The Year of Firsts

On January 22nd, 2019, I was nothing more than a hollow vessel perusing the surface of the Earth.  There was nothing in me that was not grief, anger, or sadness, as much as I wanted to be the portrait of the picture perfect, faithful servant, who wanted to very much to understand why the Lord took her away.

On this particular date, my sister had been dead for twenty-four days, and I had only recently returned to the state in which I lived, two thousand miles away from her grave site, two thousand miles away from my family, a million miles away from life before cancer.

She was gone.  I remained, what was left of me at that point, anyway.

Today is January 22nd, 2020.  It is a new decade.  Life obviously went on, even when I didn’t want it to go on.  Sadness and anger transformed, first into desperation, then hope took over, and eventually, an overwhelming sense of peace filled the last empty space in the once empty shell that was my soul.

Over a year has passed since that dreadful night when I held my sister’s bony hand, stroking her balding head, praying for a miracle, only to be met hours later with the news that she had taken her last breath.

So yes, 2019 was an entire year FILLED with firsts.

As she had passed on Dec. 30th, New Years Eve and Day 2019 were a blur of “I’m-so-sorry-for-your-loss” and “whatever-you-need-I’m-here” speeches, and and endless stream of meals being brought to my parent’s home, and endless searches for old photos, and funeral and celebration of life preparations.  Of course, for all of those, I am thankful, and always will be…but all of those moments are still a blur.

Then came Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, The 4th of July, what would have been HER 40th BIRTHDAY, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  They were all the “firsts.”  If you have ever experienced the loss of a treasured loved one, you know what I mean when I say “firsts.”  Although each and every day without that person is significant, those days that hold so many memories are even more so.  All of your childhood memories come flooding back with a vengeance so hard that it is difficult to breathe.  Every memory that pops up on social media makes you tear up.  Every.  Single.  One.

But I learned something as this year of “firsts” have come to a close…

Life goes on.

While each and every moment without her on this planet are soul-crushing, I have learned to smile again.  I have learned to treasure those relationships that mean something, and to say good-bye to those that don’t.  I have learned to live COMPLETELY in the moment and to not dwell on what “might be.”  Most of all, I have learned that death is simply a part of the journey.

If you are reading this, especially if you are in that time of “firsts,” fear not.  You WILL get through it.  It is a long, dark and dreary journey in the beginning, but it will pass.

Read that again.  IT. WILL. PASS.

I loved my big sister.  I love her still.  I miss her voice, her smile, her gentle ways, but she is still with me.  I talk to her daily.  I allow myself the tears when the tears need to flow.  I don’t apologize when the tears need to flow.  I am comfortable talking about her life, her death, and all that came after.  Through her death, and through the life I must now live without her, I have become a far better version of myself than I ever thought possible.


In loving memory of Marnie Banks: 1979-2018

Beloved Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother and Friend

Author: Mary Burgstahler

I'm a mother, sister, wife, daughter and friend. When I'm not writing or traveling, I work as a REALTOR in the Twin Cities West Metro. I enjoy a good glass of cabernet, hiking and camping with my family, taking on new challenges, and am always up for an adventure!

6 thoughts on “The Year of Firsts”

  1. Profound description of the year of firsts. Truth is that for the remainder of our life there will be the special days on the calendar when the tears flow and the heart aches.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I see your beautiful sister in your photos, I remember the days I held you as your heart shattered into pieces begging God to heal her together! I remember each moment as it was yesterday, it was during my year of firsts without my best friend, my mom! I wanted so deeply to keep you from the pain I was going through. At the time the pain was too raw for either of us to handle! I prayed day and night for you all and in a weird way it help my heart to pray for yours! The year of firsts came and went for both of us. I learned many things through out our first year but the most important is even if not, he is still good! Love you MB


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