I almost didn’t post today. Today is my sister’s birthday. She would have been 41, if she hadn’t taken her life in October, 2018.
It’s been a hard day all around, of course, but writing has been particularly hard. I wrote her so many letters – physical, tangible, snail mail letters. About everything under the sun – from normal day to day minutia to the random existential and spiritual hypothesis. And she saved everyone. In boxes in her closet with all her bills and other important papers. And when she died all of those letters came back to me. Every. Single. One.
Not only did I get my letters back, there were letters she wrote to me but never sent. Pages and pages of them. I found out from a family member she’d been planning her suicide for years and I’m afraid of what I might find in those letters she never sent. I guess I’m just not strong enough to read them. Not yet.
Before my sister died, I was extremely prolific in my letter writing. Not only would I regularly write to her, but often I was also writing to someone (usually family members) at night. After she died, I stopped writing letters altogether. What did it matter?, I thought. All the love that I put into my letters, it couldn’t save her. Why write them at all?
But my letters, they were as much for me as they were for the recipient. They were my form of expression – my ‘art’, my writing – with an audience of one. When I stopped writing them, I stopped expressing myself, and it ended up just being ‘wrong’.
I’ve only just started warming back up to my letter writing again. I’m up to about once a week now, but pretty much only to my baby sister. Eventually, I’ll get back into the swing of things.
It takes a lot out of you as an artist when you’re slapped in the face with the ice-cold reality that your art can’t save everyone, no matter how hard you try. But you gotta keep going, because hopefully, it will still make a difference to someone else.