Moments. Life is filled with them. Throughout our lives many moments shape and define us; mold us into this human we were "meant to be." I'm still trying to sort out how this moment will define me, but as I watch my sister grieve the loss of her daughter, I can see the woman she was meant to be. The woman she was all along. She is strong, determined, passionate, compassionate, and occasionally stubborn. I see all these things and more, and it only reinforces everything I've believed since I was a little girl.
As most little girls do, I idolized my older sister; I still do. I wanted nothing more than to be like her and hang out with her and follow in her footsteps. As a child, all I wanted was for my sister to invite me into her life. It took some years, but my sister and I grew close when we both went away to the same colllege (I truly did follow in her footsteps). We still (occasionally) fight like sisters, but marriage has evened us out a little bit (except for that one time at that one bar...). The point is, at one point she did invite me into her life, and we became friends.
Our friendship started around college and slowly took shape as we got older and went through various stages in our lives. We were there for each other during some difficult times. I offered the more tangible support (cooking food when she's sick, dropping everything to do a task needed, run an errand, etc.) but she has always offered the more mental health support (talking me off my crazy ledge, giving me rational advice...she really is a good therapist). For some time I was frustrated, feeling that I always gave 150% but did not receive the same in the end (we grew up with "the everything is even" mentality). It took me awhile to realize that we all have special gifts, and I was unjustly calculating things that are not calculable.
As I said, marriage evened both of us out (I suppose I should say our husbands did that...we married some even-keeled and rational men) and I have stopped "keeping track." We still bicker, though I would say we haven't in over a year, but that is what sister's do. After we were both married our priorities shifted, so the little issues between us didn't matter as much anymore, we could just hang out and be friends.
Over that year after we both got married I felt like she was inviting me into her life more and more each day. I was happy with our relationship and where we were as sisters and as friends. But I've never felt more invited into her life than when she told me she was pregnant. That memory I will cherish forever. I was beyond elated when I found out that my sister and her husband were going to be parents, and that be default I would be an aunt. I couldn't wait to be an aunt and to shower that baby with all the love and affection one person could hold. I began to take stock of all the traits I loved about each of my aunts, creating a list of all the things I wanted to be and do with this tiny human growing in my sister. As the months passed, my definition of what an aunt is began to take more shape. Play dates, overnights with auntie, exciting adventures, and shopping extravaganzas were all being planned in my mind as my niece grew. I was determined to be the best damn aunt any child had ever had anywhere. I was going to be an aunt, and that word alone came with so many exciting responsibilities that I couldn't wait to accept.
In those days after losing Nora, I tried really hard to remind myself that I AM an aunt. That I always will be. Nora's death doesn't take away my title of aunt, it just shifts my definition of what an aunt to her is. We may never get play dates, or shopping trips; I'll never see her dance in her first ballet recital or play basketball or soccer; I won't be clapping in the crowds when she graduates from high school; I won't get to share in the excitement of her wedding day. There are so many things that I won't get to do with her, but sitting here and counting all of the memories and moments I don't get with her doesn't make me any less of an aunt.
That is how this story, her story, has shaped me right now. I know that she isn't done, that this story...this journey...will continue to shape and define my life, and that I get to choose how this will shape me. I know Nora will help me as I go, but I get to decide how this moment defines me. Right now, no matter what way you look at it, I am an aunt, I am her Awesome Aunt Kristi. I always will be. And that is all the definition I need for right now.