“I’m so sad,” I said softly, my fingers fiddling with the hem of my skirt.
Elliott didn’t say anything, just listened. There was a long silence while I gathered my thoughts.
“I love this house.” I took a deep breath. “I am so sad to leave it.”
Tears welled up.
“I have so many happy memories in this house. And I will miss this town. And the weekly market. And walks to get gelato down the street….”
We both knew these things already. I’d said them before. But as we sat there on Sunday afternoon, we knew there were also a million other things weighing us down, making these simple physical goodbyes that much harder to bear.
There was the argument right before we walked into church. It was over who would put on Lena’s shoes, of all things. She can put them on herself. But it soured our whole Sunday morning.
There is our car. We’ve tried for a month, lowered the price by $1500, and it’s not selling. It’s small and scratched up, perfect for Sicily, but we’ve probably outgrown it as a family. I say “probably” because it might be coming with us to California.
There is my U.S. driver’s license. I can’t find it anywhere. I need to request a new one, but that’s hard to do when you don’t even know the number of your old one.
There is a whole bedroom set that just won’t sell either. It’s a beautiful antique! Why isn’t it selling?
There is the final moving out of our belongings this coming Tuesday, and then a goodbye party on Wednesday, and then CLEANING THE HOUSE LIKE CRAZY on Thursday. So much to do, so many boxes to tick.
And then handing over the keys on Friday. No more beautiful house on a cliff by a castle. Oh, I shall miss this house!
And then maybe a weekend at the beach. We’d been planning a special goodbye to Sicily: going back to this beach before our flight out on Tuesday morning, July 15. But now that weekend might be spent very close to base and far from the beach, if we can’t sell our car. We’ve joked about standing at the base gate and waving signs. “Amazing Honda Civic for sale! Come test drive now! Turn left, turn left!”
But then there is a deeper sadness. A dull ache, always there, that becomes a sharp pain on July 7 every year.
Two years ago today, my little sister Julia was killed in a car accident. It was, as best we can determine, a total mistake—a split-second glance at the radio, or a deer darting into the trees in front of her—that led to hasty overcorrecting, and overcorrecting again, and hitting a tree in the median. And then another tree. And then she never came home.
The comfort is that we believe she is home with Jesus, and we eagerly look forward to the day when we are all reunited there. Oh what a rejoicing that will be! There is much to be thankful for in this life.
But in the meantime, I look at my children, and I miss Booie so much. She knew Gil was coming, but she never met him. Booie, her friend Renee told me later, hoped Gil would be a boy, and I know she would have gone nuts over him, just like she did over Lena. Except Booie and Gil have the same hair — curly, thick, blond, stops people on the street — and she would have loved sharing that with him.
Lena talks about Booie frequently, sometimes asking acutely painful questions.
“Where is she now?”
And I answer them until I can’t bear it anymore and quietly change the subject. I am glad she knows about her Aunt Booie, though, and can recognize her in pictures. I will encourage that the rest of my life.
I miss Booie for my children’s sake, and I miss her for my family’s sake. We’ve always been such a family: four kids, two parents, a six-pack of adventure and support and laughter. We also functioned as a unit, needing each one of the kids to contribute their dose of crazy, or serious, or silly, to balance out the whole. Without Booie, our family will always walk with a limp, always have a glaring amputation, always gather somewhat sadly, knowing a piece of the whole will be missing the rest of our lives.
And I miss her for my sake. She was almost six years younger than me, and so for most of our growing up years we were sisters, but too far apart in age to be besties. That was reserved for Emily and Booie, just 18 months apart.
Then I went to college, and Boston, and married Elliott, and I was gone most of that time. We did have one very sweet period together: Lena was born, Elliott was still deployed, and I moved in with my parents for three months with a newborn. Booie was there, finishing up her senior year of high school and working at Starbucks. For awhile, we were under the same roof again, sharing the same meals, and I have a dozen pictures of her holding Lena every chance she got.
I wish we had more time than that. I wish we had time to be adult sisters together. I wish she could have met Gil. I wish I could have seen her fall in love and get married. I wish we could be three crazy old sisters dancing at Lena’s wedding one day. I wish, I wish, I wish.
I miss you, Booie, today and every day. I love you so.
“Who’s that?” Lena asked when she saw this photo just now.
“Who’s that?” I repeated, knowing that she knows.
“Lena,” she said softly, “and Booie.”
“That’s right, Lena.”
“But Booie died,” she continued softly. Then a pause. “But she’s alive now.”
That’s right, little one. Praise God.