September 11, 2001: Chances are, you remember where you were, who you were with and the feelings that arose that morning. If you’re from Upper Sandusky, there’s a good chance you can also zero in on October 11, 2001 and where you were that evening. Whose house you visited, the person you called, and how you processed. You recall the first time you spoke to Carol in the following weeks, lacking words but with a heart yearning to express the grief. If you’re from Upper Sandusky, you can probably recall your thoughts on the lack of Homecoming that year or the wait at the funeral home.

A group of students from the church gathered in the chapel and when Colleen locked the doors the floor was covered in tissues. Friends of the family arrived the next evening and found Carol washing dishes, the only thing that made sense at the time. At the funeral service, JJ stood stoically in support of Sarah as she spoke.

I know these stories so closely because they’ve become a part of me. They’re a part of my genome so much that you might surmise I was actually there.  Maybe in your mind, you replace the girl who rode in the limo with JJ from the funeral to the cemetery with my face. I often do. I wish it was my hand he held. I pretend I gave Jim and Carol hugs or coffee or Lambrusco in those awful days.

But I didn’t.

Truth be told, I was a junior at OU. I was likely getting ready for the annual Fall Retreat, my biggest challenge of the day being who I would ride with on Friday. I was probably at a Bible study that night, talking about “real” things like the inerrency of scripture. Honestly, I have no clue what I was doing on the day that would change my all my future Octobers.

Is it fair to say you miss someone you never met? To hear these precious stories and long to know the the person behind the pictures? It’s complete bull that I have never heard that laugh or the way she would shriek when JJ would pick on her.

If I’m honest – and perhaps a tad selfish- I’ll tell you: I feel completely cheated. Jipped. Shortchanged. I’ve never had the joy of Christina in my life, only the sorrow of her absence.

So today I’m missing something I never knew I had. After 14 years, the latter 12 of which I have been present, I grieve the hole in my family life, the place where she belongs but does not sit.

Love is like that. Perhaps this is when we know our love has reached a depth indescribable by words alone. You take on the story of those you love and make it your own. You allow your love to grow in the absence when the presence isn’t available.

 

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