The Sidelines


Twins. Some may believe they have superpowers.  If you know Elizabeth and I, I amIMG_4751 willing to bet that you can practically see us running around with eye masks and tights, right?!  She and I are that silly, and twins are just that… well, SUPER!  You have to understand, we were oohed and awed at so much as children, it seemed there was something special about us as we were growing up.  People would ask: Can you hear her thoughts?  Can you feel her pain?  I was in awe and amazement to their awe and amazement of us.  Other kids seemed mesmerized by two girls that looked, sounded and acted so much alike. They wanted very badly to know what it was like to be a twin. I was equally inquisitive; I would always ask those inquiring: “What is it like not to be a twin?“. Not sharing a birthday party, wearing non-matching outfits, I mean… what is THAT like?

As we have matured, my sister and I have mastered another level of superpower-like communication, The Look.  Often times, we can just look at each other, no matter the circumstance, and just know what the other is thinking; with subtle movements of our eyes and nods of our heads we can pretty much have a full conversation with no words. But, not with this. This loss was our communication kryptonite. No more X-Ray vision into her mind; a mind that I had effortlessly navigated my way around many times before.  For the first time, my sister was experiencing something I couldn’t.  I had a husband, a son, and a baby on the way.  I had it all, and her world just fell apart. What can I do?  How can I help you?  What do you need? Would you like to come stay with us for a while?  I inundated her with these questions in an attempt that one of my offerings would fix it and make it all go away. I hoped I could make the strain of being forever without him, disappear.

I was upstairs, at home, about to start the laundry when I received the call. “They found him. He died, Becky.” I had just returned home from driving around town looking for his vehicle after she called and said she was notified that he had been missing since the afternoon. The earth shifted and I was forced to quickly regain my balance and make sense of the words that were just uttered.  “I’m coming.  I’ll be right there.  I love you.”  NO, NO, NO, we just lost our grandfather.  We were just starting to adjust to his loss. How can this be happening?  I had to watch my sister pick an urn for her future husband’s ashes and a suit for his final viewing. I could see she was going through the motions; being orchestrated by life and dictated by those who organized this sort of thing.  But, HOW?  How did she have a smile on her face?  How did she get out of bed? How did she still laugh? I saw strength in her I had never before imagined she’d harbor. And, up to this point in our lives, I thought I was the strong one.

FOREVER… The gravity that word forces; we throw it around so meaninglessly, at times. Forever, as we know it, we WILL BE WITHOUT him. His laugh, his touch, and his quirky since of humor.  This is a final and predictable FOREVER, without fail, SHE will be FOREVER without HIM.  Life stopped and everything around us kept moving at warped speed.  How do you take control of a Tornado?  You don’t. Your only control is running away from the storm and seeking safety.  I made every attempt to be her safe place, but she hid from me, just as she had begun to do with many others.  I am your home, I thought.  Her strength seemed to become something to prove; not just to everyone else, but to me. ME TOO? Really?! I wanted to fix it all for her, but couldn’t.

david-schap-128013I had never felt so useless, helpless, and distant from her.  I was forced to sit on the sidelines, as she wandered this life experience alone. I would compare my observation from the sidelines to watching a child walk for the first time. We know the child will trip and fall, but we have to encourage them to get up and try again. Just like watching the child, we have to have faith that when our grieving loved ones need help, they will reach out to us for encouragement.  I have consistently been there to hold tight, to listen to her cry and to talk about how hard life can be now.  At first, I didn’t know how to be there, how to help or heal.  I later realized that she just needed me to be there when she needed me to be, unfailingly and steadfast.  “You don’t always have to answer the phone when I call, Becky,” she’d say.  “Yes I do!  It’s my duty, it’s written in some sibling code thingy!” And, I will always be there in any way I can because it’s all I have to offer, and its what she needs the most.

The void that is left behind from loss takes on a cumbersome form of its own. The weight from this void will eventually become easier to carry through life.  There will be times when memories of life before loss will rehash hidden feelings. We will adjust together, just as we have before.  Remember, WE ALL HAVE AN INNER WARRIOR. If you are standing on the sidelines while someone is grieving or in need of your support, simply be there. Remind them they are SUPER and that you are cheering for them! Be there to listen; to be a safe harbor. Our individual experiences with grief may be nothing alike, even if we share the same loss. Grief has no timeline, so we must be consistent and dependable for as long as we can be; stepping in only when we feel they may need us. We can not completely take their pain away or fix it, as much as we might want to. But that’s OK; sometimes, the best vantage point is from the sidelines. We can be there to put on our capes and be something SUPER for them when they need it the most.


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