The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

It's that time of the year, the time that has been described as "the most wonderful time of the year" and the "happiest season of all". Normally, I would be in agreement with both of those phrases. This year? I am struggling to get into the Christmas spirit. 

I have known since losing Anna that this would be the hardest holiday. That we could get through Thanksgiving. We could get through the anniversaries of her death (although those are pretty hard too). But I knew Christmas would be hard. Christmas was the one time a year that we had so many traditions the 4 of us as a family. And a lot of these traditions involved things Anna and I did together. I couldn't imagine doing this holiday without her. And yet... here we are. Celebrating Christmas without her. 

I wish so badly that we spent the night together Christmas Eve night, like we do every year. That we would wake up in the morning and see what Santa left us. That we would be together. 

It doesn't help that when I think of last Christmas, which turned out to be our last Christmas together, I am filled with regret. For whatever reason, I was crabby and grumpy when we were decorating our Christmas tree together. I didn't take the time to be thankful for these memories or to appreciate the fact that we were all together. On Christmas Eve, Anna and I always spent the night together in my room. We didn't have slumber parties very often, so this was one of my favorite traditions. Last year, we got in a fight... over what to watch on TV. If you spent much time with the two of us, this wasn't surprising at all. Not only did we fight a lot, but we also fought over the TV a lot; it was just something that was hard for us to agree on for whatever reason. I don't remember the details, but she got frustrated and went to bed... in her room. And I was too stubborn to say I'm sorry so she would come sleep in mine like usual. 

What I would give to have a do-over on that night... if she would come back, I would let her watch whatever she wanted on TV. I hate myself for fighting over such a petty, stupid thing. Do I think that she spent every night after that thinking "God my sister is such a bitch" or "she ruined christmas"? No, not at all. Anna and I fought, but we were also really good at getting over it and moving on quickly. That one fight (or any of our fights) didn't define our relationship. I know that. But it hurts to think that was my last chance to carry on these traditions with her and I ruined it. 

Last Christmas, we just found out that Anna had relapsed and that she would need chemo again. The future was so unknown, but we didn't stop hoping. However, it wasn't far from my mind that Anna was sick. I remember laying in bed that night, already regretting our fight, and thinking "this could be our last Christmas together...". But just as quickly as the thought entered my mind, I made it go away. "That's not going to happen," I reassured myself, trying to make the feeling of panic go away. "She's going to be fine." How badly I wish that were true... 

I miss her. I miss our traditions. I miss the way Christmas used to be. But I know that Anna wouldn't want us to spend our holiday being sad. She never wanted anyone to be sad. And as hard as it was, I did it. I made it through the holiday that I didn't want to happen. 

Did I wake up on Christmas morning and think about what I would be doing if Anna were still here? Yes. Did I wish that we were sitting at the top of our stairs together, waiting to be given the "ok" to see what Santa left us? Yes. But, I did it. I didn't spend the whole day feeling sad. I didn't dwell on what was or what could've been had things turned out differently (well, not much anyway). Instead, I counted my blessings. I was thankful to be spending the day with my family, both immediate and extended and our friends who are like family. 

Although I would have liked to learn these lessons an easier way, I have learned so much from losing Anna. I truly appreciate all the relationships I have in my life and I do my best not to take moments for granted. I took last Christmas for granted, and now I regret it. Was I in a great mood the whole time this Christmas? No! Did I have my moments where I was less than in the Christmas spirit? Absolutely. But would I have appreciated all these moments before? I don't know. 

I found this poem on another blog awhile ago, and saved it for this specific holiday. There are a lot of versions of this poem and a lot of similar poems out there, but this one gave me a lot of comfort because I feel like it is exactly what Anna would say if she could talk to us.

My First Christmas in Heaven

I see the countless Christmas trees
around the world below
With tiny lights like Heaven's stairs,
reflecting in the snow.

The sight is so spectacular,
please wipe away the tear,
For I am spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs
that people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can't compare
with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you,
the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description,
to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart.
But I am not so far away,
We really aren't apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones,
You know I hold you dear.
And be glad I'm spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift,
from my heavenly home above,
I sent you each a memory
of my undying love.

After all, love is a gift
more precious than pure gold.
It was always most important
in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other,
as my Father said to do.
For I can't count the blessings or love
He has for each of you.

So have a Merry Christmas and
wipe away that tear.
Remember, I am spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I know that Anna is up in heaven smiling because she is pain free, she's experiencing so many awesome things and because she's proud of us for not only being strong but continuing to live out her legacy. 
Anna and I at Christmas Eve dinner last year in our matching pajamas :)

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Thrift Store Pen Pals!

It's been awhile since my blog was lighthearted and funny. Once upon a time, I used to be funny on my blog,  you know, before life got so serious. It's not that life isn't serious anymore and you better believe I will still be blogging about Anna, but for now, I thought we could use a change of pace around here. That is why I knew I had to sign up for Thrift Store Pen Pals. This is the perfect opportunity to do something completely different on my blog!

What is thrift store pen pals you ask? Well, Woody at Woodn't Ya Know It started posting about random, crazy items he would find while thrift store shopping. These posts were always hilarious and intriguing to say the least and it was the kind of post I wished I could write. Luckily, he came up with the brilliant idea of sharing this ingenious idea with us, his blog readers. So, he sends you an item in the mail and you blog about it. Easy enough, right?

So.. lets talk about what I got! After reading the other Thrift Store Pen Pal posts, I was really excited to see what I got. I was surprised when I got a box and not an envelope or something smaller. I looked at the return address and knew that my pen pal item had arrived! I tried to use context clues to guess what it was; I shook the box a little to see what it sounded like. It was a little heavy, but not too heavy. What could it be?
I opened up to find....

That, my friends, is what they call a Doll Baby (or as it says on the box DOLL BABY... although I think the capital letters make it a lot more creepy). Personally, I think I would have named it something a little different like... creepy doll missing her body or creepy doll head, I don't know but Doll Baby just sounds so affectionate and cute... everything this thing is not. Let's take a closer look, shall we? Here is Doll Baby removed from her home box.
Immediately, I looked for some sort of warning on the box... I thought maybe it would say "caution! Do not let your children play with this for they will be seriously creeped out for the rest of eternity," or maybe "Beware! This is not a toy! It is simply meant to f**k with peoples minds." Strangely, Turns out I didn't find any kind of warning. What I did find, though, is some interesting information about the origin of "Doll Baby".
In case you can't read it, this is basically Doll Baby's origins. It says she was created by someone named Martha Nelson Thomas. Remind me to be on the look out for people with that name because, seriously, who comes up with something like this? Anyway, the history basically says that Martha thinks you should "cuddle, love and play with" dolls. Novel concept, Martha! Except wait... who wants to cuddle with a body-less doll!? Not me. Anyway, after reading the history I came to the conclusion that Doll Baby does in fact have a body... you just have to buy it separately and sew it together... I think. Now there are a few problems with this philosophy: First of all, you have to know how to sew. If you don't.. well I guess you don't get a body to go with your doll head. And second of all, how many parents do you think forget to buy the body? They are in a hurry and they grab the Doll Baby box not thinking anything of it and then they get home and have to face the question of "But, mom, why doesn't my doll have a body?" How do you explain that!?
Next, I discovered a check list on one side of the box. It is because of this checklist that I discovered this box contains much more than a creepy doll head Doll Baby! Check it out:
Not only does this box contain the doll baby doll head but also a birth announcement (really, for a head?), but also a certificate of authenticity, a name tag, care instructions, the Doll Baby story, and an instruction book with patterns and shoes (shoes... for a body-less doll?) The main thing that stuck out to me out of all this stuff was the Care instructions. Why? I don't know, but my instincts told me that this would be interesting, and I was right. Read carefully the care instructions for your doll baby:
The last 2 sentences are my favorite... "When you are ready to dress your baby again, you might want to sprinkle a little baby powder on its bottom... that's what makes them smell right!" Wait... I realize that you just washed a cloth doll and maybe that's why it wouldn't "smell right" but really? Baby powder? I hope they are kidding. The final sentence of these care instructions is by far the best: "By the way, Doll Babies are allergic to dog bites and sauerkraut." Hold up... what!!!? I don't even know what to say about this statement. I don't know if this is Martha's attempt at humor or what. Dog bites I guess I can understand... dolls that are neglected can likely be subject to a sad life of being a dog toy. But sauerkraut? First of all, who even eats sauerkraut? I'm guessing no one who plays with baby dolls (or baby doll heads, whatever) eats sauerkraut. Maybe I'm wrong, and Martha knows something I don't. Stranger things have happened...
Oh and just in case you were wondering, this is not the only version of Doll Baby. So, if you decide you want a Doll Baby for yourself (they're available on Ebay, I googled it), there are lots of options for you to chose from. See for yourself: 
Lets just say I appreciate the Doll Baby I got a little more after seeing the other more creepy variations. 
Now the question remains... what should I do with my Doll Baby now that she has been blogged about? I'm thinking I may have to take her to class with me one day and blog about people's reactions. Or, you know, she might make a really great prank to pull in the sorority house... Thoughts!? What would you do with your Doll Baby?!
Once again, I'd like to thank Woody for allowing me to participate in this fantastic blog series. Make sure you check out all the other Thrift Store Pen Pals too! 

*Disclaimer: All pictures were taken on my iPhone, so I apologize for the crappy photo quality. I probably didn't do Doll Baby photography justice... 

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PYHO: Her Legacy Lives On

This weekend was a weekend I’ve been looking forward to since going back to school. At the end of the summer, it was so hard to say goodbye to the people I’d spent my entire summer with, especially knowing we were all going to different places across the country from each other and that it would be months before we’d see each other again. This weekend was the weekend that we would finally all be reunited. And that was only part of the reason why this would be a special weekend. There were so many amazing things happening this weekend it was hard to know what to look forward to the most.

As luck would have it (actually I have no doubt that it had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with this weekend being meant to be), I didn’t have classes Friday so I was able to fly home Thursday night and begin preparing for the weekend ahead.

The first event was Friday night at my high school homecoming game. Last year, Anna was crowned Homecoming Queen for our high school. Tradition serves that last years queen crowns the new queen every year. This year, our high school asked me if I would do the honor of crowning the queen in Anna’s memory. To say I was honored would be an understatement. I had hoped, knowing this tradition, that they would at least honor Anna in some way but I had never anticipated being asked to be involved. Of course, every part of me wished that I was there watching her do it herself, but it meant a lot to me that they asked me to do it in her memory. I know Anna was proud. The girl that won told me she really felt Anna's presence through me, and that meant so much to me that I can help carry on Anna's spirit. 

By Friday night 4 of Anna’s friends were in town and amazing reunions were had. I really didn't realize how much I missed them until I realized how happy I was being back with them. These people are my favorite people, but that is a whole other blog post in itself. The best part was it felt like we had never left each other. It felt so normal and so right to be back at my house hanging out like we did all summer.

Saturday was an early day but for an awesome reason. Children’s Hospital, where Anna was treated, holds a Red Balloon Race every year. One of Anna’s classmates started “Team Float On” in Anna’s honor, so we all went to support the team. It was really amazing to see all the people who came out to honor Anna. 
Our team tent was definitely the best looking one out there!
Me and the friends of Anna's who had arrived so far.

By Saturday night, everyone was finally back together! My cousin Becca came in for the weekend and the rest of Anna’s friends had arrived.

The entire weekend just being together with so many of my favorite people was obviously fantastic, but Sunday was possibly the best day ever. Anna’s favorite band was Manchester Orchestra. On the last good night of her life, after high school graduation, she went to see them in concert, got brought up on stage and serenaded by the lead singer. The look on her face when she got home that night was one of pure joy; she could not stop gushing about how nice they were, how amazing everything was, and how they invited her to Lollapalooza. She even joked that she and Andy were getting married (never mind that he's already married!). She thought the world of the band, and the feeling was mutual. They were so touched by meeting Anna they came out to play a few songs privately for her friends and family after her memorial service this summer. Since then, we have kept in touch with them and established a really great relationship with them.

This weekend, they were playing in Dallas, so of course we got tickets. However, not only did we get tickets to go to the show, but we invited the whole band to our house to hang out for awhile. There are no words to describe how awesome this was. Not only were we partying with rock stars, but the coolest, nicest, most down to earth rock stars you will ever meet in your life. They were genuinely so grateful to us for having them over, and they really made an effort to get to know all of us. One moment that really stuck out to me was when a few of Anna’s friends and I were talking to their drummer, Tim, and he was recalling meeting Anna and how much it changed him. He talked about how she has completely changed all of their lives and the direction their band wants to take. “I have a picture of her up on the fridge,” he told us, “and I look at it everyday and think about her.” Amazing proof of what an impact Anna had on so many people.  As if that wasn’t enough, he also went around and asked each of us to share how we knew Anna. He genuinely wanted to know how each one of us had been a part of Anna’s life. Simply unbelievable and truly amazing is the only way I can think to sum it up.

The group with the band
Except it gets better. After spending the day getting to know this awesome band, we went to see them play that night. I will admit that up until about a week ago, I was only a Manchester Orchestra fan in theory. I knew a few songs, but most of those were the songs Andy played after Anna’s memorial. But thanks to a friend (shout out, Zach), I sought out more of their music and researched what they’d been playing on tour lately. It would have been an amazing concert regardless if I had ever heard any of the songs before, but after listening to the Manchester Orchestra playlist I created every day for the last week or so, I was easily singing along to almost every song. Pretty impressive, I’d say, for someone who used to tell Anna to listen to “good music” when she’d play bands like Manchester Orchestra. I have no doubt that she was so proud of me during that concert. It may seem like a small thing to say she has changed me because I enjoy her type of music now, but it is just one more way in which she has influenced me and everyone else who knew her.

To say the concert was amazing would be an understatement. Hands down the best concert I’ve ever been to is more like it. What is even more amazing, though is that they invited us to come hangout with them backstage after the show. As we were leaving, I had a conversation with two of the band members that I will never forget. "I don't think you know how much you mean to Anna's friends and family," one of her friends told them. I will never forget their response. "If anything," they told us, "It is the other way around. You all mean so much to us and Anna truly changed our lives and we are forever grateful." Simply amazing how much she changed their lives after only meeting them once. 
2 of Anna's best friends, our cousin and I with the most amazing band ever.

It was impossible to go through this weekend and especially Sunday night with the band without thinking about Anna and how she is the reason for all of this. It truly makes me believe in the phrase I once hated; "everything happens for a reason". There was a reason Anna was healthy enough to make it to that concert that night, even though her health declined rapidly after that. There was a reason that she met the band. I've always said her purpose in life was to change lives. It was clearer than ever this weekend to see how she did that. Not only did she change her friends and family, but millions of other people including this amazing band who will continue to change people because of her. There is nothing that can replace her or take away the pain of losing her, but it sure does it make you think twice about being sad about it. I am so thankful that my eyes have been opened to see her purpose and how even almost 6 months after she passed away, her legacy of changing lives carries on.

I'm linking up with Pour Your Heart Out at Things I Can't Say.

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PYHO: Healing

Last week, I was talking to a friend who accused me of "slacking" on my blog. "I know," I told him, while listing my excuses "I'm back at school, and I'm so busy..." "Plus," I told him, "I'm kind of running out of things to say that I haven't already said." (I'm pretty sure this is what they call an epiphany!) His response was "maybe that's a good thing," and he explained that my writing for me is therapeutic; I write when something is bothering me and (obviously) what's "bothering" me lately (to put it lightly) is dealing with Anna's death. Maybe, he suggested, the fact that I have nothing to say means I am healing. Immediately, I felt guilty. How can I move on? How can I be ok with the fact that I no longer have my sister? I felt as if by healing I was a bad sister. A bad person. That I am doing something in this stage of grief.

The more I thought about it, though, I realized I was thinking about this all wrong. That this is, in fact, healthy. I am in no way, nor could I ever, forgetting what I have been through losing my sister. I will never forget the day my mom looked me in the eyes and told me that, yes, she was going to die. I will never forget the day she took her last breath. I will never forget the last time I told her I loved her. I will never forget her.

Healing also doesn't mean the pain isn't there. It doesn't mean that every time something reminds me of her I wish I could pick up the phone and call her. It doesn't mean that the 3 month anniversary of her death last week wasn't one of my saddest days. It doesn't mean that every time someone talks about siblings or their sister, that a part of me doesn't die a little. It doesn't mean that I don't miss her every day. All those things are still true, but they are getting easier. The pain doesn't go away; it just becomes a part of life and is therefore easier to deal with.

I know that is normal. I know that I can't and shouldn't spend the rest of my life being sad and crying. Obviously, life goes on. I also know that Anna would want me to move on, and to be happy. To live my life. She never wanted anyone to be sad, and this is no exception. So I have to let go of the guilt and let myself heal. Because even though I never wanted to live my life without her, now I have to.

I also know that this is still only the beginning; there were still be so many tough times ahead. I know that the grieving process doesn't really end; it will always be a part of my life. That just because I am starting to heal doesn't mean that I am over it. I will never be "over" losing my sister. I think that is why I was feeling guilty; because I felt that by saying I am healing, I must be over it. But I know that I am not all the way healed. I am NOT over it. I am just beginning the healing process, and that is a good thing.

Healing doesn't mean forgetting. It doesn't mean that the pain isn't there anymore. It just means that I am learning to deal with it.

I found this poem on facebook last week, and I think it is pretty perfect. "I wish heaven had a phone so I could hear your voice again. I thought of you today, but that is nothing new, I thought about you yesterday, and days before that too. I think of you in silence, I often speak your name. All I have are memories and a picture in a frame. Your memory is a keepsake, from which I'll never part. God has you in his arms...I have you in my heart."

Missing you, now and always...
 I am linking up at Things I Can't Say with Pour Your Heart Out.

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PYHO: Lack of Understanding

When Anna passed away, I was granted some kind of gift. Whether it was from God, from Anna or from my faith that I have grown up with, I don't know, but I had some kind of understanding.

When I knew that Anna was getting sicker and I knew that it was a very real possibility she wasn't going to make it, I stopped praying for her to get better. It breaks my heart to even say that, but if I am being honest, in the last week or so, I didn't pray for that anymore. Of course I hoped with all my heart that God would choose to perform a miracle and save Anna. I wanted that more than anything. But I knew it was a very real possibility that that wasn't going to happen. So instead I prayed for understanding. That if God's plan for her involved bringing her up to heaven and away from this Earth, to please, please, please help me to understand why. Why her? Why now? Just why?

When she did pass on to heaven, I believe that I was able to see and understand why. And I believe that more than anything, that that is what has gotten me through these last 2 months. That is why I am able to accept that she is no longer here and why I never experienced that grief stage of anger.

But that all changed these last 2 days. Anna's good friend for over 10 years, Micaela, was fighting leukemia since December. When she was diagnosed, Anna was one of the first people she told. She leaned on Anna for advice, for answers to the inevitable questions that only someone else fighting for their life could answer. Anna and Micaela were warriors together and provided much support to each other. They were often in the hospital at the same times, and although in unfortunate circumstances, were able to spend amazing quality time together. Of course, being in the hospital and fighting for their lives did not lend itself to typical teenager bonding; instead of going out to the latest parties or going shopping like most people their age would do, they bonded over which neck pillows were the best when laying in a hospital bed all day; they bonded over trying on wigs together. Anna showed Micaela how to fill in her missing eyebrows and they bonded over the unfortunate thing they had in common; cancer.

Yesterday, Micaela couldn't fight anymore and she went to heaven to be with Anna. To say this came as a surprise would be an understatement. However, not only was I not prepared for her to die, I was also not prepared for how much this would effect me. You would think after losing your sister when she's only 18 that not much else could effect you like that. However, losing Micaela has effected me so heavily.

This is different. This time, I don't understand. This time, I don't feel a sense of peace. This time, I do feel a little bit of anger. And this time I am definitely asking why but not feeling like I'm being answered. In some ways I feel like I am back to square 1... like all the progress I've made dealing with losing Anna is gone and I have to start all over. My heart is breaking all over again.

This time, I have a whole new set of questions; not just why. One of the hardest parts about having someone you love in heaven is the unknown of heaven; there is just so much mystery behind the concept of heaven that you have to base everything on blind faith. This is the first time for me that I have experienced this.

When I shared the news of Micaela passing on facebook and twitter, one of the main responses I kept getting was "Anna is so happy to see her friend again", and to be honest, this confused me to no end. My first reaction was to think "Well, probably not" because in my head, I think of Anna as being sad to see Micaela in heaven. I think of her saying "you're not supposed to be here, you were supposed to get better" because of course that's what Anna wanted for her friend. I think of it as a bittersweet reunion; of course they are happy to be together and pain free, but does that mean that Anna isn't sad that her friend passed away? Am I thinking too "earthly" about this?

Upon further discussions with some close friends and family, some different view points were brought to my attention. "People say there is no sadness in heaven," my mom pointed out. "Do you think Anna knew Micaela was going to die before we did?", someone asked. I have to admit, I hadn't thought of these things prior to these conversations, and they make good points. However, it just left me feeling even more confused.

Perhaps the worst part is that there are no definite answers to be found. There is no way for me to understand exactly how heaven works and what heaven is like until I get there. I have to decide for myself what I believe. So for now, I guess I will deal as best I can with my lack of understanding. I will do my best to accept that I can't understand everything. But I will still wish I could...

My heroes... always and forever. Now two beautiful angels in heaven...
I am linking up with Pour Your Heart Out at Things I Can't Say.

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Dear Anna (Letter 7)

I skipped a couple weeks in writing to you, and I don't know why. I have so much that I want to tell you but lately I've been struggling to find the right words. I hope this gets better soon because writing to you is the best way to deal with missing you. Speaking of missing you, I still miss you so much. In some ways it is easier now that you've been gone 2 months; you kind of get used to the sadness that you feel all the time. But in a lot of ways it just keeps getting harder.

It is mostly getting harder because I have come to realize that as much as we don't want it to, life goes on without you, and as time goes on there are more and more moments that I wish you were a part of. It is hard to think of all the events that I wished you were a part of in the last 2 months and know how many more there will be to come.

Last week, I had a dream that was like I was looking into the future. I saw myself (a lot older) holding a baby that I guess was mine. I remember looking at this baby and thinking I needed a name for her. "Anna would know what I should name her," I thought and then I realized that I couldn't call you and ask for your advice. I can't even try to explain the pain I felt at that moment; I knew this should be a happy moment and I wanted to feel all that happiness but when I realized you weren't a part of it all I could do was cry. I know this was a weird way to explain the obvious; that I will miss you at important moments in my life such as this, but it just reminded me what is inevitable; that no longer how long you've been gone I will always miss you. Just because this dream took place several years into the future didn't mean I missed you any less then than I do now. I know I will never stop missing you.

Last weekend we had to say goodbye to you again. We had a service at Prince of Peace to put your ashes into the resurrection garden. It was the first time I'd been back to Prince of Peace since your memorial and funeral and as soon as I walked into that church, it was like I was reliving that day all over again. It was all too familiar; we parked in the same spot and walked in to the atrium where we were greeted by friends and family, we sat in the front row again... all I could think about the whole time were those days that we said goodbye to you. And now here we were, saying goodbye again. Mommy and Daddy decided that I could carry your ashes, and while it was an honor, it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I was holding the last physical remains of you while Father Jim spoke about life after death and how your memory would live on. Then, I had to place the box of ashes into your resting place. I had to let go of you literally, and it was so hard. I didn't want to have say good bye; not again.

We had all of your friends over last weekend for one last dinner party before everyone leaves for college and it was amazing, Anna. I know I've told you this before but you really knew what you were doing when you picked your best friends; they are truly amazing people. I am so thankful that I have gotten to know them the way I have this summer; I just wish you were here to see how much we have bonded. Mommy gave us all frames that night with one of your journal entries in it.  "One thing that has been on my mind is that I may some miss some moments I would want to be at," you wrote, "Or just I want to be thought of during this time. And I believe if I miss any of these times I will be there, and I'll be smiling and happy." This, I know, has brought us all so much comfort. It is impossible to be with your friends and not think of you. It is impossible to laugh with them, and to enjoy each others company without thinking of you. I can guarantee you that we are all thinking of you during these times, and wishing that you were with us. It is so comforting to know that you believe you are, and now I believe it too.

I can't believe it's been 2 months today, Anna. I think so much about your last days here. How I tried to spend as much time with you as possible. I remember laying in bed the entire day with you watching The Simple Life. We didn't always say much when we were together, but I cherished the time we spent together. I would do anything to spend just one more day with you. I knew our days were numbered, but I thought I had so much more time. I thought we would have time to say good bye, to talk about how much I would miss you. I wish we had that time...

I found this quote today and I couldn't have said it better myself: "You never said I'm leaving, You never said good-bye. You were gone before I knew it, and only God knew why. A million times I've needed you, A million times I've cried. If love alone could've saved you, You never would have died. In life I loved you dearly, In death I love you still. In my heart you hold a place, No one else will ever fill. It broke my heart to lose you, But you didn't go alone. Part of  me went with you, The day God took you home."I will always miss you, Anna, and I always will but you are always in my heart.

P.s. How proud of me are you for this!!? You have inspired so many tattoos in your honor, I know you love that!

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Dear Anna (Letter 6)

Dear Anna,

As of yesterday, you've been in heaven 7 weeks. I don't even know how that's possible. Each Wednesday means it is a week longer that you've been gone and I wonder if I will ever stop saying "how is it possible that you've been gone so long?". I wonder if it will ever feel "real" that you're not here anymore. In the grand scheme of things 7 weeks seems so small, almost insignificant; however, right now it feels like forever.

Yesterday, I tried to remember the last conversation we had. What did I say? What did you say? It took me awhile, but finally I remembered. It was Tuesday, the day before you died. Some JP2 girls had just dropped off cards and graduation presents for you, so I came back to tell you that they had dropped that stuff off. I read you the cards they wrote; and it took everything in me not to start crying when they talked about how strong you were, and how inspiring you were. I didn't want to cry in front of you; I wanted to be strong for you. I remember after I read all the cards, you said to me "Thanks, Iss". So simple, yet it meant so much. I had no idea that would be the last time we would talk...

I've said before that I hope you're proud of me. For being strong without you, mostly. I know I adapted that strength from you so I know you're proud of me for carrying it on.

But now I know you have another reason to be proud of me. For whatever reason after you passed away I felt a strong urge to get to know you better. Maybe its because of my pinging guilt that I feel like I didn't do this when you were still here, maybe you placed that urge in my heart; whatever it is it's something I've felt passionate about lately. So the first logical thing to do was to use music to feel a connection to you. Music was your passion, but sadly was a passion we didn't share. I never attempted to get to know you through the music you loved. I never asked you to explain why these bands and these songs meant so much to you. Usually I was just begging you to turn that "crap" off and play something "good." Well, Anna, I know you are proud because you have converted me. At least somewhat. I'm not all the way there yet; I'm no band aid like you were. But Zach made me a CD of your favorite songs and I cant remember the last time, when given the choice I chose "my music" over yours. I put the play list on my iPod and I listen to it everywhere; at work, in the car (which I know you would tell me your car is very happy it's playing "good" music again. You always told me your car hated it when I played country.) and even on the airplane I listen to your music. The playlist of course includes bands I knew were your favorite like Manchester Orchestra and Modest Mouse, but also bands I've never heard of. Every time I press play, I can't help but think of you and how proud you are!

Part of me wishes I would have done this a long time ago; how hard would it have been to get you to make me a playlist? How hard would it have been to listen to your favorite songs just once? I think way back to riding in your car with you; I remember arguing over who's music we'd listen to you and you'd usually win with the simple argument "it's my car." I have vague memories of you sharing songs you loved with me but what they were I have no clue. I wonder if any of them ended up on this playlist.

It is not hard to figure out why this music was so important to you. A lot of them are like they were written specifically for you. Some of them are obvious, but some I find myself wondering what it is you liked so much about these songs. And I wish so badly that you were here to explain it to me. This will never stop happening; I will never stop wishing that instead of asking your friends "Why did Anna like this so much?" that I could ask you. 

I finished "Heaven is For Real" the other day and for the first time since you passed away I feel 100% certain that that is where you are. That book gave me such a new, amazing understanding of heaven and what your life must be like now. I can only imagine how amazing it must be. For the first time I know for certain that heaven is real and that you aren't suffering anymore. It brings me great comfort to know that you read some of that book. I hope that it brought you a lot of comfort about your impending death. And for the first time I know for sure I'll see you again someday. I just wish there was another, sooner way to see you. 

I miss you more and more all the time, Anna. I still can't believe you're gone. I still can't believe you're never coming back. But, you live on. You live on through all the people that remember you. All the people that you inspired. All the lives that you changed. Through me. To quote Modest Mouse (I know you would be so proud of me for quoting Modest Mouse!) "Your body may be gone, I'm gonna carry you in. In my head, in my heart, in my soul."



I found this picture of us this week and I love it! This was the night I came to your Awards Ceremony and you won Miss JP2; the most prestigious award they gave out that night! You looked beautiful as always and I was so proud of you!

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Dear Anna (Letter 5)

Dear Anna, 

It’s been 6 weeks since you left us and I still can't believe it. I know you’re not coming back, but I will never stop wishing. I will never stop hoping that one day I’ll wake up and realize this was all a dream. In the last 6 weeks, I have learned a lot and felt a lot of things that I have never felt before. I have mostly learned a lot about grief. The thing I learned is that you don’t know when to expect the grief that is inevitable when you lose someone you love so much.  Even though you feel it on some level all the time, you don’t feel it fully all the time. You feel it fully when you least expect it. I always miss you, but I never know what will make me miss you even more.

So far these are some of the things that have snuck up on me, making me wish so badly you weren’t gone.

When I’m on the airplane and it gets bumpy, I miss you grabbing onto my arm and looking at me with your big, beautiful blue eyes in fear. I always told you it was fine and I didn’t know why you were freaking out, but secretly I loved it. You were so independent and strong; it wasn’t often that you had to lean on me. In those few rare moments that you grabbed onto me out of fear, I got to feel like the protective older sister, like I could save you from your fear and that feels pretty awesome.

It was the same thing when it would storm outside. You would often crawl into my bed in the middle of the night because it was storming really badly outside and you were scared. Once again, I got to comfort you and be there for you. I would never admit it, but those loud thunders often made my heart race really fast too and so not only was I comforting you when you crawled in bed with me, but you comforted me too. It makes me feel pretty amazing that your safe haven was in bed with me, Anna. That speaks a lot about our relationship.

Last week, as I was packing to go to our annual beach trip, I missed you so much. Who would’ve thought an uneventful act such as packing would make me miss you so much? But you were my packing buddy! When we went on vacation together, Mommy would make us our packing list and we would hang it up in the hall between our rooms and we would pack together. Remember how sometimes I would just make piles of my stuff and you would organize it and put it all in my suitcase for me? I no longer have my packing buddy, and packing without you was so lonely.

When Mommy, Daddy and I were in Illinois and at the beach last week I spent a lot of time with our cousins. I loved spending time with them and having fun days out but I couldn’t stop thinking about how you should be there with us. I thought about all the funny jokes you would be telling and how we would all be laughing at you. When we played cards at the beach, I thought of all the times you begged to play cash. “I hate that game,” I would tell you. And I do. But only because you always win! I would gladly play cash with you all day everyday if you would come back…

Today I left to go to Missouri for the weekend to spend some time with my friends. As I left, I thought of all the times I’ve done this before; traveled from Dallas to Missouri. I thought of all the times that I was leaving to go back to school after being home and how I would come in your room and whisper good bye to you. “I’ll miss you,” I would say and I would always cry. It broke my heart to leave you every time. Even after 3 years of college, it never got easier to leave you. “I love you, Iss,” you would tell me and we would hug. “Call me soon,” you’d say. I promised I would, but how often did I actually call? I would just send you a text and let you know I landed and that I miss you, but then we’d go weeks or even months without talking. That’s my biggest regret, Anna. Sometimes when I left you’d even give me advice about whatever we’d talked about while I was home. Boys, or my friends or whatever it was, you’d tell me what to do and I loved your advice. I wish so badly you were here to talk to me about this trip; there are so many things I want to tell you and want to hear your advice on.

I started reading “Heaven is For Real” today. I need to know that heaven really is for real. I need to know that is where you are and that you are doing great. I know you are because you’re not in pain anymore and that is the one thing I keep reminding myself when I miss you. I think of how sick you were and how it broke my heart to see you like that and how happy you must be to finally be free of pain and healthy again.

Yesterday, I was trying to delete some videos off my phone because I’m running out of room and I came across this video of you and Katherine in the kitchen being your usual silly selves. You guys were playing music and dancing and laughing at each other and I remember watching you and just laughing and laughing. I sent the video to Katherine a few weeks ago and she said it made her miss you a lot. I understand now that I watched it. You had the biggest smile on your face. You looked so happy.  And I heard your voice. And my heart stopped a little. I haven’t heard your voice in so long, and I miss it. I miss talking to you.

I miss everything about you, Anna and even though I am being strong it still hurts to know you’re gone forever. Never again will I have the kind of relationship that I had with you. There is nothing like the bond of sisters; nothing like growing up together and having literally a lifetime of memories. I told you things I didn’t tell anyone else. You were the first person I wanted to talk to when something exciting in my life happened. What do I now without you? I will always miss you, Anna, and sometimes when I least expect it. But no matter what, I am better because of you. I will continue to make you proud of me and I will continue to float on without you… even if it is hard.

I love the raw emotion here. I miss that laugh so much....

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Dear Anna (letter 4)

Dear Anna,

I wrote to you on facebook last week and I told you that this week would be the one I would miss you the most. I am sad to say that is true. I know you here with us at the beach, but it is so hard to not have you here physically. This place is full of memories with you, memories of us spending time together and spending time with our family. It breaks my heart to think we won't have any more of those memories.

From the minute that we got here to the beach house, I found myself turning around looking for my beach week companion. Looking for the person who was my refuge when I needed a break from the family. Looking for the person who was my other half this week. We didn't always spend a lot of time together when I was home for the summer because we were busy living our own lives, but this for one week every summer we had no choice; we were stuck together at the beach. I have so many great memories from this week; playing cards, laughing at Mommy, and just being together. Even though we may have spent half the week fighting, we always got over it and went back to being friends. And that right there sums up our relationship; we didn't get along all the time. We didn't always see eye to eye. It wasn't all "I love you" all the time. But we both knew how much we meant to each other and no matter what, we remained friends. Even though I regret wasting the time I had with you fighting, I would gladly argue with you if it meant I could have you back here.

Today, I talked to someone about how I felt guilty for not being sad all the time. I miss you so much but for some reason I'm just not sad as much as I feel like I should be. In fact, sometimes I find myself picking other people up when they aren't feeling strong, when they miss you like crazy. I find myself being the one to comfort them and I know that is you working through me. That is exactly how you were; always putting other peoples feelings ahead of yours. That is why you never told your friends that you were dieing. You didn't want them to be sad. That is pretty amazing, Anna. Still, sometimes I feel guilty and confused by the fact that I am not the one falling apart. I have my moments like everyone else, of course, but for the most part I am ok. And that confuses me. Why am I ok? Why can I function without you when I never imagined I would be able to? I don't know. I know that I loved you and I know that you knew that, so why does it matter? I don't know. Anyway, my friend I talked to about this told me that it's because you have a special place in my heart and that brings me comfort instead of grief. I think he said it perfectly; you will always be in my heart and on my mind and I think you gave me the ability to be strong without you. Thank you for that, Anna.

Tonight was family picture night at the beach and it was one of the hardest things that we've had to do without you. It was heartbreaking to turn around and realize you weren't there. It was heartbreaking to have to take our individual family picture as a family of 3 and not 4. It was heartbreaking that there are now 7 grandchildren in the picture, not 8. It was heartbreaking that you weren't here for us to take our sisters pictures together. Remember 2 years ago at the beach Mommy took so many of us and we were laughing at her the whole time?! I miss that. I miss you, Anna.

I still can't believe you're gone and that you've been gone for 4 weeks. I can't believe it's been almost a month. I can't believe that I have to live the rest of my life without you.

Sometimes, I think about what life would be like if you were still here and every time, I don't wish for you to still to be and be sick; I wish that you would've never gotten sick. I know that if you were still alive right now, you'd be miserable. Your health was so bad at the end, that there's probably no way you would've even made it to the beach. It was so hard to see you suffer, and it gives me so much comfort knowing that you are no longer in pain. But it doesn't stop me from missing you. And it doesn't stop me from wishing that you'd never gotten sick because then not only would you be here with us, but you'd be healthy and able to live your life to the fullest.

I know why God chose you, and I am proud that he chose you because of the impact you had. Because you could handle it with the amazing grace that you did. Because you are just the kind of Angel that heaven needed. I understand why he chose you; that he had a plan for you but I still miss you.

I wish we could have one last conversation. One last hug. One last "I love you". Share one last laugh. One more day just to be together. But we can't. So, I'll do what I know you would want me to do; be strong. Keep floating on.  Just for you Anna...

I love you, and I miss you.



At the time I hated this picture, because I have like 3 chins, but now it is such a special memory and a great representation of our bond as sisters. <3 I miss that laugh...

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3 Weeks (PYHO)

Dear Anna,

I'm really enjoying writing these letters to you. It is really helping me deal with my feelings about you being in heaven and not here with me. I hope you're not rolling your eyes thinking I'm lame or too cheesy but even if you are, at least you're getting my letters! On my last letter to you, someone told me I probably don't even have to ask God to pass on my messages to you; that I probably have a direct line to you and I think she's right. I think I can communicate straight to you, and I'm glad.

I can't believe you've been gone 3 weeks now. The day that you went to heaven is permanently embedded in my mind; in some ways, it feels like just yesterday. In some ways, I wish I didn't have that memory of you when you stopped breathing. No matter how hard I try not to think about it, I can't erase that from my mind and in some ways I am afraid that that memory will take the place of the good ones. In some ways, I am scared that I won't remember the good times because towards the end they were so few and far between. In some ways, it is hard to remember a time when you were healthy and you were truly yourself.

Lately, I keep doing things that I feel like I should be doing with you. Last week, your friends and I watched Almost Famous, your favorite movie. I definitely saw why it was your favorite movie; you are Penny Lane! I remember when Mommy told you that after you met Manchester Orchestra and they invited you to Lollapalooza and Daddy said "no!!! She's not ready for that yet!" ha! After seeing the movie, I see why that scared him so much! But I definitely see that in you; you were a total "Band Aid". It made me so happy to see your favorite movie and to understand why you loved it so much (even though I still don't understand why "It's All Happening" is your favorite quote??), but at the same time it made me so sad that I didn't ever get to experience that with you. I keep telling myself that we were different people; we liked different things and that's ok. I know it didn't make us any less close just because we didn't share the same taste in music. But I wish I would've made more of an effort to at least let you tell me about the bands you were listening to or to have watched Almost Famous with you. I feel like I would've known you better if we had shared that and maybe we would even bond over it. I'm making an effort now, even though I can't do it with you, to learn about the stuff that you loved. I made a Manchester Orchestra Pandora station and I am learning about the music you love! I guess it's my way of carrying you with me.

You taught me so many important lessons, Anna. And not just me, but everyone around you has learned from you. At the JP2 memorial, everyone spoke about how little their problems mattered in comparison to what you went through and it is so true. You showed us that the little things are not big things and that even when you're faced with big things you can triumph and not let it get you down.

I'll always remember a time last year when we were at the Beach. We were getting ready together for family pictures and I was complaining the whole time; "I look fat in this outfit. My make up looks crappy. My hair isn't cooperating." "Why do you care so much," you asked me. "I'm just really insecure," I told you, "I know you wouldn't understand what that's like." I didn't mean it, but I was always so jealous of how skinny and pretty and seemingly perfect you were. I couldn't imagine that you'd ever felt insecure. You shot back, "Yeah, I have no idea what it's like to be insecure." I realized what I had just said and how wrong I was. This was the first time you'd seen people since you started treatment. I looked at you and saw your wig that was covering a completely bald head. Your fake eyelashes that hid the fact that yours had fallen out. Your acrylic nails that covered up yours which were completely dead from chemo. Your eyebrows that were penciled in where yours used to be. These were all physical testaments to the fight for your life, but they were also all things to be insecure about. That day, I realized I may be insecure about my weight and my looks. I may not feel pretty all the time but at least I have hair. At least I am not fighting like hell just to stay alive.

I know I've said it before but I'm not angry that you're gone. In a way I feel blessed. God knew his plans for you. He knew he was gonna take you to heaven and make you an angel. He knew you would be sick and need a lot of love and care and he chose us. He chose me and mommy and daddy to be your family and be by your side through this journey. He chose all your friends because he knew they would make you forget your pain and they would feel it with you too. It is pretty amazing to think that God gave you to us knowing your ultimate fate. For that I will be eternally grateful because I would not be who I am today if you weren't my sister.

Yesterday, I was asked if I have kids someday how I will tell them about you. What will I say that will help them feel like they know the Aunt they'll never get to meet? I thought a lot about it and you know what I'll tell them, Anna? I'll tell them that you are my hero. That you're the strongest person I've ever met. That you are the most beautiful person I've even known both inside and out. That you inspired millions of people and millions of prayers were said for you. That even though it is sad that you can't be with us here on Earth, that you are so special that God needed you more. That I miss you everyday and my heart will always hurt, but I am stronger because of you. That you are in heaven watching over them. That they have the best possible Aunt ever because they have an automatic guardian angel.

I love you so much, Anna and I will never ever forget you. Thank you for being my sister, my hero, my guardian angel. I hope you are having one hell of a time in heaven!

I am linking up today with Pour Your Heart Out at Shell's place.

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Dear Anna (2nd edition)

Dear Anna,

I know God is passing on my messages to you, and I'm glad because I have so much to say to you that I need you to hear.

First of all, this one is obvious but I miss you so much it hurts. Lately, everyone's lives have started going back to "normal"; Daddy and I went back to work, and most of your friends did too. We aren't planning your funeral or making decisions about that stuff anymore. Instead, we are trying to move on with our lives and go back to the way things were before you went to heaven.

I didn't think that this would be hard. I don't know why, but it never occurred to me how hard this would be. Although it is nice to stay busy and do something during the day, it kind of reminds me of how much I miss you. It's hard to explain, but I guess doing things "normally" makes it more clear how not normal things are now. We can go on with our lives the way they were before, but we can't ignore the fact that our lives aren't and never will be the way they were before. Life can't be "normal" or the way it was when you were still with us because you're not with us anymore. Not physically, anyway. It doesn't feel right for our lives to keep going when yours here on Earth came to an end. It just feels like we are pretending to be normal when we know we can never be normal again.

Today, when I was driving home from work, I thought about you and for a minute, I thought that I would see you. I haven't been to work since you went to heaven, so it has always been a normal part of coming home to see you. I was looking forward to seeing you and asking you how your day was when all the sudden I remembered. I remembered I wouldn't see you when I got home. Not today, not ever. And it felt like I lost you all over again, Anna.

I want so badly to talk to you, to see your beautiful smiling face again. To hear your laugh after you "nailed a funny joke".

I know you would tell me I'm crazy, but I have so many regrets about your life. I hate that I was away for so much of the last year of your life and that we would sometimes go months without talking. If I could have those days back, I would call you 200 times in a row if that's how many times it took you to answer the phone! I would demand more skype dates. I would do whatever I could to stay updated with your life. I feel like I really missed out on a lot by not keeping in touch better and it kills me. I'm learning so much about you from the memories your friends share (by the way so are Mommy and Daddy. They're learning things about you you probably never wanted them to know!). I love hearing their stories about you, but at the same time it makes me sad that I missed out on that stuff. That I'm just hearing these stories from them, and that I didn't hear them from you when it happened. If only I would have picked up the phone or sent a text and said "what did you do last night?" maybe I would've known some of these things sooner.

I know I can't live life in regret and I know you wouldn't want me worrying about stupid things like this, so I'm trying to let it go.

Before I go, I just wanted to tell you that you picked great friends. You definitely knew what you were doing when you chose your best friends because you left me with some great sisters and brothers. It is amazing how close we have become, Anna, and it is all because of you. We all miss you, but we are helping each other heal the hurt that you leaving us has put in our hearts.

I love you, Sissy, and I will always miss you but I am so happy to know you are in a better place. I am so happy you're not suffering anymore and I can only imagine all the cool people you are meeting up in heaven! I'll see you again someday.


I miss this...

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The First of Many

When we knew that Anna's life was coming to an end, there were several conversations between family members and I about what life would be like without her and how we would go on. One conversation in particular stuck out to me because it was something that had not crossed my mind before.

While eating lunch with my uncle, we were discussing Anna's impending death and how unfair it seems.
"Nothing will ever be the same," he pointed out. He went on to talk about our annual family reunion, her birthday, and every holiday after she passes away and how they would never be the same.

Today, on the first holiday we have experienced since Anna passed away, I realize how true those words are. Nothing will ever be the same. And today? It wasn't the same. My heart broke for my dad as he experienced his first father's day without one of the people who made him a father. As we ate dinner as our new family of 3, it was clear things were not the same. There was something missing. Someone, to be exact. My mom picked out gifts for him she thought Anna would pick out. But she wasn't here to deliver them. She wasn't here to wish my dad a Happy Father's Day, or to give him a hug.

As I reflected on this bittersweet holiday, I came to the realization that this is the way things will be from now on. Not just holidays, but every happy moment from now on. We will still enjoy the holidays and the happy moments in life, of course but a part of us will be hurting. Our hearts will ache from the pain that losing Anna has caused. We will wish that she was here, but we will also take comfort in the fact that she is here in spirit and that she is in a better place. Nothing will ever be the same, how could it be? But this life without Anna, this new normal is in place of how things were before and we have to make that the best it can be. We have to take things one step at a time, and today we accomplished one step; we made it through the first holiday. Sure, there will be many more to come but we can at least take comfort in the fact that we know now we can do it.

The two luckiest girls in the world to have such a great dad..

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One Week

One week ago today, my sister went to be with God in heaven. One week. Normally such a small, insignificant amount of time but in this case it feels like forever.

This past week has been filled with emotions I hoped to never have to experience; anger, regret, sadness, disbelief and so much more. This past week has been filled with events I hoped to never have to attend; a memorial at mine and Anna's alma mater, her visitation and funeral. This past week has been one of the worst of my life, and yet I know I have only just begun the grief process.

Monday night at her visitation, several people got up and spoke about her life. One of which being my Uncle Dan. He started out his speech with "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" and went on to explain that this is how he felt in regards to Anna's death. In a word, angry. To say he is alone in these feelings would be ridiculous, however, I am not one who shares these feelings. I completely understand why other people would feel angry and perhaps as I continue this grieving process, I will be later on. But for now? How could I be angry? And whom should I be angry with? God? What good does that do me? What good does being angry at all do me?

Am I upset that we lost Anna? More than I can say. Do I miss her? Every minute of every day. But am I angry? No.

I have known for awhile that Anna's life was coming to an end. Especially in the last week or so of her life; things were declining fast, and I knew it wouldn't be much longer. So, instead of praying for God to heal her (although I still desperately hoped he would) I prayed for understanding. If God was going to take her from us, there had to be a reason. A damn good one, I'm sure. So, I prayed for him to grant me the understanding of what exactly that plan was. To show me why he needed her more than we do here on Earth. And I believe that after her death, he truly opened my eyes and showed me what he needed her for.

Her purpose here on Earth was to touch peoples lives and to inspire people to be better. I have seen first hand in the past week how many lives she touched and inspired. People she's never met and who have never met her are inspired by her. They just hear her story and are inspired. First, it was the memorial at our high school. People got up and spoke about their memories with Anna and how they were better for knowing her. Even people who didn't know her spoke about how they wish they would've gotten the chance and they felt so disadvantaged for not knowing her. And even though they didn't know her, they too were inspired by her. The outpouring of people that showed up for the memorial and the funeral Monday and Tuesday made it clear how many lives she touched. People from all over loved her.

Did she have to die for that? Couldn't she have continued to touch lives from here on Earth? I don't know. I have no doubt that she would continue to touch lives, but all of us here on Earth are better off for knowing her. Now it's time for her to touch some people up and heaven and live out whatever other big plans God has for her because I'm sure he has some.

So although my heart is broken and I wish she didn't have to die, I am not angry. I'm sad. I miss her. I wish she could come back, but be healthy. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday I saw her beautiful face, that we were laughing together and gossiping about boys. In other ways one day without her feels like forever, so a week feels like a lifetime. I will miss her forever. I have a lot more grieving to do, I am sure but I have no doubt that Anna has given her strength to me and that is what's helping me get through this.

This video was made in honor of Anna, by her great friend. It was played at the memorial and it is a great representation of what a wonderful life she lived. She will be missed by all, but will continue to touch lives, no doubt about it.

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Dear Anna

Dear Anna,

Today* we celebrated your life during a beautiful memorial service. All your friends and family and people you didn't even know gathered together to honor you.

Today was a day I've been dreading since you went to heaven; I know I already said goodbye to you, but this would be so final, so real. I was scared about whether or not I could handle it. I thought about how strong you always were, and how strong you would want me to be, and I hoped I could do it for you.

Today, I know you were with me, Anna, because you gave me your strength. Although it was a tough, emotional day, I was able to hold it together and be strong. I've been thinking a lot about what I learned from you, and what traits you "passed on" to me. You were always more concerned with others than yourself; that was said over and over today and it is so true. You never told your friends you were dying because you didn't want them to be sad. You didn't want me, and Mommy and Daddy to be sad either. You would do whatever you could to make everyone else happy. I think you passed that trait on to me, because this past week  I have been thinking a lot about everyone elses feelings. When your friends are around and they are sad, I just want to take that pain away from them. I don't even think about my own pain because I am concerned with how they are doing. I am sure that is you transferring that responsibility onto me and I am so glad. You would be so proud to see how much your friends and I have bonded. We are really getting through this together, and even though no one could or ever will replace me, they are like my sisters now.

Today, everyone celebrated you. It was just the way you would want it. It wasn't too sad, or cheesy. Everyone wore purple or bright colors instead of black; you said black was too sad and depressing. You never wanted anyone to be depressed. Everyone talked about what a special person you are and how you impacted so many lives. You should be so proud of yourself. I'm sure you are a big deal up in heaven because prayers have been flooding for you the past year and a half. You are always on my mind, Anna, but today, sitting in Prince of Peace during mass brought so many memories back. Remember how we used to be so bored in church we'd play that chopsticks game you made up? Or when we would laugh at Mommy for crying at the sad songs? Remember when we would bring the church booklets home and "play" church? Sometimes we'd even baptize our baby dolls! Those are special memories that I will never forget, Anna.

Today, you would be so proud of some of your best friends. Katherine, Maggie, Lexi, Tara and Allie all got up and spoke about you and how much you meant to them. I know you gave them the strength to do that, because that is not easy. You would be so touched by all the nice things they said about you. There is no doubt that you changed their lives forever.

Today, your favorite band Manchester Orchestra was here to help us celebrate your life. I have no doubt that you played a huge role in making this happen. When I talked to the Tour Manager tonight, he pointed out how the timing of everything worked out perfectly; they happened to be in town the night of your high school graduation so you could go up on stage and get serenaded by Andy, and how they happened to have just ended their tour so they could be here tonight. Those kind of things don't just happen, Anna. They came to the service at church and got to hear how many lives you touched and hear how touched you were by meeting them. Clearly, the feeling was mutual; they adore you, Anna. They talk so highly of you and how it was such a great honor to meet you. They even came to Aunt Cathy and Uncle Dan's to put on a private show for your friends and family. It was pretty amazing, but you already know how awesome they are!

I can't believe it's been almost a week since you've been gone. I know tomorrow is gonna be another tough day, but I have no doubt you will be there passing on your strength that you are so infamous for to me. I don't know why you chose me to give your strength to; maybe it's because you knew I would need it the most because you're my only sister. Maybe it's so I could carry out your legacy and help others be strong. You taught us all how to be strong, Anna, and I am sure glad you did. It is so hard to be without you, and I'd do anything to get you back but I know you're in a better place now. I can't wait to meet again someday. Until then, we'll all float on!

Love you more than you know.


P.s. I know you already got your own private serenade of this song, but Andy sang it to us tonight and it was pretty spectacular, so I thought you should see.

*This post was originally scheduled for last night, so change today to yesterday, etc. 

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The Post I Never Wanted to Write

June 8 started off like any other day; I got up, got dressed and ready for work. Before I left, I had a conversation with my mom that weighed heavily on my heart. She told me that gone were the days when we could have an actual conversation with Anna; she had been sedated by the doctor yesterday and even though she could probably hear us, she wouldn't be able to respond. She said she thought that every morning before I go to work and every night I should just lay with her so she could feel my presence. So we could spend time together, even if she wasn't awake. That morning, I had a meeting to get to and I was running late so I didn't even say goodbye to her.

Later that day, I got a call from my dad at work saying that I should come home as soon as I can, Anna wasn't doing well. She was having trouble breathing. I didn't understand from the phone call how serious things were until my Uncle Dan came down to the front desk, got the receptionist who I was covering for to come back and told me we needed to get to my house. Only then, did I begin to understand that it was serious to say the least.

When I got home, it was clear things weren't good before I even stepped foot in the room where Anna was. People were in the living room and everyone was crying. I set my stuff down as my other uncle gave me the lay of the land; she wasn't breathing well, and she may not have much longer so I should go back there and be with her. So I went back there. My mom was laying on the bed next to Anna, my dad sitting next to her. They were both crying. My mom's friend was reading the latest Caring Bridge update to Anna. I sat down on the bed next to her feet and watched as she struggled to breathe. She didn't look scared, she didn't look in pain, but it was clear she wasn't doing well.

I wanted to run away. In fact, I did for a minute, to the game room to send a text to my friend (before you judge, please know this is how I cope. I needed my closest friends to know what was going on, to support me). I felt like I was going to throw up. I hugged one of my Aunts who was there and told the people who came in to check on me "I just needed a minute". I said I needed a minute, but what I meant was I needed this to stop. I needed someone to say "April Fools. Anna's fine after all. Don't worry, this was just a scare". Instead, I was told to "be strong", that Anna needed me. My dad came out and told me it was ok to be scared and sad, but that Anna would want me to be there with her. So I went back.

I laid down on the bed next to her and held her limp hand. "I love you, Anna," I whispered to her. "I love you so much." There were so many other words. Just a little bit ago, I had been texting one of her best friends discussing how no matter what happens to Anna we would always be sisters, Anna's friends and I. I wanted to tell her that; tell her that her best friends and I would take care of each other. How they would be like sisters to me, so she didn't have to worry about me. How I would miss her every second of every day of the rest of my life, but I would be okay. My dad had told me that Anna was worried about leaving us, she wanted to make sure my parents and I would be okay, so I wanted to tell her that I would be, even if I wasn't sure if that were true. But as I laid there and watched her struggling to take her last breaths, all I could do was cry. I couldn't speak except to say "I love you".

It wasn't much longer after I got there when she stopped breathing. My mom let out a cry that someone described as a sound that only a mother who has lost their child makes. "I'm not ready to let her go," she cried. I squeezed her hand, wishing I could take away all this immense pain we were all feeling. "She's with God now," my Dad told us. We said a prayer together, hugged each other and cried a lot.

When it happened, my first feeling was relief. Relief that this horribly scary thing was over. Relief that she was no longer in pain. Relief that she didn't suffer. Relief that I was there and got to say the things I wanted to say.

These last couple of days have been a whirlwind of emotion filled with tough decisions about funeral arrangements and casket options. Something parents should never have to think about for their child. Anna's friends have been over here all the time, and personally I am so grateful. They are the piece of Anna I have left and they mean the world to me. Together, we share our memories of her and help her live on through the bonds we have created which have only grown stronger these last 2 days. When something happens, we say "What would Anna say to this?", someone nails it and we all smile, remembering her.

I can't believe she's only been gone for 2 days. It feels like a lifetime. And I know it will last that long. As a sister, I can't help but think of all the events in my life I will have to partake in without my sister. She won't be there to see me graduate next year. She won't be able to decorate my first apartment like we planned. She won't be the Maid of Honor in my wedding. She won't get to meet my children. And of course, she won't get to have any of these moments either, which breaks my heart even more. She missed out on so much of life, but yet she truly made the most of her short 18 years on this earth.

I wish so badly heaven had an elevator or Skype. I just want to see her face again. I miss her face so much it hurts. I miss that beautiful smile of hers. I miss her sarcastic, witty sense of humor. I miss her laugh. I even miss the way she rolled her eyes at me or the way she would get frustrated with me. It is hard to imagine ever feeling okay again when she won't ever be back, but I know one day I'll be able to come to peace with it.

There is so much more to say, to feel and to process. But that will take time. The rest of my life perhaps. I may never be the same, but I will do my best to live with my new normal. One of Anna's favorite songs was "Float On" by Modest Mouse, and there is a picture going around Facebook with some lyrics to this song in remembrance of Anna. It is my phone background, and every time I get sad I read those words; "Alright, don't worry, even if things get a bit too heavy, we'll all float on." I know that Anna would want me to keep floating on and to not be sad. So, that's what I am trying to do. I may not always be able to, and I know being sad is a part of the process so I will allow myself to feel that too.

Anna was truly the best sister I could ask for, and she was my best friend. I will miss her for the rest of my life, but I know that is exactly how long her love will last.

In loving memory of Anna Lee Basso 5/10/93-6/8/11

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