On the plane-ride to London, I read the book "The Sky Is Everywhere" by Jandy Nelson on my Kindle. It was one of those impulse purchases courtesy of Amazon's recommendations. I couldn't stop reading, even after the husband start snoozing. The protagonist Lennie aka John Lennon to one of the most irresistible boys in YA literature (is there any other kind?) is grieving the sudden death of her talented, charismatic, beautiful older sister (again, I say from personal experience as an adoring baby sister, is there any other kind?). She constantly writes notes, poems, memorized conversations, confessions, and everything in between to Bailey on walls, scraps of paper, furniture, candy wrappers, anything she can mark on -- and then she throws them to the wind or hides them, leaving them behind for the earth to swallow up.
Toward the end of the novel, Lennie has a pivotal revelation:
"Grief is forever. It doesn't go away; it becomes part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That's just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don't get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy."
Reading those words, I cried (which I do with alarming frequency while reading YA books). I felt like Jandy Nelson had written them for me, just as Len wrote just for Bailey. I have re-read that line so many times, my Kindle automatically opens to it any time I click on the title. That's exactly how grief feels. It never ends.
I was reminded of this fact yesterday when I found an old journal Mami received in 2003 at a cancer awareness event attended by the late Colombian singer and breast-cancer advocate Soraya (who died in May, 2006). Mami only wrote in it for three days, so only two pages were filled. It was late October, and she had just undergone her first cycle of chemotherapy via her port; she was exhausted. Mami was nervous, she kept repeating, but she was going to put her health in God's hands. She wrote about being excited to have Thanksgiving at my sister's new house. I had just called her with our travel arrangements.
There was nothing particularly emotional in her prose, but as I read it on the DC Metro on my way to a "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" screening, I began to cry again. Two young Mormon missionaries kept sneaking glances at me, probably wondering if I needed prayer (I probably would've welcomed it). I recovered only in time to walk into the movie theater.
Because grief is forever. But that means my love for her is too.