Today would have been my sister Kylene’s 30th birthday. She died when she was 16, so it’s hard to even imagine what she would have been like at 30. We – her family and friends – all knew Kylene the girl and were just beginning to get a glimpse of the woman she was becoming.
Kylene the girl loved to sing and act. She played the flute and was a multi-sport athlete. She worked hard at school and was a honor student. And Ky was kind, and so very giving. I think she worried a lot about things, too. As a toddler, she was prone to tantrums, and never did lose her flair for the dramatic. Kylene was also a devoted Girl Scout, and she was on her way to earning her Gold Award (the highest achievement in Girl Scouts). She loved the Harry Potter books (though she only lived to read the first four) and shared them with everyone, and I mean everyone, making many a reluctant reader into an avid one.
We used to go to the beach and play volleyball with our friends, cranking up the music (usually Fuel) on the way. We played soccer, basketball, and track together for that one year we were both in high school together. I used to jump down from my top bunk and into her bottom bunk when I got scared at night. She never made fun of me for it, never even would mention it to me the next day. She used to wear my underwear when they would accidentally end up in her pile, much to my disgust.
The truth is Kylene was so many things, more than I can ever write about, more than I ever even knew about. I knew her as my often annoying little sister. At 16 and 19, respectively, she and I were really just learning how to be friends outside of the sister realm. I think we would have become best friends as adults. But she will always be 16 going on 17.
My mind gets all twisted up over the fact that my oldest nephew turned 16 this year, so he’s been alive almost as long as his Auntie Ky was. He seems so young; he is so young. How could Kylene have only been alive an equally short amount of time? Her influence on my life seems far more profound than could possibly have happened in 16 years.
I’ve already lived more than two of her lives. My great grandmother at age 96 died two years to the day after my sister. She lived 6 of Kylene’s lives.
For some reason, this year I keep thinking about all these numbers. I think it’s the way the logical side of my brain is still trying to make sense of my sister’s death. The truth is, the numbers are just numbers, and no amount of calculating will make it make sense.
The creative part of my brain wrote a whole book trying to make sense of my sister’s death. That helped me mourn Ky and it helped me heal, but it didn’t make the death of a 16-year-old make sense. Nothing can.
So today (and most days) I think of her. And today on her birthday I memorialize her. I remember how she made me laugh and cry, how I wanted both hit her and protect her (not usually at the same time), how I tried to explain to her how to be more like me and how she was always herself anyway, how I try now to be more like her: empathetic, caring, kind.
I think about how The Boy’s temperament reminds me so much of her at times, and it helps me understand him better. See, Kylene is still teaching me and inspiring me to be a better person, even though she’s been gone for so long. She will never meet my kids, but she is part of their lives all the same.
She is my sister, and I miss her…always. So let’s all raise a glass to my sister. Happy birthday, Ky!