70: Be Happy

70: Be Happy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

Be Happy

Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.

~Emily Dickinson

To say that my heart was broken was an understatement. My younger sister, Anna, who was also my best friend, had passed away from leukemia, and I was living in a fog of grief.

I got up each day, did what I had to do, came home, stared at the TV, and then went back to bed. This cycle continued for more than a year. My heart physically ached, and doing anything that I used to find enjoyable seemed wrong without my sister there to enjoy it with me.

Since I was still going through the motions, my family didn’t worry about me too much. They were fighting their own battles with grief and figuring out their own lives without Anna. Since no one was worried about me, I wasn’t worried about myself.

It was the second summer after her death when I had the dream.

In the dream, I was sitting at the dining room table with my family, and we were about to eat supper. Anna was gone, but not in the sense of death — more in the sense that she was out of town. The phone rang, and my father answered it.

He looked at me, phone receiver in his outstretched hand. “It’s for you.”

I was confused as to who would be calling me. Since my sister’s death, I had turned down almost every invitation and pushed away almost all my friends.

I walked over and spoke a cautious “hello” into the phone.

“Hey, it’s me, Anna.”

She didn’t have to say her name, I knew her voice instantly. Even though I knew I was dreaming, her voice warmed me. It was crystal clear, and I felt as if she were standing right by me, even though we were on the phone. I wanted to speak, but couldn’t find my voice.

“I don’t have long, but I just wanted you to know that I want you to be happy,” she said.

“Happy?” I repeated.

“Yeah.” Her voice was cheerful, as it always was, and I could picture her smile — her glorious smile that could lighten the darkest of rooms. “Like you were in conservation.”

“Conservation?” There was so much I wanted to say to her. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her, how much I missed her, and how sorry I was for not staying longer at the hospital on the night she died. But all I could do was repeat the last words of her sentences.

“Yeah,” she said. “Gotta go. Love you.”

The phone went silent, and I woke up. The dream was still vivid and replayed in my mind as I lay in bed contemplating what she had said: Like you were in conservation.

What did she mean by “conservation”? I thought about our last six months together. Two of those months I had spent as a bear researcher in the mountains of New Mexico. It was most definitely conservation work, and as my brilliant sister had reminded me, it was one of my happiest times.

As the sun peeked over the horizon, I got up, dressed, and put on my boots. As I started toward the door, ready to go hiking for the first time since Anna’s death, the phone rang.

I grabbed it quickly so I could tell whomever it was to call back later, before the motivating effects of the dream wore off and I fell back into my fog. The line was quiet, but in my mind I could hear my sister’s voice saying, “Be happy.”

~Jennifer McMurrain

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