A letter to my (Dead) Sister About her Little Boy


In the first few years of my grief, writing was an enormously helpful outlet. But, in the past year, I've lost (temporarily?) the urge to write. Maybe because of the pandemic, maybe because I fell out of the habit? Maybe because my grief doesn't hurt in the same way. 

I found this letter I wrote to my sister in July, 2019 — just before the 2 year anniversary of her death. Since I've lost my drive to write anything new, I thought I'd share something a little old. I have no memory of writing this, but I'm glad I did. 


Dear Alison,

I know that all you would want to know is about Sam.

Your beautiful boy is ok. You would recognize his intelligence — he is still so smart. His baby curls have disappeared, but his hair is still ‘swamp’ colored (the term you used to describe my hair, and then when Sam was born with the same color you decided to save face and keep the stupid adjective). He is still a poor napper, pretty much dropped them altogether, and it’s hard to get him to sleep at night. He still loves to put his hands down shirts and rub arms when he wants to be comforted.

You wouldn’t be surprised to know that he is still clingy, now with his dad instead of you. But I don’t blame him because he went to bed and you were there and he woke up and you were gone. He’s still big. So tall for his age that people often mistake him for a five-year-old. Though they’re just 51 weeks apart, Corinne is wearing his clothes from two years ago and they’re still too big. But I’m happy she’s wearing them because you picked them out. Sam’s still physical, and now he zooms on scooters and bikes. You told me you wanted him to get a balance bike for his birthday and we were sure he got one. He zips around so quickly and stops on a dime. Sometimes he likes to crash into the walls for fun.

You would be happy to know that he is loving and so, so loved. He’s independent when he plays. He loves to wear costumes, particularly a dinosaur cape that comes down over his eyes. He was really into Thomas and then Minions and then Paw Patrol. Now he likes cars and trucks and this weird lamp that sings songs and changes colors. The jingle is really catchy and you would have loved mocking it.

You’d be surprised to learn that he is a brave eater, he’ll pretty much eat whatever you give him. I know you worked really hard to potty train him that summer…after you were gone that didn’t work out too well. Things are still a bit hit or miss.

You would be devastated to know that he doesn’t remember you. He knows of you and he recognizes you in pictures, but there are no memories. He still doesn’t really understand what it means to be dead, and that is ok because it’s a hard thing to understand. On your 39th birthday in March, he asked if we could call you up and invite you to your birthday party. Another time he asked me if you would be coming home from the hospital soon. Once he wondered why he never had a chance to meet you.

His dad takes him to school every day, and his nanny, Huda, picks him up. She’s no-nonsense, and I think you would appreciate that.

He sees mom every weekend. I see him once a month, but we FaceTime every morning. He lives in the house you chose for him, a house I’ve now slept at more than you ever did. He goes to the school you picked out for him but you died before you had a chance to peek in the window and wait for him to catch your eye at dismissal. He loves his school, and his teachers are thoughtful. You picked a perfect place for him. He’s made lots of friends, travels the park circuit with his buddies in the afternoon, and goes to karate class. You wanted to get him in swim lessons — he just started. He really likes the water.

Sam’s life would be so much richer if you were here, but this beyond shitty option b is working out ok. He will not know anything different and this is both something I’m grateful for and one of the most devastating pieces of this story.

I miss you. I love you. We all miss you.

Your sister,


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