I believe in insisting on saying I love you. My belief is borne of a great regret: that I did not tell my sister I loved her before she died.
When people ask, how many brothers and sisters do you have? I hesitate. There is no good way to say, my sister died two weeks shy of her twentieth birthday. Once we were three and now we are two, my brother and I, and we do not always know how to talk about her and about what happened almost twelve years ago.
The last night I saw my sister before she was killed in a car accident, she was house-sitting down the street. She was almost seven years older than I, a lifetime for a thirteen year old. When she asked me to walk her down the block, I nearly jumped for joy. She was a college sophomore by then and the time we spent alone was brief but cherished by me. We spent a little while watching TV, doing just what I imagined sisters did together, sitting side by side. When it came time for me to leave—it was getting dark and I knew our mother would worry—I turned at the doorway and said, “Give me a hug. I’m not going to see you.”
My sister and I were not affectionate with each other in general. We had hugged once before, at the behest of our mother, as I was leaving for two weeks at summer camp. My sister glanced in my direction and said casually, “I’ll see you. I’ll see you later.”
I didn’t press her then because I didn’t want to irritate her; we were just getting to be friends and I was trying so hard not to irritate. Now I believe in always pressing the issue with the ones you truly love; that the words are never wasted, even if they are not answered. I believe that she knew then, that I loved her, adored her, worshipped her; but I also believe that she wouldn’t have minded hearing the words out loud. I say it to her every day now, out loud or in my mind, but I don’t have the luxury of hearing her say them back. So what I believe in, more than anything, is saying, whenever I get the chance: I appreciate you, I’m happy you’re in my life, I love you. I insist on saying it out loud, just in case.