Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” As I slipped into my beautifully hued bath this morning, this quote came to mind. I sunk into the colorful bubbles and felt the love that I have for my sister expressing itself in the form of grief. I thought, as much as this moment hurts, with the ebb and flow of emotions, having the privilege of being Lavon’s baby sister, makes it all worth it. On that particular day, just a mere five days ago, I was bracing myself to face the actual date of my sister’s passing for the first time. Because she passed away on leap day 2016, I’ve had four years to move around in a somewhat sheltered state of grief, until this year. I knew that this day would be different but I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the grief that came to the surface. Nonetheless, I understood that the pain was birthing a level of healing that I’d yet to reach, so with the heartache in tow, I surrendered to the process in absolute trust.
The first time I rode on public transportation and got to ring the bell, my first time going to the show, and the epic moment that I got to see Janet Jackson in concert are all memories that I treasure because I shared them with Von. Yes, the tears fall but they are accompanied by smiles and giggles brought on by reliving these treasured times always reassuring me that life is truly beautiful. Because of this, it is my wholehearted belief that whether it be the love for a parent, partner, or anyone in between, to love and be loved even in the presence of crippling grief can never be counted as a loss. Death is merely a physical separation that can’t disconnect me from the life lessons that she taught me, our family stories, nor the bonds of love that we shared. These elements are just as alive today as they were yesteryear, reminding me that love like life is continuous. When we grieve because we’ve loved in whatever way, with only the pain at the forefront of our minds, we vow to never love in the same manner again, running from the hurt and unintentionally hindering the healing power of love. I don’t want to live in a mindset nor emotional state where I don’t allow myself to love. Lavon’s passing causes me to live in a constant state of appreciation for others, careful not to take anything or anyone for granted, and shifted my perception of life as a whole. Like all humans, I have been guilty of seeing my loved ones as my property. My sister, my grandma, my kids, and my this and that, while those titles are accurate, people are temporary gifts from God, not ours to possess. As a result of this new understanding, my relationships have taken on different forms with me choosing to connect with others and not attach to them.
The beauty of the connection is the lack of fear. When I lived under the heaviness of attachment, the fear of losing someone caused me to hold on tightly, always afraid of them leaving me. I no longer live in that state of panic. Now in my relationships, I am calm, present and thriving in every encounter fully aware that time flies, accepting that one moment doesn’t guarantee the next. I often think about the last year and a half of my sister’s life, I was obsessive and terrified of losing her, doing everything in my power to stop something that I wasn’t in control of. I wonder what I would’ve done differently and how I could’ve changed our story if I’d known that sudden death was headed for us. Honestly, when I reminisce about our last conversation, how we laughed, even her telling me what a great little sister I was, I see how in her way, Von, always the reassuring big sister, was hinting that our time together on earth was coming to a close and our love would take on a deeper meaning. So then, I have to agree with Alfred Lord Tennyson, it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, but I would like to add, love, is never lost. Onward!