A little over two years ago, my big sister died. Dee had been fighting breast cancer for a long, long time and it finally got the best of her. I always knew she was an amazing sister. I just didn't know she was also my best friend until after she was gone.
While I think about Dee every day, most of my days are filled with the stuff of life. I feed my family, I go to work, I do laundry, I read stories to Trevor and help Eli and Sydney with their homework. I see Dee's picture on my fridge as I pass it and I think about how much I miss her. I call her young daughters to see what's going on their lives and plan shopping days for them with Aunt Kaycee. I talk to Dee's widowed husband and make sure he's doing okay. Most days, I can tell a story about Dee or remember the times we had without shedding a tear. Most times, I am fine. Life goes on.
But after a few weeks or months of taking care of the stuff of life and moving on and being strong, I hit the proverbial wall. Suddenly I want there to be a rainy day where I can just stay in bed all day and read or watch movies. I don't always understand right away what it is that's triggering my melancholy, but I know that my heart is hurting and I need to curl up in a ball. I don't realize at first that what I'm craving is to cry. I need to let myself cry.
Movies do it every time. I choose the saddest I can find..."My Sister's Keeper" is my choice of late. I'm thinking I should just buy it so I don't have to keep renting it. There are others, though, and it helps if they are about dying, or sickness. My husband says I'm a glutton for punishment, but he doesn't understand that most days, I am just strong because it's what I do. I'm strong because there are people depending on me to not fall apart. He doesn't understand that I hold it together so often and for so long that I sometimes don't feel like I am allowed to lose it.
So I find a day that I can be alone. I stay up late, and I curl up under my down comforter, and I lock the bedroom door, and I put in the saddest movie I can find. And it's then, when nobody is watching and when I can pretend that it's "just about a movie" that I fall apart. It's then that I let the tears run until they are dripping off my chin and my pillowcase is so wet that I have to get a new one. It is then that I allow my hands to tremble and my shoulder to shake with the weight of it all. I cry and I sob until I can't catch my breath. And it's then that I admit that it's not about the movie, and I let the sadness come.
I think about the days sitting next to my sister in the hospital, trying to feed her yogurt and smoothies and hoping a little of it would get past the sores and lesions in her throat from the chemo. I remember the day she almost choked on her medicine and I sat her up because she was too weak to sit up herself. She called me her hero. I think about the jokes we made when she had to wear inflatable stocking on her legs to keep her blood flowing, and how we laughed at the patterns of bruises on her legs and arms. I think about how she insisted she saw an angel one day and it looked just like my Sydney. She was hallucinating of course...her ammonia levels were too high. But she was convinced. I think about the last night she was lucid, and how she told me to take care of her little girls and teach them the things they needed to know. And I remember the night before she died, and how I would pull back the soft pink cap she wore, to kiss her bald head and tell her that I loved her. She never woke up, but her lips would move a little sometimes and I told myself she was telling me that she loved me back.
Those nights, the nights of sitting alone and allowing myself to fall apart for a little while, are cleansing for me. I need them. I need the tears to run down my face and soak my shirt. I need to sob until I can't breathe anymore. I need to hear myself make sounds that I can't control as the hurt and the loneliness and the pain overtake me. I need to feel the sadness. I need to let myself fall apart.
The next day I am always okay again. I am ready to be strong, and to take care of the details and busy-ness of life again. I put the movie away and I help with the homework and I take my neices shopping and I check on my brother-in-law and I cook dinner. I laugh with my kids and I hold hands with my husband and I sit on the front porch with my face tilted up to catch the sunshine. Life goes on.
Most days, I am fine.
But some days, I just need the rain.