Innocence and Gratitude: What Loss Teaches You

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Sometimes, when I think about my sister and cry, I’m not crying for her, but instead for my 21-year-old self who didn’t yet know how drastically her life would change. Who, months from then, would, without choice, be forced into a world into which no one wants to be forced.

She was a young woman who had plans and dreams, and though uncertain and fearful about life and the future like many her age, she didn’t feel the kind of fear that stops you from living. The world was hers, like here, while traveling through Cambodia, sitting atop Angkor Wat at sunset, before heading back to a guesthouse in Siem Reap where she slept on a cot under a mosquito net for $1/night. She didn’t yet understand the world’s true vastness and possibility. She was simply exploring and playing and struggling to understand herself and those around her.

I cry for that young woman who didn’t yet realize just how much pain she’d feel, deep inside, the type of pain most others never experience until years and years later. I sometimes cry for her because I cry for her innocence. I often wish she would have had the power and awareness to change what soon would happen.

I often imagine what she’d be doing today if Miya hadn’t died. Would she be living in San Diego? Would she be living across the globe? Would she be married with kids in Gunnison, Colorado where Miya wanted all her sisters to move and raise families together in one huge house?

Though I feel incredible sadness at times, I simultaneously feel a sense of gratitude, because while I’d do anything to have my sister back, Miya gave me one of the greatest gifts: the ability to love and connect more deeply, with myself and others. And for that, despite how often I cry for that young woman, I’m grateful for what she would soon experience—something that only true loss can teach: survival.

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