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Bridget is concerned. She’s hurting hard for the family. The two girls crossed paths a time or two in life, and their families with them. There was grade school and junior high. High school started with the two girls from different worlds together among a mass of freshman, but soon Anna left to attend a behavioral school. Folks said it was better that way. Bridget wonders how to speak with Jeremy, the little brother. She doesn’t know how to say “sorry” or how to teach him about this God, as good as silent to his sister in these recent days. She’s aching for him, but sometimes kids can absorb these kinds of things. We don’t expect anything, then there they are, drawing their families with crayons when their families are falling apart in sorrow.

Ebony gets jittery when she doesn’t know how to handle a situation, when she has no outlet for the mess inside of her. She’ll calm as time goes on, reaching down into the splinters of her heart to speak of times she remembers. She’ll repeat and repeat that no one sits in Anna’s seat on the couch. Months later, she’ll marvel at how no one still sits there. Ebony has a maturing mind; in her carefree naivety I see sense and calm. Her family is her rock, her twin brother closer than their sarcastic banter shows. I watched him stand up in the back of the worship center, stepping over people crammed into the rows of chairs, all to come to the front row and squeeze his too-big body in next to her. So that he could touch her and love her and make sure she felt safe in this uncertainty.

Lizzy becomes quiet. When she gets really excited, she starts to open up vocally, but when she’s bothered, she doesn’t usually bother with words. I remember her how she closed and caved inward when her Grandma died. Clams up about the war inside of her, even though the hurt is crimson on her shirt. She doesn’t fight hands on her shoulders or the way others wipe her tears, and she loves to hang on to hugs. Anna’s hugs are what she longs for. She’ll let go a bit, crying hard and long, on and off. And I’ll want nothing more than for her to feel my arms, my tight hug, my hand combing her hair behind her ears, and for her to know perfection and see a plan in this deep mystery.

And Anna, well, Anna is gone. Will they call her selfish, stupid, sinful? She let the lies of Satan, the maybe-literal voices that haunted her, convince her of something she knew wasn’t true. We talked so much about the voice of truth. We sang it, studied it, socialized in the light of it, got tired of it over and over, gluing her together over dinner and coffee and truth. Over and over she said she couldn’t take it anymore. And over the months and years, hearing a chorus without a plan, it became stale. So, she did finally take her life to break our hearts, but not so that she’d break them, but so that she wouldn’t have to feel hers heal anymore. On a giant post-it note to Anna I said, These are your girls, Anna. Look at how brave they are. I want her to see, even though I don’t believe she can. I was proud of the girls, but broken like they were, crushed under the weight of “maybe” and “what if”. I’m sorry, my post-it note said, for your questions I couldn’t or didn’t or waited too long to answer.

*though non-fiction, due to the nature of the subject matter, the names in this post have been changed.

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