It's been over a month now. It's hard to explain, but I've found a niche in this post-Lyss world. Whenever grieving, we search for what we believe our loved ones would've wanted us to be feeling or thinking. I think some of that is our own personal projection of what we hope they would have wanted, but through grief, finding a way to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and the care necessary to process trauma is crucial. In the month since Lyss passed, a recurring thing I've heard from many people was that Alyssa told a lot of people about our relationship and that she constantly told people how proud she was of me. I've had a hard time hearing this. I obviously knew she was proud of me, but I never knew she talked about it that much.
Floating through this new world is inexplicable. I find myself feeling okay - even relieved - at moments. I find myself looking forward to the future, to my career, to my future successes, to my birthday and other holidays, only to feel the ground implode beneath me as I realize that those are just going to be moments spent without my sister sharing in those joys.
Life after trauma is a life of firsts, seconds, thirds, and so on and so forth. Each time you experience a common part of life after losing a loved one, you get adjusted a bit more to the new world. The first time I went out with friends, I immediately wanted to call Lyss to ask her which outfit I should wear. Since that's a reflex only used when picking out clothes, it was the first time I had done so since she passed, so when it hit me that she would never be able to help me with that again, it smashed into me like a tidal wave. In the times since, it gets a little easier each time. Like a tightrope walk, balancing a world where I maintain my sanity and a healthy mental state with honoring and remembering Alyssa is a delicate walk. It is debilitating since my family and I can't leave it.
In the fog of the last month, I've had to further contemplate my mortality, my place in the world now, what I want to do in the years of my life to come, and what I aspire my legacy to be after I'm gone. I'm overwhelmed with the legacy Alyssa had. I have received and seen so many messages reflecting how influential Alyssa's life was. She changed thousands and thousands of lives. I've always aspired to "change the world" which doesn't mean much when looked at face value. Alyssa changed my world and so many others and left so many of us as better people because of the suffering she experienced. Trying to imagine what she was going through mentally over the last 5 years is an overwhelming and painful endeavor, but the price Alyssa paid for in not being able to have a "normal" life, she gained in affecting people more deeply than most of us could ever dream of. In that way, I'm so grateful that her suffering resulted in that.
A personal confession. Alyssa's PFTs started to slip a bit early last summer. When she didn't immediately respond to the earlier treatments, I started to suspect in July or August that she was entering chronic rejection. This is when I feared her timescale was shrinking. Discussing this with her or my parents felt unfair and truthfully, pessimistic. Hope has sustained us for so long, I felt like I was giving up hope. I started to seriously consider the fact that my health likely won't hold on at this rate forever. My depression and anxiety reached a point where my mental state was paralyzed and gripped with intrusive thoughts. If you take the time to read my blog posts back through September, it's clear that something was weighing heavily on my psyche. That weight was Alyssa's future.
Frankly, Alyssa's last five years scares the hell out of me. I get anxious about easy procedures like sinus surgeries. How could I possibly handle my health fading and needing a lung transplant? It probably seems like I'm not giving myself enough credit and when the stakes are high and a transplant is the only thing that will give me more time, it seems clear to me now that I'd make the decision to go through with it. Considering all of this is what eventually made me fully recognize my sister's strength and will to live. I hope my legacy is a fraction of what Alyssa's was. Her legacy is abstract in so many ways, but its most concrete quality was her indelible and beautiful social media portrait. It hurts like hell right now, but I know I'll be forever grateful for her consistent and uplifting social media presence.
Through this grief, I'm going to continue writing. I'm going to continue Alyssa's legacy of being open and transparent about our journeys. I have a lot of ideas I want to do to honor, commemorate, and recognize Alyssa for her time on earth. I hope my friends, family, and whoever is reading this will continue to support me in these endeavors to leave a transcendent legacy on earth. I hope that Alyssa's legacy and the reflection it forced so many of us to do in the wake of all of this is so genuinely ingrained into our brains that we're forever altered to live as better and more grateful people. And I hope everybody likes my dyed hair because I know Alyssa would have loved it.
I miss you so much and I'll always be proud of being your little brother, Lyss. Thanks for being who you were.
The last thing Alyssa wrote on a card for me was from February and it said:
Brah - I love you so much & very proud of you!
I have that tattooed on my forearm now. Throughout my day, I look down dozens of times to remind myself of her. The message is so representative of who she was and our relationship, I feel simultaneously overcome with comfort and pain; it's a reminder that while her physical presence may be gone, she will be with me forever, no matter the place.