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Dec. 3rd, 2007

Every year (I'm not exaggerating) since around 1995 or so, the anniversary of my sister B.B.'s death has crept up on me and laid me out flat with a sucker punch several days after the fact. She was killed in 1985, and for the first 10 years after that nothing about the anniversary "crept" -- I was very, very aware that the 12th of December was approaching, and I would keep track of how old she would have been, and everyone else who knew her would start getting in touch around then, offering up stories and sharing grief. As a result, I wasn't isolated in my experience. I felt sad, but I knew why, and it would turn into a more tolerable kind of pain fairly quickly once the date passed and people weren't singing Christmas carols anymore.

But after roughly a decade, once the kids who were her age had grown up and gone to college and graduated and gone their various adult ways, and after my marriage had ended and I had decided I had to adapt and/or drastically change my ways (meaning, primarily, that I had to finally take responsibility for treating my chronic depression), the pattern changed. I believed I had to stop thinking so much about loss -- loss of potential, loss of time, and the permanent loss of my sister's company and friendship. I allowed myself to think of her on her birthday, but I wanted to get away from any sorrow connected to her death. I would not let my thoughts linger over the upcoming date in December and what it signified. I very successfully completely shut any conscious thought of it out of my brain. And so, when I would start feeling physically ill sometime around the second week of December, I would be honestly puzzled. I would have no energy. I would get home from work and crawl into bed and sleep until I absolutely had to get up for some reason--usually simply to go to work again. I would stop eating, I would erupt into rages, I would cry if anyone smiled in my direction when we passed each other in a hallway. And I would have NO IDEA why. Completely blank. I would start to panic that my medication had stopped working, or that some new super-depression had descended upon me from which I would never emerge. Every year, folks! Every year I did this for DAYS until I would glance at a calendar, sometimes on December 13th, usually later than that, but never before December 12th, and it would hit me that oh my God, it was the anniversary of B.B.'s death, and I couldn't remember what her voice sounded like! Then I would fall apart and cry and immediately feel both unbelievably sad and relieved. It made sense. I wasn't losing my mind, and I wasn't sick. I missed my sister, and once I had spent a little time consciously mourning for her and reclaiming her memory, that inarticulate pain would subside. Within a couple more days I would be back to--whatever normal is for me.

But in the meantime I would have lost a week or maybe two inside a turbulent cloud of despair with no idea why. And that was the part that scared me--I had no understanding whatsoever of my own mood. I had overcompensated (forgive the jargon) for my grief by "successfully" reprogramming my brain to ignore the significance of the date, but my body did an end run around my misguided plan by breaking down all on its own without any help from my conscious thoughts. Year after year I did this, up to and including last year.

So. This year, I'm trying something new. Every day I'm going to stop and think about B.B. for a little while, and think about her life. I'll try not to obsess over her death and the manner in which she died. (This has been a problem for me in the past, and it seems so disgusting to me that a bundle of such vibrant thought and keen longing for LIFE--you should think of her with those little quivery lines around her like in a Keith Haring drawing; that's what she was like; completely engaged and emotionally fearless--should be reduced to an image of inert human mass in a pool of spreading blood. I mean, how dare I? Truly, how dare I or anyone?) I'll call my other siblings and ask for a story about her that I don't know, or that I need to remember. I will force myself to know the date is coming, and I'll experience whatever happens as a result. It cannot be worse than the swamp of painful confusion and hopelessness that results from "going on with life" by ignoring death.

All right then! I feelhopeful about this. Maybe a little sad--I'm trying not to cry--but I've got to stop being afraid of sadness. I know how to live, and live well, with it.

Oh my God. I just did a search on her name to see if there was anyone else out there thinking of her or writing about her online, and I found this on a page of quotes maintained by one of her old high school classmates:

"The day we stop playing is the day we grow old-- NEVER!!" ~ Bonnie Beth Hubert

I've seen the journal she wrote that in. Holy fuck. It was an open journal she started on paper, before the days of LiveJournal or MySpace or FaceBook. She would start a book and pass it around the entire school, and anyone was welcome to write or read or comment on entries. When one book would fill up, she'd start another. Kids lined up to spill their guts in these journals, and their peers would respond with surprising gentleness and compassion. B.B. had a way of bringing that out in people. I'm telling you, she was one charismatic little person, and I don't say that just because she is my sister. Had you met her, you would remember her.

I'm going to make this entry public in case anyone else out there is searching for signs of her.

Wow. This is already infinitely better. I suppose I'll get back to work, but my mind is soaring elsewhere. Hey, Beeb--I love you.

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Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
eme_kah
Dec. 4th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC)
Wow, Lauri, this is so moving. It's amazing how the body remembers what we think we can forget.

{{{Lauri}}}
lauri8
Dec. 4th, 2007 03:53 pm (UTC)
It is, isn't it?

And thanks, Eme. I'm still looking forward to meeting you soon!
cleotyne
Dec. 4th, 2007 01:14 am (UTC)
Hi, Lauri. How brave of you, and how conscious, or whatever the right word would be, to do it in this manner. It's so weird that the body remembers even when you wouldn't let your mind remember. Weird and cool. (ARGH! Using my words isn't working!) Mostly I just want to say that you're an amazing human being, and I hope you get even more than you need out of remembering B.B. in the way you have planned. {{{LAURI}}}

I love the idea of her notebooks - such the opposite of a slambook!
lauri8
Dec. 4th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Cleotyne. I think it's cool, too! I'm kind of grateful to my body for hanging on to things for me. Except fat cells. Those, my body should feel free to drop any old time.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )