Sad Days :: Loss, Grieving, & Saying Goodbye

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“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.

“She died?”

“How?”

“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.

lena-and-booie

“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.

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34 Responses to Sad Days :: Loss, Grieving, & Saying Goodbye

  1. Courtney Harris July 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Oh, Becca. This brings tears to my eyes. How you must miss your sister. Sending prayers and a hug your way today.

    (We talk to Audrey about her Grandmama who is in heaven with Jesus, too. But– like Gil and Julia– they never got to meet this side of heaven).

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

      Thank you, sweet friend!

  2. Ella Patel July 7, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    Oh Becca. I read this with tears streaming down my face. Oh how we miss her in this family. Elena and Kelsey miss her each and every day – it’s evident in the many many pictures they have of her in their room. Praying for you all and praying for a a smooth move back to the US! xooxo

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

      You guys were some of her very favorites! Thank you so much for your words and prayers.

  3. Elizabeth Snyder July 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your aching heart, dear one. I particularly love the line about your family walking with a limp – that is exactly how it feels and I’ve never heard it put so well.

    Praying for this season of transition – that you would feel Jesus near as you say goodbye to this sacred place where you have lived life and grieved the loss of your sweet sister. It will forever be special because of the season spent there.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

      Thanks so much, Liz. P.S. We owe you an email… we’ll be in Cambridge on July 27th and would love to see some of the old crew! I’ll message you with more details.

  4. lucy July 7, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    I wish, too, desperately sometimes, that Julia was still here with us. Oh, to wrap my arms around her, to hear her contagious laugh, to share the joys and sorrows of life every day with her, to take more pictures with her, to have more memories with her. That is not to be for now, not for this life. I look forward eagerly to that ‘some day’. Yes, she is alive, and one day I will see her again. And then, it will be to spend eternity. No more death. Praise God.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

      I wish we could have been together yesterday, Mama. Love you so much.

  5. Amy Lawrence July 7, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    Becca, many hugs and prayers for you and your family to have peace today. Prayers for patience, strength, and energy as you say goodbye to Sicily and navigate this journey of being married to the military.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

      Thank you so much, Amy. It is a strange marriage and requires much grace!

  6. Poppy July 7, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    “This horror will grow mild, this darkness light.”
    ― John Milton, Paradise Lost

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

      So beautifully said, and so true.

  7. Amanda E. July 7, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Hugs, Becca. Knowing they are with our Father doesn’t make the earthly pain any less. I love that Lena ‘knows’ her and that Gil will, through you and your family.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

      Thank you, Amanda! I think the little ones help me to face the joy and the sorrow with more strength and compassion than otherwise. I’m grateful for their honest questions.

  8. Anna H July 7, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    I had to swallow a lump in my throat when I read this, Becca. I know a little bit how you feel now, too, because of my grandma’s passing earlier this year. I know that my grandma, unlike Julia, lived a long and full life, but her absence is still strange and hard to bear sometimes.

    On the practical side, I was in exactly the same situation with my driver’s license this summer–I couldn’t find it, and I didn’t know the number. I was able to walk into the local Indiana BMV and tell them my social security number, and they still had an electronic copy on file to order a new one for me. Your situation will be harder because you are moving to a different state than where you got your driver’s license, but if you are stopping in Virginia (I’m guessing?), you might be able to do what I did. Blessings on your move! I know what it’s like, and I hate it too. :)

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

      Thank you so much for your understanding words, Anna!

      As for the drivers license, our home state is actually Texas because active duty military can have their home state wherever they choose… and Texas has no income tax! Unfortunately, we won’t be visiting Texas anytime soon. :( I mailed a paper application today, and I hope my military ID will suffice for on-the-road identification for the next month….!

  9. Tiffany July 7, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    Praying with you!

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Thank you so much, Tiffany, faithful reader!

  10. Anneke July 7, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    I have three little sisters and two little brothers, and I can’t imagine bearing the death of any one of them. Thank you for your witness to your sister’s life and the hope you and your family have.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      It is unbearable to think about on the other side; it was my worst nightmare for most of my life. And yet God has given us strength and shown us great grace on this side of a sibling’s death, too. I’ll always live in fear of that 4am telephone call, but now I know the pain can be endured, and even good can come of it.

  11. Jessica July 7, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    Oh Becca! I cried from start to end of this blog post. Yesterday morning as soon as I started my devotions, God clearly reminded me it was 2 years since the Green family said goodbye to Julia. I spent some time crying and lifting up your family. Hugh often tells me, “I can’t wait to go to heaven!” and I say “Me too!” No more pain or death, just together in community in the presence of our glorious Savior! How marvelous that day will be!

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

      I can’t wait either! Thank you for your prayers and love, dear friend.

  12. Lydia July 7, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Oh Becca, this post had me captured from the beginning. Tears welled up in my eyes through the whole thing. Your daughter’s recognition that Booie is now alive in heaven is so beautiful! My heart goes out to your during this time. Father, please touch Becca heart during this time. Please bring her peace and work through the necessary details to get them prepared for leaving a place they’ve come to love. There will be new memories. We can praise you for that! Amen.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

      Thank you for your compassion and prayers, Lydia. So kind!

  13. Shelly July 7, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

    Thanks for letting us sit beside you today.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

      I know you’re missing her too, Shelly!

  14. Maria July 7, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    Becca, thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve stumbled across your blog via Instagram hopping, and I can’t help but think that it’s for a special reason. My mom and I are currently on vacation in Sweden after losing my dad unexpectedly six months ago. While this trip has been exactly what we’ve needed, it’s also been a painful reminder of what travel used to be as our family of three. While everyone’s grief and growth is so unique, know that you and your family have love wrapped around you.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Maria. There is hardly anyone out there that hasn’t been touched by some great loss, and it brings such comfort when the grief is shared.

  15. Joy July 8, 2014 at 4:33 am #

    Sweet Becca. I’ve been thinking about you and your family so much lately. Partly because of the anniversary of your sister’s loss so close to your move, and partly because of some friends we are getting to know better here who, a year before Booie passed, lost their brother/ son, and because my closest friend here just lost her brother very unexpectedly and I’ve been wondering how to help her. This is a hard time, one of those where you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other while swallowing the pain or else it paralyzes you. At least that’s how it seems — if you figure out something better, let me know! Praying for you and your family right now. I hope all these move stresses work out at just the right time. Take care of yourself, friend, and know you’re loved.

    • Becca July 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

      God is being so merciful, Joy. Just a couple of hours ago someone gave us a deposit for our car, and so that is one more huge stressor that He is taking care of! He gives enough grace for each day, and I hope and pray that your friends will find that too.

  16. Di July 8, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    Thinking of you and your family on this difficult day….

    • Becca July 9, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

      Thank you so much, Di!

  17. Monica July 11, 2014 at 5:34 am #

    Oh, Becca. Hugs to you and your family from California. I am thinking about you guys during your final days in Sicily this week and hoping all goes smoothly!

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  1. Happy Updates, Simplicity Parenting, & Good Books - Becca Garber - July 9, 2014

    […] It’s a much happier Becca that comes to you today. Thank you so much for all your kindness on this emotional day; your comments and prayers meant so much. My whole family felt hugely loved this July […]

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