive was just 2 days before. She had a slight cold and had just gotten her 2 month shots. My sister came to get her boys and I peeked in on our little angel and she was asleep in her carseat. I didn't want to disturb her, so I didn't unbuckle her, didn't hold her. I just gave her a tiny kiss on her on nose. I never suspected that the next time I'd hold her, she'd be lifeless.
I watched my sister go to a dark and frightening place and I fought so hard to be strong for her that I didn't realize that *I* was sinking into a dark and frightening place as well, a place I would live for nearly 2 years before I could see the sun again. I am grateful for the relationship she and I have, and I'm thankful that we both have our faith and the love and strength of our family to carry us through. But we've had enough tragedy to last a lifetime, and I pray that they're over now.
I know I cannot dwell in the past, and I really don't most of the time. I remember the good things and not the bad 98% of the time, and I don't focus on negatives. But the first week of October HURTS. It hurts on a level I can't fully understand or explain. And even though I'm not a superstitious person, I have to admit I get a little nervous this time of the year. I hold my kids a little tighter, I take a deep breath before I answer the phone or the door, and I make sure the people in my life know I love them. I know how quickly the chance to do so can be lost.
Love people NOW, while you still have the chance. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.