Letters For Ellie is a series of letters written by Rachel to her daughter Ellie. This excerpt is from a chapter on loss. I still have some details to add and edits to make but I wanted to give you a glimpse. I hope you enjoy.
My Dearest Ellie,
Throughout your life you’ll experience many different emotions. Some will be of your own choosing and sometimes a decision made by another will affect you. It doesn’t really matter how you arrive at this state of emotion. It only matters how you deal with it and the actions you take that will make the biggest impact.
I’ve had my fair share of feeling loss over the past 40 years. It doesn’t matter how much time goes by, each loss still feels fresh: as if they happened yesterday. None of these moments were pleasant but as I look back and reflect on them, I am definitely a stronger person because I experienced them. I would like to share some of those moments with you from my life. There is always something to learn in the midst of loss.
My earliest memory happened when my great grandfather, Claude Steele, died. I remember going to his house often as a little girl. My mother would take us kids over to pick raspberries or help weed in the garden. We would work on sewing projects—making things with my great grandma. I loved sitting on Grandpa’s lap. His skin smelled musty like an old book sitting on the shelf for a long time. His eyes were blue—sparkling with kindness behind his black, wire-rimmed glasses. His build reminded me of a big, cuddly teddy bear. His smile; inviting and loving. I wanted to go everywhere with him. Claude was my best friend.
At some point my great grandpa became ill. I don’t think we were told what it was because we were too little to understand. The last time I saw him was surrounded by countless bottles of pills at his bedside. His dimly lit room smelled like menthol. Claude died when I was five.
We were not allowed to go to Grandpa’s funeral. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I am sure my mother had our best interest at heart but to this day, I still feel like I was robbed. Over the years since his death, when there has been a tense moment or profound joy in my own life, I’ve felt his presence near. He never left my heart.
Another significant loss in my life was when my sister Ellie died. This event shaped so much of my future relationships with others. She was just six years old, having died from a form of cancer called Neuroblastoma.