There’s a small scar above my left eye, a keepsake from the time my sister and I tried to dig our way to China. I don’t remember the exact thought process that led to this bold venture, but since I was 5 and she was 13, I’m sure our reasoning was perfectly sound. I’m also sure that living in southeastern Idaho played a role in the decision because 1) We had nothing else going on, and 2) Local authorities hadn’t yet enacted any laws against minors procuring gardening shovels, ladders, and gas lanterns, and 3) There were plenty of other kids around who were eager to help (probably because we promised them fields of free fortune cookies upon job completion).

The digging went really well for the first few hours, but the hole eventually became too deep for my stubby shoveling arms. After that, my job was to stay out of the way so the taller kids could continue burrowing towards earth’s core. I distinctly remember my sister telling me to keep away from the edge so I wouldn’t get clobbered by an errant shovel, but I couldn’t resist clambering next to her side to celebrate what we started.

That was 42 years ago. I don’t remember much about my trip to the hospital that day, but know my dad refilled the hole as soon as we got home. I understood he didn’t want anyone else getting hurt, but I was immensely disappointed that the adventure with my sister was over. I fully believed, though, there were endlessly more still ahead of us.

Instead, cancer cut her life tragically short 13 years ago this month. My friend and constant protector was suddenly gone, and her absence felt cavernous. I kept hoping someone would come along and fix it. I wanted them to cover the grief, to smother the anger. I wanted them to bury the hurt. But no one ever did.

Because no one ever could.

It took me a long time to realize the only way to mask all the pain would be to mask all the memories. And all the scars. And all the joy and the laughter and the love. And without all of them, I would be nothing at all.

So today I clamber back to the edge of her absence to celebrate what we started. It mostly still hurts like hell, but the pain confirms that she mattered. That our time together was profound. That my love for her hasn’t faded. And that our adventure, perhaps, isn’t over.

Originally posted on Medium.

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