In March 2019, my 21-year-old little sister, Rachel, took her life after her courageous, hard-fought battle learning to live with Bipolar Type I.
Her beautiful life and soul was, and is, iridescent. She possessed a deeply authentic beauty—one that humbles you to the core, one that fills you to the brim on the darkest of days, one that you, deeply and regrettably, did not take the time to return to her ten-fold.
If our family can label any piece of our horrific tragedy as ‘fortunate’, it is that my sister left behind 15 journals from her 5-year battle. These poetry-, observation-, and insight-filled journals contain a depth of candid creativity that makes you pause. That makes you soak in the world through a lens of unadulterated appreciation. We pour ourselves over these journals, continuing to learn intricate details about my sister long after her body has been laid to rest—a gift that, only now, I can begin to cherish.
Rachel’s journals give the impression that there are enough of her words to fill our lifetime. But I understand that this is only blissful, protect-myself-now-deal-with-it-later ignorance. One day, her words will run dry. There will be no more pages to turn, no new words to share. This gut-wrenching reality is disheartening, not only for myself, my family, and the dear friends she left behind, but for the world—a world that dealt her a darkness so deep that it unknowingly condemned itself to live on without her.
Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
I am now trudging forward, learning to live within my new reality and beginning to dabble my toes into the ‘making meaning’ phase of my grief journey. In this, Rachel has taught me that when we leave, all that remains is our finite collection of stories. The stories that will make our loved ones full-stomach-laugh and wailing-cry. The ones they will cherish and desperately hold on to. The ones that will be their glimmer of light in a sea of darkness when our inevitable impermanence becomes a reality.
So here it goes. This is my collection of stories. The glorious ups. The gut-wrenching downs. All packaged up—but without a bow. Because, in the words of my sister, “I believe that our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities are what can connect us the most. And in doing so, they become our greatest assets. The moral of our own personal stories.”