As I begin writing for 31 days, I realize I cannot write about the last three years without including my cousin, Sarah Grace. Her story is so intertwined into the pain of 2012, and is one I have not shared publicly. She passed away three years ago today. I struggle with how best to share everything, and yet make sense (and make it through the tears). It seems most fitting to write a letter, and though she’ll never read it, I hope it gives a clear picture to those of you who are.
Dear Sarah Grace,
First of all, I miss you so terribly much. I miss reminiscing about our summers at the farm.
Remember? We would play on the farm, riding four wheelers for hours, racing each other all over the hills and to the creek and on the trails. We would go swimming in our pool and walk up and down the hill between Granny and Papa’s house, my house, and our aunt and uncle’s house. We would play restaurant and orphanage in the basement of our grandparent’s house, and play hangman on the green chalkboard in the hallway. We’d go through Granny’s purse during church and eat all the tic-tacs and play with her fold out fan and pop-up cup. We’d eat popsicles, wafer cookies, strawberries, corn on the cob (apparently I ate my weight in corn) and drink tomato juice and have ice cream before bed. We’d get in trouble for talking back and forth to our brothers across the hall instead of going to sleep. When it was so hot outside and we had done everything we could think of, we would all fight over who got to sit in Papa’s chair and settle in for a movie.
Then I remember what happened three years ago. It was Easter weekend, and I received a call from you. When I saw your name pop up on my phone, I didn’t want to answer – because it meant I’d have to tell you that we wouldn’t be at the farm for Easter because we were on our way to my in-laws for the weekend. I was so disappointed to have to tell you our kiddos wouldn’t be there to dye Easter eggs with Nicholas (Sarah’s son). I answered anyway, because I enjoyed talking with you.
What I heard from you left me speechless and wanting to go back to seconds before when I was dreading answering the phone.
You struggled to tell me that you had been to the hospital for an MRI that showed lesions on your brain. A lot of our family came to see you that weekend, but we were already out of town. My heart was with you, and I came with my brother the next weekend to see you. It was so good to see finally see you and hug you and spend some time with you.
A little while later you called again with the news you had stage IV melanoma. It didn’t sound good, but you’re an amazing fighter, so that’s what you did. Radiation seemed promising, and you were preparing for brain surgery in July. Before your surgery, I brought the kids up to play with Nicholas and visit with you, and we took the kids to the water park by your house. They had a blast, and I enjoyed spending that time with you. I know it was a difficult day for you, physically and emotionally. But our kids absolutely love coming down to the farm and playing with Nicholas. Watching them reminds me of our childhood, and I’m so glad they’re able to experience that together. I wish you were here to watch them with me.
Your surgery was successful and I was able to see you the day after. I was shocked to walk into ICU to see you had ordered a hamburger for lunch and ate the whole thing – less than 24 hours after brain surgery! I was so happy to see you doing well!
Then I got the call. I don’t know how you made these phone calls Sarah. As I talked with you, I went out to the front porch, away from the kids. You were hopeful to have six more months with us, wanting to see your niece born in November and be with us for one more Christmas. By September it became obvious you would not be with us that long.
I came with my parents and brother at the beginning of September and we took time visiting you and your parents and playing with Nicholas.
Monica (cousin) and I came up the next weekend for your 29th birthday and we went to the zoo because that’s what you wanted to do. The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold. Nicholas enjoyed seeing the animals and we had a wonderful day, laughing and just being together. Since the zoo did NOT have any hamburgers, which was what you REALLY wanted, we ended the day with Five Guys burgers, and you were VERY happy. As I write this, it seems you had a thing for hamburgers. 🙂 They’re yummy, I don’t blame you at all! I’m so glad I was able to spend your birthday with you.
On September 23rd we came up again, only this time most of our extended family was there. Every year we get together and cook a bunch of seafood – crab legs and shrimp – YUMMY! Since you were unable to travel down to the farm, we moved the party up to you! It was a good day; I could tell you were tired, but also that you were enjoying yourself. I treasure that very last day I had with you.
Before I left that day, I asked your dad what I could do to help. My days were full with my four children, babysitting for two others, and being three hours away was hard. I didn’t know what you needed and no clue what to do. He said “Time. Come and spend time with her.” On the way home I began making a plan for what we could do. It was getting harder and harder for you to leave the house. I decided I wanted to have a movie day with you. I wanted to surprise you with all the old movies we used to watch; to spend the day remembering our summers together in the only way I could think of. I remember smiling on the way home, thinking of what a fun day that would be. I never got that chance.
In fact, that was the last time I saw you. I was looking forward to seeing you again the following weekend, September 29th, for Adam and Lindsay’s (Sarah’s brother and sister-in-law) baby shower. (Their daughter Arya was born November 27th and she is beautiful, Sarah. I saw her last weekend, and she reminded me of you.) Because of Josiah’s MRI results on September 27th, I was not able to come see you that last weekend. I spent that weekend at home, preparing for my own son’s journey with cancer, and I was now the one making those phone calls. And in a few short days, you were gone. I know you understood, and you would’ve done the same. I have no regret, but oh, how I long to give you just one more hug.
I love you Sarah. I will see you again someday.