I have the honor each and every day of filling my sisters’ shoes, both physically and metaphorically. When she died 4+ years ago I inherited her tennis shoes, and for a while they sat up on a shelf in our boys’ room. That is until I needed new shoes and decided that she would much rather me wear hers than for them to collect dust and be a reminder that she is no longer wearing them. So. I snagged them. They are a smidge big, but super comfortable. And I couldn’t love them more. Metaphorically, her shoes are also a little big, but I know that I was made to wear them. And life is… as good as it can be… in these shoes.
Throughout my childhood and even today, it was/is not uncommon for the age gap between my sisters and I to get brought up. I usually get the “Wow! 10 and 14 years older?! Were you an accident?!” reaction. And even though I know that my parents never considered me to be an accident, I also know that they weren’t exactly planning on me either. Accident or not, I am certain that God had big plans for me. And it wasn’t until something REALLY bad happened that I was able to see and even understand the bigger picture.
Without sounding like a broken record, I feel obligated to lay down my back story incase you happen to be new here. On July 27, 2014, my sister Shannon was shot and killed by her ex-husband, who then turned the gun on himself and died, too. This horrific and unthinkable act of violence took place in my parent’s home… in front of their two sons and my mom and dad. Six days prior to losing Shannon and David, we lost our cousin Zachary to a drug overdose. I gave the eulogy at my beloved baby cousin’s funeral and hugged Shannon goodbye for what would be the last time on July 24th. I never expected that losing my sister… my best friend… would provide ways for me to live a better, more fulfilling life, but it has. Because she died, I have found a new purpose for living. I know now that anything can happen in the blink of an eye, and that is why I spend all of my “spare time” helping to build a company that spreads kindness in her honor.
Sometimes I feel guilty for finding so many reasons to be happy in spite of not being able to share my happiness with Shannon. She was, as I mentioned above, my BEST friend. But she was so much more than that. She was my #1 fan, my biggest supporter, a 2nd mother, and my sister. In the early days of losing her I didn’t think I would ever be able to smile again, let alone raise her boys and my kids and look at the glass half full (which was an inside joke between she and I) and be the version of her little “Co Co Puff” she loved so dearly. But I have made the choice that I have no choice. I am now “mother” to her sons, Connor and Danny, and to my 3 babies. I often wonder and ponder and question and second guess parenting decisions based on what I think she might have done. The most painful grief finds me when I least expect it to, and more often than not, it’s when she is the ONLY person who would know what to say or do to make everything better, but I can’t turn to her. But on a “normal” day to day basis, I don’t have time to stop and think about what I lost, because the truth is I have gained SO MUCH. And also. I am really, really busy. (HA!)
We say that happiness lies in perspective, and I believe this to be so true. I have discovered that just because I find reasons to be grateful in the wake of Shannon’s absence doesn’t mean that I miss her any less. I have to make a conscious effort to be kind every day and live my life in a “pair of shoes” that are a little big for me, but that I love because they were hers and because I was MADE to wear them. Shannon’s boys are MY boys now, and I don’t know what I’d do without them.
Today is Shannon’s birthday. My mom went over the river, through the woods, to every party supply store and clear to a rainbow to make our birthdays special growing up. This is perhaps why her birthday stings so much. She would be 45, and that is hard for me to swallow. I literally am having a hard time swallowing without choking back tears and missing her reaction to the super thoughtful and creative cards I made for her every year on her birthday. But I feel proud knowing that she would be proud of everything I am doing as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a sister, a friend and a kindness pusher. And because I was HER biggest fan… that means more to me than anything.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Shannon. You are in our hearts and on our minds always. I love you more than diet coke, which is why I gave it up just to prove that since you didn’t get to have it anymore, I didn’t need it either. Now send me that sign. I could really use it today.