Why launch on December 29, 2020?
I’m launching this project on December 29, 2020, because December 29, 2017, was the most important day of my life.
It’s weird to say it that way. I’ve thought of that day as a lot of things before, even a lot of superlatives, but I don’t think I’ve ever called it the most important day of my life. It’s probably only now that I’m even able to see it in that light.
On December 29, 2017, one of the brightest lights I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing, and seeing by, went out. My little sister, 29 years old and 34 weeks pregnant, died suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. The emergency room physicians delivered her little boy by emergency C-section and were able to restart his heart, but he had been without oxygen for about an hour and never recovered brain activity. He passed away six days later, January 3, 2018.
If I’m really honest, sometimes it still doesn’t even feel real, still doesn’t feel like it ever could have happened. There’s a part of my brain, even three years later, that cannot compute that she’s actually dead, that I can’t ever see her again, that I can’t hear her voice or see her smile or listen to her laugh. I can still smell her hair. How can she be dead? I know her voice nearly as well as I know my own–heck, better, maybe. My own voice sometimes sounds weird to me when I hear it.
That day turned my whole perspective on the world inside out. Everything I thought I knew, like that the world was beautiful and made sense and was full of love–I couldn’t see it the same way anymore. I won’t pretend it compares to losing a child. I don’t have any. I literally cannot imagine what that must be like. But, not having any children, it was the worst loss I could imagine, and it’s still something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
You’ll never meet her, but you have to know something about my sister: She was extraordinary at finding the beauty and strength and ability in people, especially when it wasn’t easy for everyone else to see. Ever since she was a little girl, she had wanted to be a special education teacher, and she did that for several years before switching to preschool, where her well-trained eye was able to spot opportunities for early assistance and intervention to assist children who might otherwise have been left behind.
She loved HARD. She loved everyone hard. That meant she wasn’t afraid to get right in your face and challenge you on something when she was sure you were wrong, but it also meant that she would celebrate whatever was a win for you, regardless of how it stacked up to what anyone else could’ve accomplished.
She celebrated and brought out the very best in people.
Her little guy, during the six days of his life, despite never taking a breath under his own power, brought peace and even joy into the worst situation any of us who loved him had ever been in. To anyone who met him, held him, sang to him, read to him, or prayed for him, he was the most beloved little light shining in what was otherwise an unbelievable, enveloping darkness.
They didn’t live lives people will still be talking about hundreds of years from now. She was a suburban schoolteacher, wife of a youth minister. She spent most of her time just engaging with her school and church communities, loving into the lives of the people she knew there.
But I think if you had told her shortly before her death that she was about to die, she would have been content with her life. I mean, sure, absolutely, there were things she was looking forward to with tremendous anticipation, and she would have been devastated that they were not going to play out like she had dreamed and hoped, but I think she would have been satisfied with the life she had lived. She was deeply herself. She had loved well and been loved well. She knew what she wanted and she did the hard work of accomplishing and becoming those things.
She lived a radically beautiful life, in all its simplicity. And her son brought more peace to chaos simply by being present than I’ve ever done with all my words.
So I’m starting this today to honor them, to honor their lives, to try to live up, in my own way with my own spin, to that example of being completely myself no matter how many days I get to live.
I only hope, by the end of my life, to have loved that well and lived that honestly. So I begin today.
(For privacy reasons, I’ve chosen not to publish their names at this time. If and when you know me, I will be happy to share them with you.)