Wednesday, February 18, 2015
When you look back at your life, there are always certain days that stand out.
There are the happy occasions, such as your wedding day, or the birth of your children. And there are the sad, such as losing someone you love.
I always find it interesting how our memory chooses what to erase, or at least make a little cloudy.
Yet, it also has the ability to let you recall certain events with such clarity, you could swear they just happened yesterday.
I also find it interesting what our memories choose to hold on to.
Some things don't surprise me, because they were either really significant, really special or traumatic events in my life. However, some of my clearest memories are completely random, everyday occurrences, that for some reason, are taking up permanent residence in my mind.
Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of my cousin Amy's death.
She was killed in a car accident a couple months before her 40th birthday.
Amy was one year older than me, and I absolutely idolized her as a child.
She was much more of a "tom-boy" than I was, so when she was around, I would attempt to abandon my girlie ways, and toughen up.
Some of those "vivid" memories I referred to above are my adventures with Amy.
She was my best childhood friend.
She lived in Eau Claire, so we didn't get to spend as much time together as I would have liked. Our families would vacation together at the lake, and we would stay at each other's homes for a week during the summer.
What I remember most about those years was how much trouble we could get in to.
I was a pretty shy kid, and was always afraid of breaking the rules.
Amy, on the other hand, was an adventure seeker, and perhaps, not the perfect role model. :)
In other words....she was FUN!!
We would get up at 6am to mow the grass everyday. (Because we loved to ride around on the riding lawn mower.) She would drive, and I would sit up on the back of the seat. We spent a lot of time driving around the neighborhood as well.
Her parents used to have an old navy blue Volkswagen Beetle...and we would pretend we were meeting our "boyfriends" after "work", as we sat in the car and "drove." This was great, until the day we took the emergency brake off, and started rolling backwards down the driveway. (I should mention we were in elementary school at the time.)
"Work" was teaching. We pretended to be teachers by day...and we had the whole basement set up as our classroom. Amy's dad was a teacher, so we had lots of "real" teacher stuff. We spent HOURS teaching!
One day, we were getting ready to go on our daily lawn mowing adventure, and Amy accidentally put the mower into 3rd gear instead of 1st. I was sitting up on the back of the seat, and the fast jerk forward caused me to fly off the mower on to the cement driveway.
It was quick...and painful.
I still vividly remember Amy trying to carry me in the house, (not very successfully) the whole time saying "we can NOT tell my parent's about this! We can NOT tell my parent's about this!"
I spent the rest of the week trying not to walk funny, or be too obvious about the fact that I couldn't turn in either direction very successfully because my back was in miserable pain.
We never told her parents. ;)
If I was ever able to choose a time in my life to experience again....it would be those days with Amy. I am sure the reason why all of my memories with her are so vivid is because they were so special to me.
I looked up to her, and wanted to be just like her.
She was fearless.
As we grew up, our lives got busy, but I always looked forward to the times our families got together. It felt like we went from trouble making little rug rats to planning our weddings overnight.
Then we started planning our families.
We both lost our first babies to miscarriage.
I remember calling her, and hearing her voice break as she told me the news.
She had been so excited about that baby.
Luckily, we soon had much to celebrate.
Our sons were born one month apart in the spring of 2000.
My sister also had a son one month before Amy, so we had three little boys, all the same age. It was perfect.
And then, she had her fiery red headed daughter.
She was the spitting image of Amy. (except for the red hair)
I think Sandy (Amy's mom) got a kick out of the fact that Amy was getting to experience all of the "fun" that she had when Amy was growing up!
Amy was the most patient and laid back mom.
Nothing phased her. No matter what happened, she just dealt with it, and moved on.
She could handle anything...and she made it look effortless.
I will never forget the night I got the call.
I was standing by my piano....and my aunt Kathy called me.
She said there had been an accident, and Amy had been killed.
I couldn't even wrap my head around it.
It couldn't be true...not Amy.
Amy was invincible.
The day of her funeral, I walked over to the casket.
The woman lying in there wasn't Amy.
Amy was full of life, her eyes were bright, her smile glowed.
Amy would throw her head back and laugh.....I loved that laugh.
What I saw wasn't Amy at all.
At least this is what I told myself to just get through the next couple of hours.
The burial took place in the spring, after the ground had thawed.
Something happened to me that day that I can't really explain.
Suddenly, as we stood there, in the same cemetery where my dad, my brother, and my grandparent's were buried....I felt like my heart just broke open.
All of the grief I had been holding onto for the past 15 years just started to pour out.
I had never really grieved for my dad...and now, as I said goodbye to my sweet cousin, I was suddenly feeling all of the pain and despair that I had blocked out...had locked away for so many years.
This was the beginning of a long process of healing...but a necessary one.
I hadn't realized how much sorrow I had been holding onto...and had been hiding away.
I think Amy was there, just like when we were kids. Dragging me through the mud (she really loved mud!) and making me navigate all of the dark and scary places. (We used to play tag in the dark...in the woods. It was terrifying.)
And like always, she was there to lead me home...back to the light.
My birthday was three days after her death. Two years ago, we had some friends over, and we were sitting at the table having dinner.
Suddenly, the front door blew open, and right after, my phone chimed. I had received a blank text from Amy's mom.
I replied, and asked if she had tried to text me.
She had not.
I am pretty sure I had a visit from Amy for my birthday that year.
She often sends birds and butterflies too.
My heart will forever ache at the loss of this sweet woman.
However, I will cherish the many memories that I have.
This reminds me so much of her.
Amy knew how to fly.