**Trigger warning: mental health, schizophrenia, death/loss**
Seven years ago today, though I still don’t know why, you left us. Your little sister feared your passing on such a date as this – a day remembered for a national tragedy – would mean you’d be forgotten. You will never be forgotten, Elizabeth. Not by anyone who knew you.
You showered those around you with compassion, love, and genuine interest. You taught us to listen. You showed us eager optimism and hope.
Schizophrenia was not your end, though the incidents leading to your diagnosis did feel like it. Schizophrenia did not remove you from existence, though you were never recognizable as the sunny, bubbly, quirky girl we used to know after that diagnosis.
We teeter between knowing you were always there and feeling that we lost you August 2, 2007, instead of September 11, 2014. You were there. Sparks of joy, bursts of silliness, moments of sheer optimism broke through the medicated exterior. You just didn’t show yourself often.
Today, September 11, 2021, we remember you for the vibrant, loving, silly woman you were. We regret the moments you were hidden from us and miss the bright joys we never got to share with you. You, like my dad, never got to meet the love of my life. You, like my dad, never got to experience the land of my heart with me. You died too soon. We never visited each other on the mission fields where one day we would serve. We never attended weddings or 40th birthdays. We never giggled over engagements or shared videos of first steps from the children we never had.
Schizophrenia took you from us, yet your body remained with us for seven years. Not everyone with this mental illness has that experience. Many have clear days and live happy lives for long years. Many do not. You did not. It’s a hard understanding to find – that you did not become the condition, yet we never truly knew you again.
It’s also a hard experience to express. We don’t want to dishonor others who face the challenges of schizophrenia and find courage, strength, and peace in it. We can’t say you never had those in the midst of it, either.
But neither can we say that we truly ever saw you again once the disease struck you that summer. Your personality fundamentally changed. No longer were you the bright, effervescent being who sparkled with exuberance for life. No longer were you filled with compassion at every turn. You had cruel moments and dark thoughts – you didn’t even know yourself, so often you told me.
Yet, you were there. Deep down, if not on the surface.
Those of us who knew and loved you best still wrestle with the truths of who you were, who you became, and what of you remained.
You fundamentally changed those who knew you best. In your days of sunshine, you challenged us to deeper love and mercy. In your shadowed years, you challenged us to examine our core beliefs and seek the answer to why those beliefs mattered.
I don’t have a proper ending to this piece, a wrap-up that resolves anything. I simply have memories dancing around inside my head the way often did together, even after your diagnosis came.
I miss you, Elizabeth, and will till the day we meet again in eternity. Your impact on this planet remains and will until the last person who knew you passes to the next life. Your sister has nothing to worry about.