Dear Kelly,

You’ve been on my mind this past week. You would be 31 today and that is so strange. In my mind you are frozen at the 17 year old stage you were when you died. Death is funny that way, often you come to my mind as the 17 year old but every now and then I think of you strictly as that goofy little girl who wore a bucket on her head for an entire day as a hat. I wonder what you would be like as a 31 year old and where life would have taken you. The longer time passes the more I have trouble thinking of you as an adult. I’m not sure why and sometimes it drives me crazy. Even when I dream of you, you look exactly like you did the last time I saw you before the accident. Your long curly hair was down with part of it back at the top. You were wearing a t-shirt and jeans (pretty much your standard wardrobe.) You might of even had on that blue hoodie, the one in the graduation picture with me. I can’t remember exactly. I wish I had a picture from that day.

I was looking back through old photos of you and I am glad that we have the ones we do, but man do I wish we had more. I have those same thoughts every time I look through them. Really I think that is the source of my desire to photograph everything relating to my own kids. I remember mom being distraught over not having more pictures of her and you after you died. It was a deep source of pain for her and I some how try to counteract that with my own kids by trying to document the crap out of them and me with them. It’s one of the positives I choose to see out of your death.

I was talking to someone about our childhood the other day and it struck me again that more people know me separate of you than with you now. It has been long enough that often people just don’t realize that I have a sister. That was quite a shocking thought to me since I see you as part of me. A big part. Our relationship and closeness makes me a lot of who I am. How I deal with other women, what I want for my daughters, how i talk to girls and women who are younger than me. Countless ways that I interact with women of all ages are affected by how I remember us. I sure hope that Lucy and Norah end up with something similar. It would be really hard for me to watch to see them not value each other. But in the same breath, part of it will still make me sad to see them love and enjoy each other because I know it will make me miss you terribly. It’s a double edged sword really.

I often wonder what you would think of me as a mom. I remember how excited you were about Bryan and Erin’s kids. You LOVED being an aunt. I wish my kids knew that and got to experience you. I have made sure that they know about you. We talk about you a lot. One day out of the blue, Eli announced “Man mom, I bet you miss your sister a lot.” It makes me happy that they know that you are so so important to me. And it makes me glad that one day, they’ll get to know you. I can’t help but think that you would absolutely delight in the little trouble maker Eli is. You would just eat him up. And I think that your delight would help me to enjoy him more, just like I should do more often. You would have loved that Lucy likes to do crafts (really obsessed with them) and her love of reading. And man you would love that she is learning to play the cello. I can imagine you building lego with Alden and drawing with him. He loves the art we have left from you. The two littles are so small that you would still be enjoying their littleness. And I can’t help but think that you’d love my kids and treat them like a second mom.

Every time I take pictures of flowers, I think of you. I have amassed quite the collection of them now. Piles and piles of shots that I can’t seem to stop taking. I have no idea what I will ever do with them. You’d know the names of them, but I’m just capturing them. It’s another thing I’ve tried to learn from you. I feel happy in nature and I feel close to you and to Heavenly Father. I am grateful that you loved nature so much. I sure haven’t learned to grow anything like you though. Maybe one day. Maybe not.

I try to think of you in life more than dwell on your death. To celebrate who you were and are. Maybe this year we’ll have a cake with the kids and I’ll tell them some funny stories about you. Inside jokes that probably won’t sound all that funny to them. There are a few that they know well, Like you and your cat boots. That story has been a favorite around here for a while. That and how I thought that I prayed you into our family. I thought that for years.

Today I am grateful I had you for 17 years and especially grateful that I can have you in the eternities too.

I miss you.

You can read my other writing about grief and loss here and more about my sister here and here.