from Sibling Sarah Olsen
September 17th marks my sister Chelsea’s 26th birthday, and the second birthday that has come since her passing in March of 2012. As many can relate, things such as anniversaries, birthdays and holidays become difficult to handle. I have found this one to be particularly difficult, whether it’s because the first year after her passing I was still in a state of numb shock or because I personally am approaching the point where I am surpassing my big sister in age, or perhaps it is a combination of both.
As the youngest, I had the advantage of making no mistake twice. I tried to let my older sisters make the mistakes and I learned from them. Or I just learned how to not get caught. But even when I did hit those road bumps through adolescences and into my early adulthood, I was blessed to have my sisters’ guidance and support. Chelsea was closer in age to me, and quick to tell anyone who gave me a hard time to back off, or show me how to use my locker on the first day of middle school. When I was having a hard time with my boyfriend, she drove the 2 hours to my college in the middle of the night to deliver brownies and a hug. She was a rock for me. Now, without Chelsea I just feel lost at times. Chelsea taught me so much about life that I feel terrified that as I continue forward I’m making these choices, mistakes, and accomplishments on my own, and she isn’t here to experience them with me. As each day passes and the reality that she is gone becomes more fact then dream like, I begin to feel more alone. It grows with knowing that she doesn’t get to celebrate her birthday. I find myself drifting off on the train ride home, wondering where she would be in her life, what she would have had to celebrate this year, or thinking that I don’t get to tease her that she is now closer to 30 then 20. There is really no way to describe the emptiness then the fact that she simply doesn’t get to live, experience, and continue a journey.
There is a spiteful heartache in knowing that there is truly no turning 26 for my sister, only if it’s proceeded by the phrase “would have been”. There are a lot of things that Chelsea never got to tell me, or to teach me, and I was reminded of this about 10 months after her passing.
During my senior year of college I got myself into a situation and I wasn’t sure how to get out of it (I won’t get into the details). My sisters were the first people I went to, both for counsel and comfort. Both Chelsea and my oldest sister, Melissa, came to my college to help me through it. Upon arriving, Chelsea asked me “How could this happen?” before storming off to be alone for several hours. At the time, I was hurt and felt betrayed. I wanted comfort and support, not aggression and accusations. Before the night was over, Chelsea apologized and said she was just overwhelmed by the situation. But it wasn’t until after she had passed that I understood what happened that night. Chelsea hadn’t been upset with me, but she was upset with herself. Chelsea felt like she was responsible for my mistakes, like she didn’t set a good enough example for me. And when she asked me ‘how this could happen?’ what she was really asking was ‘how did I let this happen to my baby sister?’ She cared so much about me, she felt responsible and months later she reminded me of what it means to care for someone fully, and how to experience others pain through that love. In the time that I came to comprehend this, it made me miss my sister even more, but it also helped me become conscious of how she is still with me. There may be new lessons I have to learn on my own, and I may make mistakes that she won’t be able to help me out of, but her guidance is still something I can hear if I take the time to listen.
Though nothing can erase the pain from the knife that cut her life short, I still find reason to celebrate the beautiful life she lived, both on her birthday and every day. Chelsea continues to live through everyone who knew her, and all those hard earned life lessons are not for nothing. In the end, Chelsea was truly the only person who taught me how to be strong after she was gone. Though she doesn’t get to make new mistakes, and I don’t get to share mine with her, I know everything she ever taught me is all I ever needed.