We miss Ana the most during the times when she would normally be here—mornings right before school, evenings during or after dinner, spontaneous shopping trips, Sundays after she’d been at a sleepover…I could easily list a hundred things, a thousand…
Emily feels this loss in her own unique way. She and Ana had their own relationship, separate from me and Jim. This is how Ana was with all things—she made them her own. She compartmentalized. She liked to line things up in a way that made sense to her and so it was natural for Ana to do things specifically with and for Emily.
Emily is a nurturer and always intuitively followed Ana’s lead. She was her dedicated play mate when they were little and her companion as they got older. The girls were particularly close during the precious vacations we took over the last few years—vacations made possible by all of you. Emily is incredibly focused. It’s why she was so good at karate, and is an exceptional artist and singer. She absorbs things, a little sponge. She absorbed Ana.
As I watch her grieving now, I can see her taking on some of the qualities that I previously associated with Ana alone. She took Ana’s record player into her room. Ana said Emily could have it and I honestly didn’t think Emily would be interested. She went through all of Ana’s records and has been playing them nonstop, particularly Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin. This astounds me. Emily is a kid who loves to listen to Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Stevie Wonder. When she puts on a Led Zeppelin album, it takes my breath away a little. It feels like Ana’s still here.
She’s been carefully selecting some of Ana’s clothes. All of them fit her since she’s nearly the exact same size as Ana was before she started losing weight again in December. It has become a ritual for Emily to look through Ana’s clothes, select an item or an outfit, and lay it out on her floor to wear the next day. This is something Ana did every single day even if she wasn’t sure she’d be going to school. Emily wants to keep most of Ana’s clothes in her closet. It’s like she’s borrowing them. It also gives her a reason to go into her sister’s room and be in a place that is filled with Ana’s presence.
They used to text and call each other at night. We could hear them from downstairs, each of them in their own rooms, laughing and talking. We could hear Emily running back and forth from her room to Ana’s. But now, except for the record player, there’s only silence. I shouldn’t be surprised that Emily’s grief weighs so heavily on my mind, that her happiness is my foremost concern, because that’s how it’s always been for me. I want their happiness more than I want my own.
But even though I’m worried about her, I can see that Emily is processing this loss in her nurturing, empathic way that is profoundly comforting to me. She has a group of four close friends that all love and adore her, and cousins who share her love and connection with Ana. She has her own medical issues that have made her resilient and insightful. I believe these strong foundations have prepared her for the loss of Ana in a way that is almost prescient.
It’s like the glasses of water in the movie Signs, a movie about alien invasion, but also about loss. One of the characters, a little girl, insisted on drinking fresh, clean water. Water sitting out for more than a half hour or so wasn’t clean anymore, so she would get a new glass the next time she was thirsty. As a result, there were glasses of water all over her house. When the aliens came, the only thing that stopped them was water.
Emily’s cousins, school, friends, karate training, focus, empathy, and humor prepared her to withstand the crushing, often frightening, grief she’s enduring right now. I am so grateful for all of these things. She was the first one of us to laugh out loud again.