this one's for you , nel

family isn't always blood related.

my immediate family consists of both parents, an older brother, & myself. we're in va. majority of both paternal & maternal blood relatives live in pa, with others scattered all across the east & west coast.

in regards to the rest of my family, this'll be focused on my sisters.

it all started with gel in middle school who, around high school years, introduced me to ash, who, after one year of undergrad out of state, introduced me to nel. 

there were four of us.

all seemingly normal, carefree, young, black girls living it up in their early twenties, making bad decisions, but doing it collectively, like using the buddy system. we had a ball every time we got together. at the house, at friday's, at somebody else's house [party], waffle house, birthday celebrations, all of it. any time we linked up, it was great.

 
 

we knew nel'd been sick since she was 14. you'd never know it unless you knew her, though. that was her strength. she never looked like or acted like anything was wrong. of course, those close to her had seen & helped her on her worser days. she'd always pull through & be right back to her usual self.

around october 2012, she let us know her doctors'd found some unpleasant things.

she was hopeful & we followed her lead. 

during all this, i remember just wanting to make her happy. wanting to surprise her with something special. wanting to see her bright eyes & wide smile.

intro to my sixth tattoo. i remember showing her soon after getting it around christmas time that year. she cried which of course made me cry. 'twas a very pleasant surprise.

another unpleasant finding: out of pocket expenses for medication were ridiculous.

but she was hopeful so we followed her lead.

2013. the year of our 21st birthdays. the year we were going to miami &  living it up.

we were only two months in & she was gone.

i feel like we cried about 17 separate times that day we found out. soon as we stopped, one of us started up again. a good amount of times, the cries were interrupted or accompanied by laughs about a new years' night we spent together or a day of just chillin' at nel's. it'd been a year since whitney passed, too, so that soundtrack didn't necessarily help, but we made it through.

i'll never forget getting that phone call 5 years ago. i'll never forget that day. i'll never forget the three of us driving up to your house to see cars & family just dealing with what'd happened. it was literally like a movie that i didn't want to see. i'm not sure if or when it'll stop playing in my head, but it's there.

there were four of us.

now there are three.

it hurts to lose a whole person. a piece of your family. i still don't know what grief looks like, personally.

did i do it right? am i still dealing with it? is it okay to cry at the thought of that wheat thins commercial with stewie in it?

maybe, maybe not. but what is okay is loving, being loved, & bonding + connecting throughout the time you have with family be it by blood or by chance.

family comes in many forms & i'm so so thankful for mine.

 

happy 26th birthday, baby girl