Many times I hear parents that have lost a child struggle to answer a simple question, “How many children do you have?” They struggle with whether to answer the question truthfully or save the innocent curious stranger an awkward sad moment. Although I’ve never lost a child, I’ve had similar moments as a sibling of how to answer the question, “How many siblings do you have?”
Four. I have four. Two brothers and two sisters.
Twenty nine years ago, my dear sister Candice (Candy) Marie Adams lost her battle with brain cancer. She was weeks away from turning four years old.
I have never met her but I feel like I’ve known her my entire life.
As a child I was innately curious about the bright eyed little girl whose picture hung next to our family portraits. I have many tender memories of talking late into the night with my mother, tearing strolling gently down our faces as we talked of sweet Candy and the incredible life she left behind.
She loved to sing, “I am a child of God.” She loved her little cabbage patch doll. She loved to carry around a picture of Jesus. That same picture hangs in her shadow box with a lock of her hair. She loved her Irish twin Chris. They were best friends and his world was torn apart when she left.
A few years back we had a rare moment when our entire family was all together. Pictures of Chris and Candy were pulled out. Best friends laughing together. All at once that pain came back and my brother sobbed like I had never seen him sob in my life. In that moment I saw the pain of a five year old little boy resurface. I knew in that moment that the loss of a child, a sibling, a soul can never be erased or forgotten. Even 29 years later.
My sister Becky and I have always been close. Even if that meant we hated each other some days. We’ve shared clothes. We’ve shared secrets. We’ve shared laughs until we peed our pants. Our kids have played side by side. But that closeness has always made it clear that there is a space missing. There’s a hole that cannot be filled.
What would she have been like? Would she have been funny or would she have been soft spoken? Would she have comforted me when I had my first heartbreak? Would her kids have played with my kids? Would she have been my best friend?
Now that I am a mother to a daughter that is 3 ½ I cannot help but look at those pictures of my mother at my sister’s funeral and put myself in her place. I can see the pain in her eyes and the force of a smile that she bravely put on. I close my eyes and try to feel how that must have felt, to lose a daughter so early. Too soon. My heart cannot even go there.
But her memory lives on. Even 29 years later. We don’t talk of her often. Not because we have forgotten but because she is sacred. Somehow my parents have shaped a world without their first born daughter. And that world has a lot of joy and a lot of laughs, but there will always be a space missing on that wall where all of our individual pictures hang.
This Christmas that space was filled. Kinda.
In my parents living room hangs an adult picture of Candy. It was a gift from my mom to my dad for Christmas this year. She found an artist that does age progression pictures and hired him to do one of what my sister may have looked like if she were still alive.
Even 29 years later my parents are still trying to make sense of that missing space. I guess you never really can make sense of it.
When I was a little girl I would sit on our front porch, stare up at the clear blue sky and wonder if my big sister knew who I was. I knew it then and I know it now that she does. And one day we will see each other, embrace, and it will be as if she never left.