We’re still here.

Izzy’s still here.

I’m still here.

I don’t know how it’s happened, but I’m grateful. In October, doctors told us she’d already passed her expiration date, and though she could surprise us, it wasn’t likely. We prepared to fully live every day we had left, and started this blog to count her days, and to make sure her days count. And then suddenly and out of nowhere, our family was struck with another tragedy. My sister Robin was infected with a rare bacteria after a minor family dog bite and life was thrown into chaos. My every waking moment was spent with thoughts of Robin: being there for her kids, praying, wishing and ultimately, fundraising.

I was prepared that at any moment Izzy could pass and I’d have to deal with loss on top of loss, pain on top of agony. And yet she didn’t. She stayed by my side on the red couch day after day, sometimes as many as 20 hours a day as I reached out to the world in hopes of helping my sister. As the months passed, my own life went from horrible to unimaginable, in a turn of events I have told no one outside of my family. I can’t go into details, but suffice it to say there have been moments in 2013 that nearly cost me my own life, and certainly my sanity and vitality.

Seven months later here we are. It feels as if the worst has passed. I am often dazed, looking at my life from the outside, wondering whose hands these are on the keyboard, who this woman is on the couch, staring into the cyber world half dazed, somewhat confused. They say trauma can do that to you, leave you in realms of shock that help the experience become softer, more easy to manage.

And here in the often-fuzzy realms of aftershock, I gaze down and the one thing I recognize completely is the little wispy-eared head, the freckled face, the tiny rib cage moving in and out with soft wet sounds of labored breath.

She stayed here for me.

I can’t help that thought. It comes without warning, throughout the day.

When I thought it was over, when I thought the end had begun, Izzy surprised me once again, staying by my side through my own endings, through my losses and devastations. She remains. Proving, once again, life is full of surprises. Blessings. Mercies. Grace.

And this makes me shed soft tears of compassion, like feathers falling gently from heaven’s rafters. When I learned of Izzy’s condition, I set aside my plans and ambitions, and determined that I’d live right next to Izzy for the rest of her life. I resolved that my life would center around the life left inside her heart, the air left inside her lungs.

I stayed here for her.

And now what I have done for her, she’s done for me. Every day, once tragedy struck, she spent right next to me, going nowhere, yet traveling the roads of tenderness, the pathways of companionship.

I fear in my tumult and crisis that somehow I failed her. That I wasn’t really present for her. And yet, we’ve shared the same couch. Breathed the same molecules. And maybe sometimes that’s all you need. That sense of not-aloneness. That quiet gift of presence, and its aura of purpose.

She’s still here. As I write this, her uneven breath makes little ragged snoring sounds beside me. She’s curled on the red couch so that I can feel her rib cage–in, out, in out, against my thigh and the short, sweet coolness of her breath on my knee. I’m coming through one of the darkest, most treacherous roads of my life, and I’m still here. My own breath–in, out, in, out–is affirmation that life goes on. Im not sure what’s next. A little broken. Somewhat bruised. Sometimes reaching for for the light through a chest of jagged breaths. But still, we reach.

And life reaches back.

We’re still here.

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