I’ve stated from the beginning how close Marriah and I were. I have not been vague by any stretch of the imagination about the relationship that I had with her. What I haven’t yet mentioned is our baby cousin, J-Bird. **For the purpose of this post, I chose to use one of her many nicknames as she is still a minor and this is a public post.**
We were 3 daughters born from 3 sisters. Yeah the brothers were great and all. ~Love you boys. Mean it.~ There was just something special about us girls.
Our grandfather was out numbered until our mom’s got married, and he will tell you that he wouldn’t have it any other way. He loves his girls.
It was absolutely gut wrenching when 3 became 2.
The weekend after we lost Marriah…J-Bird and I slept in our grandparents newly renovated closet. Their dressers and furniture hadn’t been moved back in yet making it just the right size for a queen sized air mattress. We called it our room and we spent a lot of time in there when we wanted to get away. Now sweet J-Bird, my precious Mini, was not someone that you wanted to share a bed with when she was little. She liked to sleep diagonally across the bed when you are supposed to sleep “vertically” on the bed. Occasionally she would even sleep “horizontally” and I would end up with a foot jammed in my ribs. But that weekend, that horrid weekend, she slept snuggled up to my side every single night. Y’all, I can’t even begin to tell you what those nights of her and I snuggled together meant to me.
I vividly remember the first morning after we learned Marriah was gone. She sat in my lap on our Gigi’s recliner while we ate sour patch kids and watched Tangled on my iPad. I remember snuggling with her and thinking that she should not be this sad 3 days after turning 13. I mean come on!! It’s the Saturday after her first birthday as a teenager and the light that should be in her eyes today is missing, no where to be found.
Snuggling with her that morning caused something in me to shift. I had always been protective of her, but this new feeling was an odd one. I didn’t know how to help her. I didn’t know how to protect her from something I couldn’t even handle or protect myself from. I still struggle with that. It’s a feeling of inadequacy mixed with guilt and grief that I’m sure that I will struggle with for many, many years.
At almost 16 years old and almost 3 years since the light was lost, that spark is back in her eyes. Sometimes she’ll mention Marriah when we are together and it’ll dim for a minute, but you can almost see it come back to life as she straightens her shoulders and smiles at me. She’ll fiddle with the ring she wears that is a match to one that Marriah wore, she’ll think of something, and it’ll flicker again. But it’s back and that alone is a small weight off my chest…a small portion of a huge weight that was placed there the morning she and I cuddled in a La-Z-Boy eating candy for breakfast.
She and I talk about Marriah often.
I tell her stories about when Marriah and I were younger.
I tell her funny things Marriah would have told her in certain situations, usually because they are things Marriah had told me in past similar situations.
I tell her all about the shenanigans that Marriah and I would get into with our brothers and then sometimes have to follow up a story with “Don’t do that!” or “Do as I say, not as I do”.
I know that she will always remember Marriah. She’s a hard one to forget even if you barely knew her. Which was rare in and of itself for you to “barely know” her because she was a vortex that sucked you into her life and didn’t let you go until you loved her. Sorry (not really) that I got a little off topic… I know that J-Bird will always remember Marriah, but I also feel guilty…I have so many more memories and I was able to have so many experiences with Marriah that she won’t ever get the chance to have.
And let me tell you right now…that SUCKS.
I know that it’s not anyone’s fault that I had more years, therefore more opportunities to make memories with Marriah. That doesn’t, however, take away the pain and guilt that slice through me when I tell J-Bird a story.
I wouldn’t trade my time with Marriah for anything.
But I would like to trade some of this guilt that I feel.
I would like J-Bird to get to have more memories with our missing counterpart.
I would like us all to get to experience some things as the three musketeers.
Marriah and I had so many plans. Some of those were “When [J-Bird] gets older we need to…” and it’s a hard pill to swallow. I still want to do those things with her, but I’ll know what’s missing and it makes me cautious.
Grief has made me cautious in a lot of ways.
My relationship with J-Bird is one of them. I’ve not let my grief ruin or change the relationship too much, but it has made me cautious. I never want to do or say anything that will hurt or upset J-Bird.
There are many ways that being cautious is not beneficial, but I feel that with J-Bird this is the easiest way for us to grieve together and help each other.
Will it always be this way? Maybe. It’s possible. To be honest, I have no idea. But until then she knows that I love her and she knows that Marriah loves her and that’s what matters.
Before I sign this blog off with my usual adieu: Mini, I love you oodles and caboodles. More than a pirate loves rum. And Maren said it best “Don’t you hang your head low. Don’t you lose your halo. Everyone’s gonna be okay….Baby girl”
Marriah, we both love you always. And miss you forever, Sunflower. 🌻
Artist: Maren Morris (2019)
Written: Maren Morris, Sarah Aarons & Greg Kurstin