i have so much of you in my heart

This past week was filled with a million weird emotions, all over the map. I feel like I’ve been saying that off and on for the past year, but that’s really what the last year was for me-a weird roller coaster of extreme emotions that sometimes left me exhilarated and, more often, left me breathless.

Thursday marked one year that my beautiful aunt, Michele, left the world. Friday marked one year that my exhilarating aunt, Therese, left the world. One year since the lives of me and my family changed forever. One year since the world got a little bit duller and since I’ve seen or talked to one of the people that truly cared about me.

Here’s the thing. Life is kind of fucked up. It’s really hard. If that’s one thing that the harsh, bright world of adulthood has taught me, it’s that everyday life is really hard. It’s also maddening, wonderful, shocking, and about a million other adjectives, but I’d say if you were going to choose a broad word to describe it, hard would be it. We all need people who make it a little less hard, and I’m blessed to say I have quite a fair few. From family members and close friends, down to my coworkers. People who make me smile and laugh and generally see the world as less harsh. When you lose one of those people, it really sucks…and Michele was most certainly one of them.

I think a lot of what makes the world so hard is that you’re pretty much inundated by expectations from the moment you arrive on the planet. These expectations often come from well-intentioned folks who love you a lot, but feeling like you have something to live up to, feeling like you’ve got something to prove, feeling like there’s just one more thing that if only you could accomplish it, you’d be enough, is a lot to carry.

Michele was someone who never made me feel that way. She was like a second mom to me, and she had expectations for me, but they never felt like anything I couldn’t live up to. She always made me feel enough. Every bit of me, from my head to my toes, was enough to make her happy and proud, and it was an amazing feeling. She always acted like the times that I came over were the best parts of her days. She always listened intently to what I had to say. She laughed with me, and she cried with me. She told me it would all be okay. When I failed a class and was in tears, she told me it really sucked, but statistics was hard and I could take it again and be just fine. When I told her I was taking a year off of school after graduating with my bachelor’s and not applying to grad school, she told me college would be waiting for me whenever I decided to go back. When I got promoted to GM at my job, she said she had no doubt I’d be amazing and she was proud of my hard work. I need the people in my life who give me a kick in the ass and tell me I’m stupid…but my God, I needed to hear all of those words she said to me.

There have been countless times that I needed to talk to her this past year. She’d be cheering Katie and I on as we go through grad school, and when we walk across the stage next year, knowing she’s not watching will be incredibly hard. I wanted so badly to tell her about my year of no complaints at work, and show her my watch. I know that the only person who would’ve been more excited than me about my trip to Vegas and seeing Elton John would’ve been her. A million tiny moments.

I had so little to offer her. She was in pain for a very long time, and went through these unfathomable struggles. I couldn’t do anything about that, and I had so little to give her. I gave her my time. My cousins and uncle have told me that the time my mom and I spent with her meant a lot, but it feels like little. She was so important to me, and the time we spent together from my childhood up through my adulthood created memories that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. I’ll always wish I could’ve done more, and I hope she knows how much I care for her. I’m so deeply remorseful that I never thanked her enough for all the kind words she gave me, or the deep love and pride I felt from her. Death changes your perspective.

It’s been a year, but I can still feel her with me sometimes. So I hope she knows, and can hear me thanking her now.

Cheers to moving forward. Cheers to taking the next step, even when I didn’t want to. To getting out of bed when I didn’t think I could. To smiling when all I wanted to do was cry. I know you helped me through it, Michele. I know you did…

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