God Was Preparing Me to Cope with the Death of My Sister (And I Didn't Realize It)

July 30, 2018


Before Julian died, I hadn't ever really lost anyone.
My grandmother died when I was in first grade or so, but I didn't know her very well. A boy I went to middle school with succumbed to cancer when I was a senior, but we had lost touch years before. My old seminary teacher passed away suddenly a few years after he had taught me.
That was about the extent of my experience. I had always told people that the plan of happiness was real and families really could be together forever, but I had never had that knowledge tested. And God knew that.

From the spring of my senior year of high school to the spring of my freshman year of college, all four of our family pets passed away.
Pepper, our 10-year-old cat, went missing. He was an indoor/outdoor cat and he just never came back home. It was sudden and surprising, especially after he had survived a near-death experience which required him to have a feeding tube. We never expected that he would go missing. In the summer, our 17-year-old dog Leah passed away as well. That winter, the day after Christmas, my sweet, sweet baby girl Fatty - Pepper's sister - had to be put down. She had been sick for a few weeks but I begged my mom not to put her down until I was home for Christmas. As soon as I saw her, I spent all night SOBBING. She was in such bad shape and I knew what had to be done. Early next spring, my mom's favorite child (and dog) Lukie had to be put down as well.
If you're not an animal person, it may be hard to comprehend how impactful this all was. These creatures had been a member of our family for a long time - some almost as long as I had been alive. They were loved, cherished, and spoiled. We are animal people, and to lose not one but four of our "family members" in such a short period was difficult to say the least.

In 2007, J.K. Rowling released the final installment of the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

"He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest. How strange that in his dread of death, it pumped all the harder, valiantly keeping him alive. But it would have to stop, and soon. Its beats were numbered. How many would there be time for, as he rose and walked through the castle for the last time, out into the grounds and into the Forest?"

In the final Battle of Hogwarts, Harry learns that he must let Voldemort kill him. He was left the resurrection stone by Professor Dumbledore, and as he walked to his death, he turned the stone thrice in his hands. His mother, father, Sirius, and Remus all appeared to him. He asks why they are there, and he is told that they never have left.
As Harry gathers the courage to meet his end, he tells them, "Stay close to me." His mom simply responds, "Always."
I'm currently re-reading the Harry Potter series (if you can't tell by all of the Harry Potter blogposts lately), and I am reminded how poignant this scene was. Harry - who has lived a life full of pain, heartbreak, and loss - is surrounded by the ones that he loved, even the ones that he never had a chance to know. And he is told that they have always been there with him and they always will be.
If you knew me as a child (I still feel like one but that's irrelevant), you know that Harry Potter was my life. I am not exaggerating. I read the books and watched the movies constantly. I wore Hogwarts shirts near-daily and sorted everyone that I knew. I threw Harry Potter parties and when characters in the series died, I cried like I lost a friend.

It may seem silly, but looking back, I know that God was preparing me. I hadn't truly experienced bereavement until my sister died, but God was slowly and surely helping me learn to cope. I lost my fur friends. I lost my fictional friends. And it hurt. I saw my mom cope with the loss of her "fur babies." I saw Harry face heartache after heartache, and yet, he persisted. I read over and over again about how the ones who love us never really leave us.

When Julian passed away, I was blindsided. I didn't know what to do with myself anymore. But, because of my childhood filled with boy wizards and animal siblings, somewhere deep down (like really deep down at the time), I must've known that I'd be okay. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Yours truly,
McKay

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