Shannon would be 21 years old today. She only saw 13. As I get older, 13 seems younger. As I see Erin at 18, I can't help but think about how much older and wiser she now is than Shannon ever got to be. At the time she got sick, Shannon seemed grown up and mature and able to guide us on her cancer journey. She taught us a lot about spirit and grace in her 13 years. But I know now that she only seemed old, because she was my oldest. She was still just a kid.
2019 is a year of milestones: Erin turned 18, I turned 50, Shannon would be 21 and Dan and I are will soon celebrate 25 years of marriage. We have made many memories in the past 8 years that don't include Shannon. Things we have done and seen and experienced in our after... Someday, those memories will outnumber the thirteen years we had with her. You have to keep on living, but I still long to hold tight to the memories of our before and not allow them to fade as time goes on.
I feel for Erin on this journey. What 18 year old wants to go back and remember when they were 10? And yet, year after year, we look back at the photos and talk about the journey. Erin's happy childhood memories will always be mixed up with the emotions of finding out your sister is sick, and taking a back seat while we navigated what Shannon wanted and needed.
As a mother, all you want to do is protect your kids and celebrate them as they grow. I lost one and the other got cheated out of some of her childhood. But, I know I did the best I could at the time. I am so grateful for the relationship I have with Erin. She has navigated her journey from childhood to adulthood with grace and spirit, too. She was just 10 when all hell broke loose. She will deal with those consequences forever. I couldn't protect her from that, and I can't help her decide how it becomes a part of her. But Erin is open and honest with me and Dan and we talk about Shannon when we want to or need to. There's no right way, so we're making it up as we go along...
And so, life goes on. More memories to make, while keeping tight hold on the memories we have. It's important to remember not just that Shannon died, but that she lived. All too brief, but she was here. She is a part of us, a part of our shared memory for me, Dan and Erin. Happy birthday, Shanner...
"Grief I've learned is just love. It's all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go." ~Anonymous
Posted by Jen O'Hara