Just like before, the firefly light slowly dimmed. The people slowly stopped coming to wake me up. The flowers stopped being delivered. The sweet notes stopped being dropped off. The days keep coming. I’ve gotten myself into another robotic routine of waking up, working out, and moving around until it’s acceptable for me to crawl back into bed. I hear you some mornings saying “the new dayyyy,” just like in the voice memo you sent me before we met up for our final yoga class together.

In St. Andrews, most nights are filled with club meetings and events that revolve around people getting together and drinking excessively. Despite my previously active social life, I no longer have the urge to take part due to fear I might fall apart the more I drink. I have built up a strong wall between my inner turmoil and outward composure that isn’t quite alcohol proof. I stay in every night playing Monopoly, Timeline, and Wii with anyone who will play with me. I stay home most of the time because I fear people are afraid to have me around and I don’t want to burden those who aren’t willing to take me on.

I can feel my new composure diffusing sorrow and I don’t want to get too close to anyone and spread my, possibly contagious, sadness. I’ll forever appreciate those not scared of contamination. Most people don’t know how to handle me but that’s okay because I’m not sure how to handle myself. 

The aftermath of burying you has proven to be the hardest battle I’ve faced so far. The smoke and dust has all settled but I’m still here in a world without you. All of us, the ones who relied on you to always be here, were forced to return to our lives all across the world as if nothing had happened, as if we didn’t lose such a large part of our lives and hearts. We can no longer get together as often as we want to and our frequent text messages simply can’t compare to sitting in silence sharing one another’s pain.

Coming back to school, away from the comfort of our family, is the most difficult thing I have had to face after watching you be lowered into the ground forever. My world has completely changed since the last time I was in school. What kind of student will I be without you editing every single one of my papers? What do I do without your daily Facetimes and memes to look forward to? Life has forced me to continue my schoolwork and job applications but I know nothing I write will be half as strong without you here to harshly edit my words. The calendar dates keep changing, yet I still am living in the night of December 30th when your soul left me forever. 

I still physically hurt from your absence everyday. My heart feels black and cold. Everything reminds me of you and I have to call your phone once a day just to hear you alive on the answering machine. For the first time since you changed it, I’m glad the voicemail recording says, “Hello, you’ve reached Ike Crews” rather than the old “Hello, you’ve reached the law office of Don Durrell Jackson.” My friends have truly been there for me but my mental state is so convoluted that even I don’t know what could help.

The pain of your absence has started to come in tumultuous waves. I realized this yesterday afternoon when I hid on Castle Sands for a private cry. Waves are vicious and relentless, crashing in then fading away, just like grief. I’m a good swimmer but am struggling to stay afloat. Sometimes I’m grateful to have had someone like you for the short time I did, sometimes I’m confused that you’re actually gone, and sometimes I’m completely broken and all I can do is cry and write in my journal as if it’s a direct line to you. That last situation is where I’m at now. 

You prepared me for so much but never for a life without you in it. You were the main person I relied on and I always knew everything would be okay simply because I was your baby sister. I remember you trying to father me throughout my college application process while Mom and Dad weren’t even sure what schools I had applied to. I remember you sending me random bits of information, WTF Facts, just for entertainment and to enlighten me with wisdom and humor. I know you did this to many others. “Did you know John Quincy Adams enjoyed skinny dipping in the Potomac River early in the morning? We have more in common than I thought.” I remember you always reminding me what to do next without me needing to ask.

You were the best teacher to me and you weren’t even getting paid for it. I remember the time we cried with Carter on Market Street the first year y’all came to visit me in St. Andrews. After too much to drink, we realized our parents had left us each individually traumatized by their human mistakes and turbulent relationship. You wiped our tears and told us that we would all be okay, mainly because we would always have each other. “Thank God Cammi finally grew up to be cool,” you added to make the situation lighthearted.

I most recently remember the night after trivia when my car battery died. I messaged you and Carter for advice. Carter didn’t care. She told me to Uber home and leave mom’s car unlocked in the parking lot through the night. You cared. You waited with me for an hour and a half in the rain, without me even having to ask. You told me that I had to keep calm in times of confusion and figure it out. You said that my stress was only clouding my ability to act rationally. “Chill out Cams. It happened. Deal with it.” I’m trying to take this advice now. It’s a whole lot easier said than done. All my fondest memories are with you and it kills me to know that it is only in the photos, voice memos, videos, and stories that you are still alive. 

Everyday is hard. I wake up and remember you’re gone and want to curl in a ball and cry endlessly but have to push forward and keep living like I know you would want me to. Because I don’t have you to annoy anymore, I frequently reach out to your friends. Each one offers a piece of you I miss so dearly but it kills me to know that these unique parts of your character will never make you whole again.

People say you never get over the pain of losing a loved one but you learn to live with it. I am not there yet. I am nowhere close to being there yet. People have stopped taking care of me. The flowers have stopped coming. No more food is being made for me. The days keep coming, yet you’re still gone. I would do anything for you to come back.