Dear Jen

Dear Jen,

It still hasn’t quite hit me yet that you’re gone. Late at night and early in the morning it seems more real, but I can’t quite wrap my head around it. How do I function without you telling me what to do? How will I make friends if I don’t have you to introduce me? How do I define myself if I don’t have the option to say that you’re my sister? How do I figure out what social events to attend if you’re not here to force me to go with you?

I think we all feel a little bit disoriented. Jes isn’t sure how to gauge her weirdness without you to stand as her standard for normal. Rico doesn’t know who is going to give it to him straight anymore. In a moment of sadness, Bogus asked me “But who is going to love me?” and Maggie is missing out on having an aunt who could teach her about makeup and girly things. The whole family feels this gaping hole that you filled with your laughter, your presence, your goofy faces, your gifts, your bigger-than-life self.

You were always reaching out to others – fighting against the natural tendency of Hansbroughs to be antisocial and quiet. You were always giving of yourself in a million ways. And not only to the family, but pretty much to everyone you met. There is not a single person who has met you that hasn’t been changed by you for the better. There are even people who have never met you and are changed by your story. People who continue to be changed by you even now.

It used to bother me when I would go places with you, but you just had to talk to everyone you saw. You were always the last one to leave church and the first one to show up to a party. I would go with you to Hopkins to get a ten minute procedure done and I would be there for four hours saying hi to every nurse, tech and doctor you ever had. Many of them would greet me with “You must be Katie!” like they knew me already. Your heart is so big that you had to share it with everyone you met. I wish I could do that.

I really don’t know life without you. You were seven years old when I was born and we shared a room until I was eleven and you moved out. We shared so much more than a room. You would regale me with stories of your day at school and I was convinced that there was nothing better in life than to be just like you. Sure, I fought and argued with you but that was what you taught me – to have an opinion and stand up for it at all costs. I waited for opportunities to tell people when they were wrong and put them in their place because those were my favorite stories. How silly we both were when we were young.

My freshman year of college, you were diagnosed with leukemia and I was faced with the possibility that you were not invincible. I was with you for your very first aspiration biopsy (way back when Chris didn’t like needles!) and I was blown away by how strong you were in the face of physical pain. Not only were you a mental giant, but you were so physically strong. Another reason I wanted to be just like you.

That same day, I remember asking you why this had to happen to you and you responded, “Why not me? If it wasn’t me, it would be someone else. I wouldn’t wish this on someone else. I got this.” In the past few years, I have lost a brother, a child and now you, my sister, and through it all, I remind myself of that moment at Hopkins. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone else, but I have been shaped into a strong enough person to handle this. And God used you in many ways to make me into this person.

I am sorry that I took you for granted. That I did not spend every possible moment with you. That I didn’t visit you at the hospital more. I am sorry I wasn’t always very respectful or kind or generous to you. I am sorry I took so much without giving more in return. I am sorry I can’t hug you any more and I am sorry I missed opportunities to tell you about how awesome you are. I am sorry I depended on you for so much so often and didn’t give you half as much of myself. I am sorry that I ever judged you harshly or got angry at you for anything. I am sorry I wasn’t the sister that you were. I am sorry that it was always up to you to make us get together.

I remember last November, before Luna died, you texted me that my “moonlight” was blinding, referring to my desire to reflect Christ the way the moon reflects the sun. I told you I was only following your example and you said we would create a “superbeam reflection” together. My Niña, if I become half the woman you are, I will have achieved more than is realistically possible. God made you into the incredibly strong, stubborn, rebellious, generous, loving, creative, intelligent person you are because he designed you for your journey here. And the whole time you were fighting this disease, you reflected Christ so much that everyone who met you saw that you were different and wanted what you had. I fully admit that my contribution to this superbeam of ours is some tiny percentage, but I am honored to share it with you anyway. Help me live up to my end of the bargain here and keep this superbeam shining.

There is so much I could say. So much I should say. So much I want to say. And I haven’t even addressed half of what you’ve taught me. You are so much more than anyone even knows or understands, Jen. And you are so much more than any of us ever deserved. I thank God every day for sharing you with us. Please punch/hug/lick Jakey for me and take care of my Luna and all of Sica’s heaven babies until we get up there with you. Watch over us here on Earth the way you did when you were here. Keep me humble. Teach me. Hug me from time to time.

I love you more than chocolate and peanut butter. I love you more than your double-crusted wonder pizza. I love you more than new socks. I love you more than I can ever understand. Can’t wait to see you again. We miss you.



7 thoughts on “Dear Jen

  1. So sweet, lil sister….I want to hug you! Jen was very, very blessed to have you in her life and that love you wrote about is evident in it all. God bless ya, sweetie. xoxo

  2. Well said my dear Goddaughter! Please don’t keep feeling “less” than anything or anyone. We are all meant to be unique, as this weaves the wonderfully woven tapestry that our God made. You are truly walking the walk with His guidance, love and support and you bless all of us with YOUR presence and blinding love and beauty.

  3. I can tell by your heart felt words to Janina that you too have received this light of God. She might have been your inspiration to grab it with both hands, but it illuminates from you too as you understand that special sister relationship. I can’t help but smile and know that your beloved mother lead you on this gentle path.. Am I right?
    Thank you so much for exposing your heart and love to us. Janina trully inspired me in life with her knitting and her battle to live. I am one of her Ravelry friends. We actually host a group together called Wroapsody where we made fellow Ravelers wraps and shawls who were in some sort of treatment. true to Janina’s nature, our motto is, “Pretty, Not Pity.”
    I hope comfort comes easier each day as you smile at her memories, snicker at her taunts, and share in her wonderful family.

  4. We thought of you with love today
    but that is nothing new
    we thought about you yesterday
    and days before that too,

    We think of you in silence
    We often speak your name
    All we have are memories
    and your picture in a frame.

    Your memory is our keepsake
    with which we’ll never part
    God has you in His keeping
    We have you in our hearts

    RIP my first knitting buddy
    Eleni (Australia)

  5. Pingback: Holding Jen in My Heart | EvinOK

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