I can sometimes close my eyes and smell my childhood. It smells like freshly raked leaves, chlorine on my bathing suit, sweat that lingers on my skin, and freshly popped cheesy popcorn.
It tastes like Oatmeal Cream Pies, tacos on a Saturday night, and hose water.
I treasure the childhood I had. I spent summer days riding bikes with my sister, Dinah, to faraway lands and magical “secret” places that only we knew about. My sister treasured it too. Five days before the worst day of my life, she wrote a short story for college about a time when we were playing hide-and-seek as kids. She must have treasured it as much as me, for no one can ever take these moments in time away.
I am the middle child. I am the free spirt. My mom sings, “I Hope You Dance” over me because she says the words remind her of me. I’m my Daddy’s little girl. I hold his hand in mine even when my teenage friends could see. I walk with pride standing next to my big brother. He’s huge. Standing at over 6’6″, he stares into the eyes of boys and frightens them away. I smile at him because I’d rather hang out with him, then stupid boys. My sister was always my best friend. We loved hard and we fought even harder. Yet, at the end of the day when we layed down in our beds that shared a room, we always said:
“I’m sorry if I’ve done anything wrong.”
“I forgive you.”
” I’m sorry if I’ve done anything wrong too.”
Every. Single. Night. We didn’t want to die and go to hell for unforgiven sins.
Sometimes we had a line dividing up our bedroom. Other times we slept in the same bed when outside terrors scared us.
Eventually we grew up.
I started college, then became involved in church ministry. Soon, I left for Australia, then to Thailand for a year of missionary work. My passion became showing women how beautiful they are. Thailand changed me forever. I talked to prostitutes and taught them English. I helped a center that gave them a chance to come out of prostitution by choosing to learn a trade. I bought them out of bars for a night of fun and feasting.
Life became hard there by myself. I came home.
I went to massage school and became a licensed massage therapist and worked on completing my bachelors degree.
During this time I met and married the man of my dreams who I met in the most unique way…online! He, since, has given me two beautiful children and fulfilled my greatest purpose in life of being a mother.
Now I am reliving my childhood through my two children. Nothing could be better than the life I have now. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been easy. Some of you know the missing part of my testimony. One year ago I lost my best friend, my sister. She made the impulsive decision to end her life the day after her boyfriend was killed in an automobile accident. By just admitting this, I feel like I have to defend her honor. I wonder when that will go away?
Her death shattered my perfect, little world and questioned all I believed in God.
It’s been a year since her death and life is changing once again. We are eagerly anticipating getting out of the military and moving back home to establish our roots close to our families. Life is good for my little family. With each boo-boo that I kiss, each diaper that I change, and each word that I speak to my children, I remember how critical the present is.
I remember to kiss my husband deeply everyday.
I remember to tell my parents how much I love them.
I remember that life is too short to have fake friends.
I remember that no matter what God is still good and still my God.
I remember that if my kids adore me, then I have successfully been the mother that my mother was.
For this life is my story.
When I was 24/25 years old I bought a motorcycle. My brother had already had one so he taught me to ride and helped me purchase my first bike. Shortly after, my dad bought one…then my mom bought one…then my sister bought one. We all had motorcycles and a short era of riding together began.
It was the best days of my life with Dinah and with my family. We rode everywhere and nowhere. The 5 of us in our little family bike gang couldn’t be stopped.
With Dinah riding beside me, my life was always exciting. One day, we traded in our real motorcycles for my Dad’s Vespa scooter. He had this before he had the courage to get a Harley and we decided to take it for a drive. I drove, she rode on back. We went through woods and pretended we were Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels from Dumb and Dumber, her favorite movie. As we were riding around, laughing hysterically at I don’t even know what, we saw a pretty large hill that had a drop off at the end. Dinah goes, “Let’s ramp that.” I smiled and turned the bike around to gain some “speed” and distance. We started to pick up speed…15mph…20mph…30mph…35mph…and we hit the hill. We gained some serious air and we were giggling and screaming the whole time like you would on a rollercoaster. We didn’t even think about how this scooter would take a landing. As we were in the air I saw that we were not going to land this thing on its tires. We were turning and as we neared the ground I remember saying to Dinah, “We’re gonna crash, hang onto me.”
Instead of her landing on me, I completely landed on her, and, as always, she was the injured one and I walked away with scratches. She banged up her legs and elbows pretty good but didn’t require stitches this time.
We still laughed about that till the day that she died. It was a pure “Jackie & Dinah” moment. It was crazy and impulsive. It was stupid and fun. It was exactly how Dinah and I enjoyed spending our time together. You would think we were teenagers at this time! Nope, we were grown, married adults!
Memories like these with Dinah now haunt me, yet bring a smile to my face as I remember the craziness we were together. And somehow…even in Dinah’s death…she still makes me laugh my face off and cry till my eyes hurt. She was, and still is, the only person that could ever do this to me.
She’s gone. But she’s everywhere.
I can still smell her. I still hear her laugh, see her gestures; the way she used to play with her hair. Everything about her is still so close, within reach.
Sometimes I can almost hear her talking to me. I close my eyes and can feel her around me and indwelling me.
I try to remember the shape of her hands. Hands that I looked at my whole life. Hands that held me when I needed a hug. Hands that fought for me when no one else would. Hands that wrote beautiful stories and quirky poems. Her hands touched many lives and she probably didn’t even realize it. When 500 people showed up at her wake and memorial, I was reminded that it was impossible not to love Dinah.
I miss her. I miss everything about her. Even her imperfections were beautiful. She loved voraciously.
She was spirited.
She was creative.
She was luminous.
She was Dinah.
Today, my husband and I are packing up our house. We sold our home and are, temporarily, moving into a rental home till we finish out the next few months with the Army.
I found this as I was packing.
My sister wrote this letter to me when I was serving a year in Thailand.
Chokes me up reading it. I miss you my best friend.
I’ve never understood the verse from the Bible that says, “When deep cries out to deep.” I’ve never known deep. What is deep? Is it the bottom of a sinkhole? Is is the deep end of the pool? Or is it the way someone describes a wound? A wound; cut so deep to the bone…piercing pain, severed and bleeding; a wound so deep that nothing seems to heal it.
My father cut his leg 2.5 months ago and it doesn’t seem to heal. His leg has become an allegory for my emotions and aching that I feel. Maybe his leg won’t heal because his heart won’t heal. The pain that the Dinah-wound has left hasn’t even began to scar over. I feel left open, bleeding, and infected with lies. You see, my Dinah-wound is big. My Dinah-wound is cut to the bone. My Dinah-wound is infected with lies that have been whispered into my ear over and over and over again. “This is your fault, Jackie. You could have prevented this.” “Where were you for her.” “Didn’t you see the pain and anguish that she was feeling.” “You could have stopped this.” What kind of sister are you?”
My ears have heard these lies for too long. My heart has believed them. I can’t live like this. I know these are lies but yet I turn my ear to them. It’s so easy to blame yourself even when things are completely outside your control. You see, blaming myself has only pushed the grief farther down. It’s only made me angry and doesn’t let me get to the part where the true healing comes. My Dinah-wound is just beginning to heal. I see the tissue begin to repair and rebuild. I see the infection begin to disappear. I see the blood drying over and the scab beginning to form.
Dinah left without saying goodbye. The devastation that she must have felt must compare to the devastation that my family and I feel with her loss. They say that at a year you should be getting over your grief, but I feel like mine has just begun.
The crushed and pierced hands of my Savior are fixing me. They are reaching down into the deepest parts of my wound and with each “stitch” they are grabbing the flesh and pulling it back together.
My Dinah-wound will never look pretty. It will never look like it did before. The scar will always be there to invite questions from strangers and glances from people who knew what happened.
Dinah took her life and with it she took everything. Everything that I once was.
This last year I have buried myself into my own personal cocoon. It’s comfortable in here. The walls of my cocoon protect. The walls of my cocoon keep me from moving on. My walls keep me from accepting that my sister is gone. Gone forever.
However, my Savior is with me and has reached His wounded hands into my walls and is forcing me to come out. The patterns on my wings tell of my story. The scars on my body tell of my hurt.
There will be no open wound when He is finished with me. My Dinah-wound will heal into a perfect scar and will only add to the beauty of the butterfly that God is creating out of me.