My Promise to My Sister

Anna and I grew very close in the last few years. I would say we were always close but that’s a lie. We have always been sisters and had each other’s backs, but we fought a lot during our high school years.

I remember one particular fight during my sophmore year of college and Anna’s freshman year. It was about JC. He and Anna had just started dating and I had a chip on my shoulder about him (background on that: he had given Anna flowers while she was, for all my knowledge, dating her boyfriend at that time. I did not like this move one bit. I later learned [like years later] that Anna and her boyfriend at the time were on a break). So Anna and JC were hanging out in the dining room at my parent’s house. Anna asked me about her and JC and I said (mostly joking, but really not) that JC was not on my A list. He wasn’t on my B or C list either. Anna went OFF (she was obviously madly in love). She let me know very plainly that she did NOT care what I thought of JC and that I better get on board because he was here to stay.

Fast forward two years: Anna and JC come out to visit us in Chicago. It was cold and gross and we still had a good time. If I had to pinpoint the point where Anna and I started getting close again, this would be it. Like all siblings, we needed our own space to become our own people but we were both finally at a place where we wanted to be friends again.

Fast forward three more years: Anna spent a lot of time with me, Matt, and the boys this last year. JC was working overnights and we lived close by. Anna and I had a lot of special conversations. There is one I remember very clearly today (and every day since her death). Anna told me that I needed to take care of JC if she died. Anna did not want JC to be left alone and she wanted to make sure someone she trusted had an eye on him. I told her of course I would take care of him. Then I made some light-hearted commented to move the situation on. It wasn’t that I didn’t take her seriously. As I said, we had many serious conversations and I knew how worried, anxious, and scared Anna was the last few months of her life. I just didn’t want her to fixate on her death. She knew that I would take care of JC.

And I take that promise seriously.

The only problem is, I am not Anna. There is no one in the world who can take care of JC like Anna. They really completed each other. I feel so inadequate. And especially today. Today is JC’s birthday. He is 23. Anna would make this day so special for him. There would be little notes every where and a dinner planned. Possibly drink with some friends. It would be perfect. And JC has a plan for today. He says it is what he wants to do, but I feel like I am failing Anna today. I am not her and I cannot give JC the kind of birthday Anna could.

I miss you every day Anna. How could I not? But today especially, I wish you were here. I love you always.

Anna

My sister, Anna, passed away on 6/12 due to CF related causes. I don’t know how to articulate how I feel. I don’t know how to summarize the feeling. It’s like someone took a piece of my heart. It’s just missing. She is just missing. For the rest of my life, Anna will always be missing.

There is so much history between us (23 years). There is so much we shared and there is so much I am learning about her right now. Anna and I had so many plans together. We were moving into the same house 6/1 and I was so excited. We literally made plans to see movies that hadn’t come out yet. (One has and I saw it, but the other has not). I think over time I will share more and more of my love for Anna and my time with her.

She means so much to me and I hate that she is gone. one piece of “us” that is gone is music. Anna and I were both in choir in high school and we sang in the same group one year (i was a senior and she was a sophmore). She had to WORK at music. CF lungs are not intended to sustain long breaths and long breaths are needed to create pure music. But Anna did it. She did it so well too. I remember how proud I was of her during her senior year. We had a final performance called “Bravo” it was a choir concert that met a talent show. Anna sang a solo that year. I was so impressed for so many reasons. First, I was NEVER brave enough to sign solo at Bravo. I never even audition, but Anna never let her fear stop her. In fact, she turned CF into meaning Courage over Fear (as an aside, in the hospital, her husband asked if she was scared and Anna very openly said she was always scared). So she has always been braver than I am. But i was also impressed that she was selected to sing. So many talented people audition for Bravo but many don’t make it. I was so proud of Anna for securing a solo spot. Most people in the audience had no idea they were watching a young woman with CF sing her heart out.

Music was a constant for us. We shared music with each other and we sang disney songs together. We loved music. And I loved having someone who loved music to share with. The other music memory I want to share was regarding the movie “Pitch Perfect”. Anna and I OBSESSED over that movie together. OBSESSED. We were hanging out, I forget where, but my cousin Sammy was around. We started singing Titanium together and without any verbal communication we split into the two part harmony as performed in “Pitch Perfect”. It was amazing. When we finished, Sammy said that it was awesome that we could do that and she wished she had a sister too. I remember thinking, yeah that was awesome and I love being able to sing with Anna.

Now I don’t have that. And I can’t articulate how physically difficult it is for me to accept that. My heart clenches. My stomach roils. I am short of breath. I lost my melody.

I couldn’t listen to music for days after Anna died. I just couldn’t. It hurt too much. How could I sing without her. But that changed. I don’t know how or when or why. But now I need music. I am listening to our songs, her songs, and songs that just remind me of her. I would like to share the list with you. These are songs that have deep meaning to me and I am sure that as time goes on, the list will grow.

Matt Maher: Empty and Beautiful
Gary Alan: Life Ain’t Always Beautiful; it would be you
Montgomery Gentry: Gone (We sang this too each other and made up a silly little dance)
Sam Smith: Stay with Me (This one seems weird, but i heard it so many times driving to the hospital to see Anna that last month that I connotate it with her)
Luke Bryan: Drink a Beer
Katy Perry: Fireworks; Eye of the Tiger (she loved Katy Perry)
Anna Kendrick & Brittany Snow: Titanum
P!nk: Beam me Up (my Aunt shared this one with me and I love it)
Wicked: For Good
Rent: Without You
Miranda Lambert: Dead Flowers; Over You
Band Perry: If I Die Young (this song was newer when Anna first faced transplant. I remember driving back to Chicago after my wedding and crying to this song as it came on the radio. I was so scared I would lose my sister then. God gave me three more years with her which is not nearly enough, but I am grateful)