Stars in the Dark

One year. 365 days. 8,760 hours. 525,600 minutes. 31,540,000 seconds. My lungs have continued functioning. My heart continues to beat. & I’m not really sure how. I’m not sure how I kept breathing after that morning. My insides felt like they had been set on fire. My chest felt like it caved in upon itself. And yet, the world kept turning. The sun kept setting, rising. The stars continued to shine in the darkest of nights. & that is what stuck out to me. Even in the darkest of nights, there are still stars to light the way.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters,I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

You know what always sticks out to me about this verse? God says, “when”. He does not say, “if or maybe”. But WHEN. The flames and waters will be different for a lot of people. A lot of people will not suffer through the loss of a child, a brother. A lot of people will never have to experience that pain. & thank you, Jesus for that. There are so many families that do have to suffer this pain. & so many are left with the obvious angry question, WHY?!

Ryan, I remember screaming my lungs out on the way to the house that morning. Screaming at Jesus to give you back. To breathe life back into you. Because the moment I got the call I just knew deep in my soul that you were gone. & I was so empty at that moment. So, so, empty. However, let me say this. Had Jesus listened to me and gave you back that morning, what would your life had looked like? What pain would you have endured? Because in that moment, when I was demanding so much of my God, all I was thinking about was the soul-crushing pain I was feeling. I was not concentrating on what your life would be like had you been brought back to us. But JESUS WAS. He was concerned with your suffering. With your pain. & He did what I could not. He SAVED you. He RESCUED you.

So, on the days where I cannot see straight & the tears are poring down my cheeks, I am grieving for my loss. Because, my dear brother, you are engraved into my very being. You are part of me. & learning to live in a world where you are not is so very difficult. It’s navigating a foreign world without any maps, without instruction. It’s difficult. It’s painful.

But my Jesus, my sweet, sweet, Jesus is my star in the darkness. My guiding light. He is my map. My instruction. Leading me closer to Him, and closer to you.

I love you, Ryan. You are my heartbeat. Fly High, Ryguy. Ryan

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One Year, one very long year.

My Dearest Ry,

I am drowning. I cannot find the surface. Which way is up? I keep fighting, kicking my legs, moving my arms. Trying & trying to find the surface so I can take a deep breath. Refill my lungs of the oxygen they desperately seek.  The sadness, the grief, strangle me. Some days taking a deep breath is impossible. As if someone, something, is sitting upon my chest.

We’ve officially reached one year. One year of you not being here.  One year without your voice. One year without your laughter. One year without, you.  & there it is. You are not here.  Your absence is noticeable in everything I do.  My world is so blank without you. I struggle to find the light. Doc is my light. Lurch is my light. Mom & Dad give me light. But your light, the brightest light there was, is gone.  You. Are. Gone.

I struggled going to sleep last night because last year at this time I didn’t know what I would be waking up to but this year, this year I knew I’d be waking up without you. So, sleep did not come easily and waking up this morning did not come easy either.  It seems like it all happened yesterday.  Hearing you shout my name, even though we lived in different houses & you had already left us. Getting that awful phone call. Feeling my world crashing down around me. Calling Doc to come back to me. Screaming at Jesus to just bring you back.  Breathe life into you again. The hospital, Doc catching me before I hit the floor, the doctors, the investigators. Leaving the hospital, Dawna racing to my side, explaining to everyone what happened. Having to call mom and dad & say words that will forever haunt them. The true bearer of bad news. I can feel all of the pain, the sadness, as if I am living those days again. 

I take solace in the knowledge that you are at true peace. You soul is at rest. You are home. I will continue walking through this life while longing for the eternal life I am promised, with you & our Lord. I long for that day to come. To be with you again. To be in Heaven with you, next to you. A true homecoming.

I love you, Ryan. I miss you more & more each day. Until I see you again…Fly High, Ryguy. ❤

-Your Chessie

Who Am I?

Dear Ryan,

The clock seems to be speeding towards March 16th, the one year anniversary of you gaining your wings. I feel as if an elephant is sitting upon my chest, only allowing small breaths to escape my lungs. I find peace in Doc’s arms.  I find peace when my mind allows me to sleep.  The rest of the time, I feel hollow. As the days get closer to that one year mark, it seems I’m losing pieces of myself.  Smiles are forced. Laughter doesn’t happen. I’m just here, no emotion. I could sleep for days. Grief is exhausting. I’m climbing and climbing up the mountain of grief with no end in sight.  It’s almost as if I’ve been stuck in the eye of storm, waiting for the wind to begin to pick up, waiting for rain to start pouring down. I’m not sure what to expect next Thursday.  I’m thinking about taking off work. Does that make me weak? I fight that thought a lot. Does me crying over nothing make me weak? Does having zero will to do anything make me weak? That’s how I feel…weak.

I’m not blaming you for my pain.  I’m not. I blame heroin.  I blame addiction. Heroin stole you from me. Heroin robbed me of my brother.  Heroin robbed me of possible nieces and/or nephews.  Heroin robbed me of a relationship that was supposed to last a lifetime. You’re in peace.  I know that.  You’re no longer struggling. I know that too. That does not make my heart better.  You’re not hear to talk to, to laugh with, to reminisce with.

I struggle daily and at the end of the day, when I’ve made it through, I look back and smile at the strength I have.  Because no matter what, the clock keeps ticking.  I struggle to figure out who I am without you here.  I’ve been your sister for 22 years and now, suddenly, I’m expected to learn how to be me without you.  What does that person look like? I just don’t know.

You’re always with me, I know that. You’re in every decision I make, every thought I have. I truly live for you. & I will continue living for you.  I wish I could make the words I write have as much meaning as they are designed to have.  I miss you with every part of me. But those words don’t seem to convey the true emotion behind them. Truth is, there is no words to truly describe the pain and emptiness I am left with. So, one foot at a time, one breath at a time.  “Left foot, right foot, breathe.”

With all my heart,

-Your Chessie

Round and Round the Clock Goes…

Dear Ryan,

We keep moving forward.  I want to just stop.  Stop the clock from ticking.  Stop time from moving forward.  Can I go back to the time and place where you existed?  Where your soul was on this Earth, with me?

The days are growing closer and closer to March 16; the worst day of my life. I’m not sure I’ll be able to go to work that day. It’s hard enough to go to work when the grief is overflowing inside of me. I suppose I’ll climb that mountain when I get there.

Mom and dad are leaving for their first cruise, since you left us, in about two months.  I think they are excited but scared.  The last cruise did not go well.  Well you know, the second day they were gone, you left us. I hope they do okay; they deserve a break from the busy day-to-day world. Somedays, I miss their old selves.  I swear dad and mom have both aged YEARS since this all happened. When I first saw dad after they got back from the cruise; he looked broken.  I mean, no light in his eyes; he was a ghost of his former self.  It broke my heart. It still breaks me. Mom is always moving, you know her; never taking a breath. So her brokenness is little more hid. But it’s there.

It’s hard to imagine I’ve lived almost 1 full year without you on this Earth. It’s even harder to imagine living the rest of my days without you.  Your picture sits on my desk at work and is everywhere at home. When I’m feeling low at work, there is your smile reminding me to keep going strong; you’re with me always.

I love you Ryguy; I’ll live for you.

-Your Chessie

It’s All Right There

Dear Ryan,

I remember. I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that morning. I remember being in the shower and hearing you scream my name, even though you were across town at mom and dad’s house. I remember racing to mom and dad’s house to find cop cars and an ambulance sitting along the road and in the driveway. I remember sprinting inside the door begging the cop to tell me you were alive; just be breathing, please. The cop looked at me and said he couldn’t confirm or deny anything but you were being taken to the hospital. They asked me if we were close; how can I explain our whole lives in only a few short sentences?

Doc pulled up in the yard; I’ve never felt so relieved to see a red Ford escort before. the cop asked me why a heroin addict was staying alone in the house; he asked me this as if saying, “what else did you think was going to happen?”.  How do I explain that none of us knew what the right course of action was? That you hadn’t even started using needles yet.  We weren’t at the point of thinking you were close to death. This cop, only doing his job, had so much judgment pouring out of him. If I weren’t rapped up in you I would have told him where he could put his judgement. Doc brought me to the hospital.  I ran into the ER.  To the security gate, they asked who I was here for. I said your name. They gave me a pass and with the pass they gave me hope.  If they were letting me back you MUST be alive.

I remember. I remember walking through the double doors of the ER. I remember.  I remember trying to figure out where your room was located.  I remember.  I remember our cousin, a nurse, walking towards me.  I remember.  I remember begging him to tell me you were breathing.  I remember.  I remember his words, “not at the moment”.  I remember. I remember my knees going out.  I remember.  I remember him keeping me from falling to the floor. I remember.  I remember the small, cold room they took us too. I remember.  I remember the doctor.  I remember. I remember my body grieving so hard my body was convulsing. I remember.  I remember Doc trying to shield me from the pain of the doctors words, “we tried everything. nothing worked. I’m sorry.”. I remember.  I remember my Uncle, who looked so much like my dad hugging me.  I remember.  I remember breaking down on his shoulder. I remember.  I remember the phone calls Doc made for me. I remember.  I remember the call I had to make to my mom and my dad. I remember.  I remember the relief I felt when mom didn’t answer. I remember.  I remember the dread of her calling me back. I remember.  I remember telling her, through tears, “mom you have to come home”. I remember.  I remember Dad getting on the phone and saying, “So, he’s gone, huh?”.  I remember. I remember hanging up the phone and feeling like I just ruined their whole lives with one phone call. I remember.  I remember the conversations with the investigators. I remember.  I remember feeling like it was time to leave but how could I leave you behind? I remember.  I remember walking out of the hospital feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I remember. I remember going home and wanting to wake up from this nightmare.  I remember.  I remember going to Nan’s.  I remember.  I remember not knowing what to do next.

As you can tell I remember the pain.  I remember the pain crushing me.  How was I supposed to live the rest of my life with you by my side? Yet, day by day it seems to be happening.

I miss you, Ryan.  More than anything.  I miss your smile.  I miss your hugs.  I miss your laugh.  I miss all the things that make you, YOU.  I love you, Ryan.  I live for you, always.

Happy Birthday, to me…

Dearest Ry,

Today is my 27th birthday.  I hate it. You’re not here. You should be here. I struggle with the “you should be here” because that means that I am going against what God has done. God rescued you from the chains of addiction.  He saved you; as promised. I prayed for your deliverance. And he answered.  Just in a way that I never could have guessed. Maybe you would have lived the rest of your life drowning under the weight of addiction.  Maybe you would have had children & I would have been Aunt Jessie.  Maybe you would have had children and then one day collapsed under the weight of the struggles of saying no to heroin all day, everyday. And then your children would wonder, “where’s daddy”?

Today’s letter seems to be a bit of rambling. I can’t collect my thoughts today.  They seem to be running rampant. I know this, I miss you. & today it seems as if I can’t take a full breath.

I’ve checked my phone more times than I can count already, looking for your name & it is only 8:51 am. It’s hard to grasp that I will never receive another “happy birthday” from you.  Just another first I have to go through without you. I hate it.

I love you, Ryguy.  More than words could ever say.  My soul searches for you in everything. Looking for little semblances of you within my world.

I love you.  I miss you.

-Your Chessie

Lead Me Home

Dear Ryan,

I remember the first time I heard the song, Lead Me Home. I was driving home after work, missing you more than you could ever imagine and the song began to play. Whew, talk about a rush of emotions. The first lyrics, “I have seen my last tomorrow, I’m holding my last breath, goodbye sweet world of sorrow, my new life begins with death”, I cannot even begin to put into words the amount of sadness that overtook my soul. As the song continued, “I am standing on the mountain, I can hear the angels songs, I am reaching over Jordan, take my hand, Lord lead me home”, it was as if the song had been written solely for my sweet baby brother. Your headstone we picked out have Jesus’s hand reaching down with your hand reaching towards his. So, the words to this song fit so well for how I was feeling.

So many nights I lay awake wondering if you cried out for help. Were you panicking and I wasn’t there to help you? That’s my job, to help my little brother no matter how old we got. And in your time of dire need I was sound asleep at my house, in my bed. Did you feel pain? Or did you feel the sweet presence of Jesus’s sweet sweet grace and mercy? Were you finally at peace in your soul? Did you die wondering why I wasn’t there to help you? Did you feel betrayed, alone?

The only peace I have is that you are now at your heavenly home listening to the angels glorious songs. You’re with Pap and Uncle Junior.  The fact remains you’re WAY better off where you are but I still weep at the fact your aren’t here with me. You were supposed to be next to me as mom and dad grew older. You were going to get Nans house and I would get mom and dads and there we would be for the rest of our lives, brother and sister, neighbors. We would have our own families; nieces and nephews and brother and sister in laws. All these dreams I had for us got pulled out from underneath me and I couldn’t see it coming.

They say that families begin to mourn their loved ones the minute they find out heroin has made a home within our loved one. That is true. But it is so different, the struggle of loving an addict and the struggle of clinging to my brothers memory.

The thing that is stuck with me is that you hadn’t started using needles to get high. Only snorting. Don’t get me wrong BOTH are awful. BOTH will ruin lives. But it wasn’t even heroine that killed you. It was a pill. One tiny pill. And you were gone.

I can’t forget the feeling of dread that morning. The sight of the ambulance at mom and dads. The sight of your bedroom. My own screams, my own demands at God to “give you back to me”. I know now He rescued you from the demons of addiction.

But I cannot and will not forget the pain of that day. I’m afraid that if I begin to forget that pain, that that means I forget you. I REFUSE to allow that to happen. Me and you existed together for almost 23 years and now I am supposed to just go on living?! HOW?!

I miss you, Ryguy. Every fiber of my self looks for you in this world.

I love you, always.

-your chessie.