author: "One More Day: A powerful true story of suicide, loss, and a woman's newfound faith"

The Road Home

The road home is always long.

But those roads leading up to October 31 are the longest. It is the date we lost my sister, just 29 years old, to suicide. It is the day we all lost a part of us, and our own lives.

It is a day we have, in the past two years, come together to remember her spirit. To honor her with a toast, and to simply be together. It is a date I gather with my father, daughter, my brother-in-law, niece and my sister’s best friends.

The date – sometimes, like any day – is when we have cried, laughed, spent time alone.

The anniversary is a time we realize how far we have come. When we can look back and know in our soul some of the worst days are behind us, and when we know in our hearts, that there are days ahead when it will feel like the first day.

Observing her on and around October 31 is when we sit and wonder when we last cried. It is when we think of the last time we laughed at a memory.

Only two years from her passing, we hold hands. We make plans and sometimes cancel them. Because when it’s too hard, it’s okay. I watch my father closely. I communicate openly with my teenage daughter. I laugh with my young niece. I hug my sister’s husband and her best friend, with promises of always being available for anything. 

Anytime. And mean it.

I walk into a store my sister introduced to me just months before she died and buy a new purse. She begged me to buy a purse that day that wasn’t black or brown. I bought turquoise, satisfying her desire to help me step out of my comfort zone.

The first year after her loss, I returned to the store and purchased another purse: purple, her favorite color. The second year, a subtle shade of pink.

I make sure I travel and visit where Katie was married, as the outdoor venue overlooks just a sliver of the Hill Country, sitting up against a dryness that is only beautiful in Texas. It is where my father always says she looked her happiest.

And it is where I feel her presence. And where, on the first anniversary of her loss, I found myself lost in thought when a future bride and her family toured the facility. I saw them, took a deep breath, and was admittedly jealous as I quietly walked past them without saying a word.

Don’t leave them, I whispered in my head to the bride.

I silently prayed her wedding would be just as beautiful.

That she would cherish the area as much as we did that one day. And that perhaps she’d return to soak it all in, too.

The road home on the anniversaries of Katie’s loss doesn’t have the same energy as roads home before Katie died. We’re different now, simply because we’ll never be the same. Reaching out to each other on her anniversary day is of utmost importance to me.

Maintaining connection with my family while living 800 miles away is made easier when time spent together on her anniversary is made a priority. Even when we don’t talk about her. Even when we stay as busy as possible as to not even think about it.

Even when it weighs heavy on us.

Even when we see it in everyone else’s face as much as we see it in our own.

The Road Home is a collection of grief, both heartache and heartbreak, and it is about coming together in the hardest of times while looking toward a future of desired hope.

The new road home is how we spend an anniversary we never wanted.

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