Saturday, April 11, 2015

Climbing two by two.

Celebrate we will
Because life is short but sweet for certain
Hey, we're climbing two by two
to be sure these days continue

Things we cannot change.

~ Dave Matthews Band

Anyone who is on social media quickly learned that today was "National Siblings Day" according to somebody. And look, I'm not even hating on it since I'm all for any chance to celebrate my brother and my sisters while I'm alive to do it. Heck, turns out I even posted about this alleged Sibling Day in the past since I had a label already for it. Chile, who knew?


I guess technically yesterday was the official national sibling day since it's now past midnight. But you get the picture. Hmmm. That's actually a perfect segue for what's on my mind--the photograph above.

Mmmmm hmmm.

Okay, so check it. This photo was taken roughly 24 to 36 hours after Deanna passed away. We were sitting in Will's kitchen and, I'm not sure why, a camera was aimed at us and we decided that we weren't ready to be photographed without Deanna. So we weren't.


That photo has become like the Mona Lisa to me. I mean it. I can study it for hours if given the chance. The more I look at it, the more I see. Sometimes I just study one face. Sometimes just our eyes. But most times, I look at each one of us and marvel at how accurately this photograph captures how we were coping during that time.


JoLai's eyes were wistful, wise, knowing. Her expression serious, but decidedly not morose. Her hand around me is protective. And I'd bet you my life that her other hand was firmly placed somewhere on Will. She is the baby sister, yes. But I learned during the time that she is perhaps the most protective of us all.

Will describes himself as "still in shock" when this photo was taken. He fought to be brave at first but then, through the love and support of so many people who came to his side, he'd learned by this point that it wasn't necessary. Maybe his eyes are the ones I study the most. Some days I see them as sad, forlorn. Other days I see them glimmering with an intentional fight to wrestle sorrow to the ground, proudly holding up his sister's photograph and proclaiming: "Love lives on. We win. Sorrow loses." 

Yes. That.

I used to be bothered by the fact that I was smiling. Like, who does that? I'd always ask myself. Who freakin' smiles like that less than two days after losing her sister? Yeah. I used to feel self conscious about this picture for that reason. But I'm not anymore. Those who read here or who know me know that losing my sister was a life-changing spiritual walk for me. As crazy as it sounds, my soul had just opened up during that time. I'd prayed fervently during that time for peace that surpasses understanding. That is exactly how I was feeling in that moment. Weirdly peaceful. My mantra--"More glad than sad"-- blanketed me. Seeing how many people loved my sister and the outpouring of support for our family gave me solace. Plus, I knew that my Daddy was the one who usually handled logistics during times of loss in our family. When I prayed, I asked God to help me be able to do the things that he'd normally do. I'd need peace for that to happen. Which is precisely what I see when I look at myself on this photograph.


Today I noticed some new things. I noticed the reflection of one of our closest family friends, Bert, taking the photo. How apropos that he's wearing a Tuskegee University shirt--the alma mater that all four Draper children have in common. Bert was one of Deanna's favorite people in the entire world. It makes me even happier that it was him. He's my brother's best friend. Now I will have a whole new set of thoughts when examining this photo next time with that in mind. We were looking at Bert. Will was looking at Bert.


Remember Bert? He's the one that took a shot of Jack Daniels in the pulpit while speaking about Deanna at her memorial service. To which my brother responded to with a standing ovation. Ha. To this day Harry says Bert's "shot heard all over the world" was quite possibly his favorite thing he's ever seen in his life and perhaps will still be at the very top of his top ten most awesome moments ever when he's an old man.


The scarf covering us was one of the last ones Deanna had crocheted for me. Zachary's football team that year--his very first football team--was the Ducks and their colors were green and yellow just like the Oregon team. She'd made me that scarf to wear to Zack's games because he'd asked her to. Of course, Auntie did as her nephew asked. She never missed one of his games. Okay, maybe one weekday one. But if you ask Zachary? Never. I like that this is his memory, too.

I'm not sure how the scarf got all the way over from JoLai to Will. I don't recall there being a big production before that photo was taken either. It all just sort of happened. We came together. Someone grabbed her photo. And Bert captured a moment in time.


I guess I especially love that the photo of Deanna that we are holding was a photo from a very happy day--my wedding day. She'd been so supportive and helpful. And she always had a special connection with Harry, too. Deanna had this way of making everyone feel at home and alright with being themselves. Her smile in this photo is genuinely happy. She liked this photograph of herself, too.  I know that because she told me so. So I guess I like that, too.


So how did I spend my National Siblings Day? Well, I spent it in the most perfect way. First, my brother and I binge-watched on some television in the morning. Then we sat on the beach sipping margaritas, listening to music, and laughing out loud well into the evening. We looked on as our own children built memories near the ocean with their own siblings and silently celebrated through knowing glances that they, too, would know what we know: Life is better with siblings.  It just is. 


This song from the favorite band of all time of both Will and JoLai says it best so I'll leave it here:

Celebrate we will
Because life is short but sweet for certain
We're climbing two by two 
To be sure these days continue

Things we cannot change.

Yes. That.

Happy day after Siblings Day.

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Phil. 4:7

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . 


  1. I resonate with everything about this post. Someone told me after my father died to not be surprised if I wasn't as broken as I thought I should be because my dad was helping me from the other side. Our loved ones reach back and help us through. I understand your smile in this photo so completely. One word for it. Deanna. Love you sister girl.

  2. I firmly believe that the best gift we could ever give our sons is each other. My brothers are some of the most important people in my life and I will be forever grateful for them. Thanks for a sweet post.

  3. It's been 6 yrs since I lost my brother...I find now that I don't mind the sad serves a reminder to cherish others. I sooo feel the more sad than glad comment. Coincidentally Apr 10 was my birthday AND his, and we were 10 years apart. So, I still celebrate for the both of us, good to know Natl Siblings Day just gives me another reason. :-)

    Ps missed you at Deanna's Amazing race Sat. I thought about my girl the whole time, and I pushed myself like she used to do me. So I won, but it was bittersweet because she's the first one I would've called! :-) I sho' do miss her.

    -Renee :-)

  4. Sometimes when I look at this picture I think,"Why didn't I smile?" And other times I know that my face reflects exactly what I was feeling at that moment. This was probably around the time the three of us went into the sitting room and had a good cry. That was really my first release, and I knew I needed to have it with the only two people in the world who could remotely understand how I was feeling.

    Anywho... I love this picture. I look at it every day.



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