On the month milestone of Alyssa's death, we found a letter she wrote to us in her notes app on her iPhone.
This letter became the last words I'd ever read from her.
This letter has been haunting me for two and a half months, and I fear it will haunt me for the rest of my life.
It is lucid, soul-bearing, heart-wrenching, and unfinished. I've debated for the last couple months if I want to post it, out of respect for her and my parents. I've wondered if it would help me feel better if I posted it. Maybe I'd feel better because I'd have a chance to write about it, or maybe it would show people what Lyss was going through when contemplating the end of her life. Maybe, in the long run, I'd regret sharing it because then I'd never have any remaining bond between just me and my sister.
The letter also got me deeply thinking about the legacy we leave and what becomes of our relationships with others when we're gone.
In the midst of writing this, I've decided I'm going to post the paragraph she wrote to me, in parts, with my thoughts on those parts.
Tré..... I am so sorry you have to go through this. It’s not fair at all. You shouldn’t be only 23 years old and losing a sister and having to deal with all of that. You shouldn’t have to remember me, we should be sharing memories together for the rest of your life.
Well, this was devastating to read. Something Lyss and I probably always knew was that one of us would outlive the other. This feels callous to admit but, for the last five years, I've mentally prepared myself to bury my sister, that way I could be there for my parents in this tough time of grieving. I also knew the statistics on lung transplants and based on how healthy I am, seeing Alyssa die was something I've been shamefully preparing for for several years.
I know Alyssa knew I would find a way of continuing her legacy. She knew I'd be okay. But it breaks my heart that she had to be worried about me. She was literally in the middle of writing about her death and was worried about me losing her. That hurts so bad.
You are such a great kid and it’s been an honor watching you grow into such an amazing person and do such brilliant things in such a short time. It makes me feel so happy to have you as a best friend and brother. I couldn’t ask for someone better. I want you to continue doing great things and making a name for yourself, I know you will. I’m going to continue to watch over you.. I’m so sorry I won’t be there physically for you, but know you can always talk to me and I’ll always be right there. Anything you want of mine. It’s yours. You take what you want.
I would be willing to bet that one of the personality traits my parents most wanted to teach us is humility. For the rest of my days, I will attribute any of my successes to the support my parents and sister provided me. I am so, so incredibly fortunate to have had their support over the years. I have never been told I couldn't achieve something (though I've definitely been gently pushed in other directions). I give myself some credit, but without my parents and Lyss, I can assuredly say I wouldn't have reached the position I'm in.
Less than two weeks after Alyssa died, I died my hair blonde. In April, I redesigned my blog, changed my logo, and promised myself I'd start writing more. For the month of May, I wrote daily about my life and experiences and called it "#31DaysOfTré." Since moving into my new house, I've finally started pursuing a bunch of creative ideas I've had for a while now.
I did all of those things in subtle acknowledgment of how I'm trying to live on for Lyss; to do things that take a bit of guts or that I wouldn't normally do and do it because she would at least admire the attempt.
Alyssa's support meant the world to me. She read and shared everything I wrote and she believed in me in everything I did. She was genuinely proud of me. In the months since she died, I've heard so many people tell me how she was so proud of me. It's so bittersweet to hear but I love hearing it. It reminds me to keep going when I'm struggling. How deeply she believed in me pushes me to pursue my ideas and hopes.
I’m sorry that some of your life has been spent with me in the hospital and I know that always hasn’t been fair. I never want attention drawn away from you. Gosh I can’t tell you how proud of you and the person you’ve become. It seriously makes me so happy and jealous at the same time. You have such a huge heart for everything you do. You put your mind to it. I’m so proud of the writer you are and what great things you’ve done in your life. It'll only get better.
I think this may have been the hardest part to read at first. Our relationship was different than every other sibling relationship. We had to worry about each other constantly while also be there for our parents. It hurt me to my core to know Lyss was sick or was hospitalized, especially when I was in college.
Living in Lexington was difficult. I felt that I was living this normal life, going out on the weekends, going to college, being healthy, while Lyss was dealing with the aftermath of a transplant in Houston without many friends or family, unable to work. The fact that, in her last days, she apologized to me for receiving attention for her health shook me to my core. When I read that for the first time, I was sobbing and trembling. I never knew that it bothered her that much when I visited her in the hospital.
I wish I told her this more when she was alive, but most of the reason I was so open and transparent about my CF was because of my admiration for her openness. Lyss had many scars on her chest and stomach, but she never apologized wearing bathing suits in the summer. She never complained about her lot in life, thought she struggled daily. I get told I'm strong all the time, but I feel like she was so much stronger than me. I'll forever remember her for her willingness to fight. I put my everything into everything I do because I want to live as much as I can in lifetime I have, something I feel like Lyss did.
I’m so sorry I won’t get to be at your wedding with you someday and share those crazy memories. I’ll be there in spirit though. Dancing around you guys with my awesome dance moves. This just isn’t fair you have to lose your sister at a young age. I never thought it would be so soon. I’m seriously so freaking proud of you.
Damn. Alyssa loved weddings. She was so good at planning and decorating and designing. I would've recruited her and my mom to be my wedding planner. I'm sad she won't be able to do that because she would've loved that.
I guess she did think about her future more than I realized. We tried not to discuss end-of-life stuff much. I wouldn't ask her because I didn't want to scare or hurt her, and maybe that's why she never brought it up with me.
Duncan bear is so lucky to have you as a daddy. He loves you so much. Harley loves you so much too. So be sure to always remind him of his mommy and how much I love him. Dress him up and make his IG look cool as usual. He deserves to still have a sweet ass social media still haha.
The end of the letter; clearly unfinished.
Weirdly poetic, I guess. It ends with her talking about our dogs; our children. We always teased each others' pups. I always called Harley "Second Place" because I joked Duncan was cuter; she always called Duncan "Big Head."
It hurts but it feels like the perfect ending. Alyssa was a master of social media, a skill I've obviously tried to emulate, and she wanted me to still manage Harley's instagram. I can't imagine how painful it was for her to write those words, knowing she wasn't going to be around much longer.
I don't know how to write about death without it sometimes coming off callously or cold. The words I use sometimes feel dismissive of what happened to my sister. But I don't like tiptoeing around this. My life will forever be delineated by March 12th, 2018. I will always remember what events happened when I could tell Lyss about them versus which events I was immediately sad when remembering I couldn't tell her.
What becomes of our relationships when we die? We live in a digital era which means we have constant reminders of the deceased, we have messages that exist until we delete them, pictures and videos are always popping up in our feeds.
I feel like my relationship with Alyssa has changed a lot even since I said goodbye. I have written candidly about my struggles with suicidal ideation; I have written about CF; I have spoken at events. These are things I've done by channeling my despair into something productive because I know if I don't, I will self-destruct. I fear the day that I don't have passions or hobbies that I can manifest that sorrow into something else.
This letter has become something entirely different than what Alyssa wrote. It has become the last remaining bit of Alyssa's life that feels new to me. I try not to read it that often so that I can hear her voice again when I do read it; each time it becomes more and more my voice.
I try to put myself in her shoes. I try to imagine how I would handle writing a letter to the people I love most dearly in my final days. It's a terrifying thought, but considering this deeply existential concept allows me to try to understand what my sister went through. I feel like it's the least I can do after she went through all she went through.