five months

I'm not sure how this started, I'm not sure if someone told us this or if it was something we read somewhere, but ever since March, whenever my parents and I see a cardinal, we believe it's Lyss saying hello. I feel an overwhelming sense of calm whenever I see a cardinal now. As a matter of fact, I saw a cardinal the morning I drove to the tattoo shop to get Lyss's handwriting inked on me. I felt like that was her way of endorsing the tattoo. 

Other than that, however, I have to admit, I felt like Alyssa wasn't present, mostly because I wasn't seeing very many signs of her. I'm sure most people know that feeling of chills you get when something seems too coincidental to be just a coincidence. Besides a few of those moments of seeing a couple of cardinals, I haven't had that feeling. I've been struggling a lot because of this. I miss my sister so much and I need those signs from her.

That changed in the last week. A couple of things have happened in the last week that have provided a sense of comfort I haven't had in a long time. I knew that I'd struggle after a couple of months because people would begin to forget that this grief is still a daily struggle for me and my parents. Trying to put on a face that I'm doing okay and moving forward for everybody has taken a serious toll on my mind, and that's been reflected in some of my recurring anxiety and depression symptoms that had gone away for a couple of months. 

I think everybody wants to have a legacy, but living with a chronic disease means your timescale is condensed, so the drive to have a legacy is magnified for people those of us that are younger. In the last week, there have been two particular events that have happened that have fired me back up to be motivated towards the future to build a legacy for Alyssa, myself, and my parents. The first one was a conversation with a friend. This friend and I talked about the two projects I'm actively working on, and he had a connection to both of them; both of these connections felt too coincidental to just be coincidences. These two projects I'm actively working are giving me hope for the future. I'm not going to discuss those projects yet because they are quite some time away. I'm really excited to keep working on them because I think they have a very real chance of providing me that connection to my sister and they are both going to honor her in ways that she would love. I felt like that conversation I had with that friend confirmed that I need to commit to these projects.

The second was a dream that I had the other day. I'm not usually one to believe that our dreams mean anything more than maybe it was something we were thinking about just as we fell asleep, but I woke up feeling more comforted than I have been since Lyss passed. She was in my dream for the first time since she died and she told she loved the ideas I was working on and that she was proud of me. She told me to stop searching for signs of her, that she would make it obvious to me when she was around. I don't have any idea if my mind concocted this dream to comfort myself. It could've been a defense mechanism to get through all of the continuous pain. Or it could've been her way of nudging me further towards these goals. Seeing her in this dream after having that conversation with my buddy a couple days earlier gave me the chills I hadn't had in quite some time. I don't know what it was but seeing her felt so real. I woke up feeling as if she was alive for the first time in five months. That is overwhelming to feel immediately upon waking up. There was even a period of a few seconds where I had to look at the tattoo on my arm to confirm she really was still gone. It hurt but it was comforting.

I still feel lost in the world I'm in. I still feel like this is just a fever dream and that I'm going to see her posts pop up on social media. I'm proud of my family for finding reasons to continue waking up and pushing forward. As has been the story for three decades, my parents are strong beyond words. 

I feel like I had better clarity of my place in the world in the couple of months directly afterwards. I feel more lost now than I have in a while, even with these projects I'm working on. Part of battling my anxiety has been me realizing that anxiety is a powerful mental enemy that convinces you that you're failing even when you're succeeding more than you would've expected. Even writing this piece, I've gone back and forth on if I'm doing better or worse than I would've expected. I do feel like the fog is clearing up some days, then I reflect on what I witnessed of my sister in her final days, causing me to well up with panic and fury that this was the fate she was confined to. 

One of the last things I told Alyssa was that I promised I'd work on this project that we talked about. I intend on keeping that promise. I hope that it will continue helping me in this life without my sister. Five months feels like an eternity and a day at the same time; a sensation I never understood until now.