People often assume they know things they actually know nothing about. Losing Harper has taught me to never, ever pretend to know anything about a situation, much less pass judgement, unless I have walked in those shoes. I got talking to a woman recently (who didn’t know we had lost a child) whose daughter worked as a pediatrician. She primarily worked with sick children, while many of them survive, some do not. She said to me with a very sad, frowning face, “After a child dies, the other children in the family carry that burden. It changes them.”
Let me tell you what it’s really like to have an angel for a sister, because she could not be more wrong.
When your sister is an angel, your parents are SO INSANELY GRATEFUL for everything you do. Writing on the walls? A masterpiece. Peanut butter and jelly on the sofa, oh well, it was bound to get dirty eventually. You are doing well in school? OMG you are a genius! School field trip? Mommy is there. Sports? Daddy is the coach. Family dinner? Every single night. Reading you another book when you ask every single night for just one more? Always, because we know how much we miss reading to your sister. You want mommy to sleep with you through the night? CAN’T WAIT! You want to sleep in our room? Of course, you can. You’re acting absolutely crazy because you had too much sugar? “Isn’t he cute? He’s all boy!” You are so very loved, unconditionally.
When you have an angel as a sister, your parents are acutely aware of what it is like to live without everything that you are providing them. They love you harder, stronger, and are in awe of your every move. Of course, they may watch you play a little bit closer to ensure you don’t get hurt. You may not be allowed to do things as you get older because the thought of losing you is too much to bare, but your parents are both more laid back and more in-tune at the same time.
If you have an angel for a sister, you have seen your parents fall to their knees in mid-sentence to cry. You have seen them unable to breathe. You have also been taught that it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be sad, and the most important lesson you have learned is that Mommy and Daddy have recovered. When life throws you the hardest blow, you will take the time you need to process it, and you will get back up and be a better, stronger, more fierce version of yourself. You will be okay when life throws you curve balls.
When you have an angel for a sister, you have a guardian. Someone watching over you even when Mommy and Daddy can’t. You get your own signs from above. Every time you see a purple jewel, you know it’s from Harper. You never forget about them. You send them balloons after each party. You sing them happy birthday when it’s their special day. You talk about them in your daily life, knowing that they are with God, but also right there with us. You draw pictures that include them as angels in the sky. You are beyond blessed.
So, to the woman that I can’t get out of my head. Turn that frown upside down! These children, the siblings of angels, are being taught lessons that only this experience could teach them. They are loved beyond belief, they are treasured and nurtured. More than anything, there’s no burden to carry, because children are never a burden, even after they pass. The loss is excruciating, but families don’t live in loss forever. They recover, and when they do, they are far stronger than you could ever imagine. I understand you can’t imagine it, because you haven’t lived it. Until you do, take my word for it.