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

Letting her fly

The call itself was difficult to make, sharing with a stranger that you want to use her private property to spread your sister's ashes.

My chest tightened, my heart raced, my throat, clinched. We wanted to gather as a family in Texas on Oct. 31 to remember my sister on the five-year anniversary of her passing. And we wanted to provide her a final resting place.

We gathered that day, and embraced. We cried, and we prayed. We clung on to those closest to her ... her young daughter, family, best friends. We laughed, we were quiet. We listened to my father give a blessing, and we stared out into the vastness only the Hill Country can offer. 

We chose a place where we remember she was at her happiest -- at the Milestone in New Braunfels, where she was married in 2012. It is the quietest, most peaceful place I've ever visited. Since her passing five years ago, I visit this site every opportunity I have when in Texas.

I often just sit, reflect, pray, close my eyes in silence.

I feel her there. Now, I know her spirit rests there.

My father read: Lord, we scatter these ashes not just so that we can fulfill the wishes of our loved one, but also as a symbol of acceptance of your will over her life. We wanted Katie to continue living, but God, you called her back home according to your will. 

We shouldn't have been there. None of this makes sense even five years later. We shouldn't have been spreading her ashes. But, there we were. Stronger, together. Thank God, together.

When I made the call to the Milestone in September, I had to choose an option to become connected to a representative: did I already make reservations, did I want to book an event, did I need accounting? I hung up the first time because it was too much.

I mean, what a call.

I had no idea the words I wanted to say. The message I wanted to convey. I was afraid the grief and heartache would overtake my side of the line.

I said a prayer to help me find the right words, and called again. I chose "booking." And through a shaky voice, explained our story and what we wanted to do. The young lady on the other line couldn't have been older than her late 20s, but was calm in her response and quick in her blessing over our gathering.

She promised us an hour of uninterrupted time on the morning of Oct. 31.

After securing our time, I hung up the phone and cried for a solid 15 minutes.

We took turns spreading Katie's ashes. One by one, we walked away from the group. Whatever was said during each turn remained private. Whatever thoughts, prayers, parting words. Her father-in-law spread her ashes high, and said out loud, "So you can FLY."

And you felt that.

One by one, others spread her ashes closer to the ground. I took my turn and through a deep voice I didn't even recognize because of a grief I still contend with, said, "I love you. I will always fight for you. I promise." And I released her.

Her daughter was the youngest there at age 12. She wanted to go last. And after, placed flowers where she placed her mother's ashes.

Today, three weeks after that time in Texas -- and the day we gathered -- the moment is still processing within. All I can tell others when asked is, "It was hard."

When you lose someone to suicide, you're left with a lot of questions. Maybe some never go away. They become settled after some time, but the pain of their pain can sit on your heart for a long time.

We share our story to help others. We pray for those hurting, for those who have lost. We keep fighting to reduce the stigma surrounding so much: mental health, suicide, mental illness.

We gathered in Texas to release. We gathered to remember. We gathered to connect with each other.

And we gathered to let her fly.