I didn't talk about it earlier because I am not sure how to talk about it. I am winging it.
When I was seventeen months old, my mother gave birth to my little sister, but my little sister had already left this world. When my mum hadn't felt her moving around for too long, she went to the doctor and there was no heartbeat. She was induced, and my sister was dead before she was born.
I can't remember exactly how far along my mum was. I *think* she was due in August. Amber was born on May 30, 1983. Two days ago was her twenty-fifth birthday.
(I said a few entries ago that I don't use real names here, but honest to goodness, my little sister's name was Amber. I don't want to change that. It's a beautiful name.)
Of course, being seventeen months old, I don't remember that day. But for as long as I can remember, I have been aware of Amber's absence. We visited her grave site while we still lived in Gardner and after we moved, we went to it at the end of every visit. There are pictures of her coffin at her funeral at the end of a photo album I used to look at a lot. First you'll find pictures of Karsten, then Karsten with Scott, then the two of them with me, and on the last couple pages is Amber's obituary, the ribbon from a wreath that sat on her grave, and there's a note.
The note is from a stranger who put flowers on her grave. She said she had been to the cemetery to visit her husband's plot, and she saw Amber's new tiny headstone with little angels. She brought flowers from her garden for Amber and left a note to let my parents know she thought of them.
Amber's birth and death have always affected me. Mum, of course, went on to become pregnant and give birth to my brother Isaac (his birthday is almost exactly a year after Amber's) and I dearly love all of my siblings, but the feeling that someone was missing has always been present.
When I was little, I drew her into my crayon portraits of my family. Sometimes she was an angel sitting on a cloud, sometimes she was standing alongside us, and she looked as I wished I looked: she had vibrant red hair that reached the floor and bright blue eyes.
Every year around her birthday I cry a lot. Especially in the past few years, the crying has started the week before May 30 arrives. I miss her. I never saw her, I don't remember the funeral and I don't remember seeing mum's pregnant belly, but I miss the sister I never actually had.
I remember that on every May 30, the sky at sundown is particularly breathtaking. More than the day before, more than the day after. The setting sun splashes the sky in pinks, purples and golds and ambers. The clouds pause and hang there like a painting and for a little while I feel like the sunset is saying, Amber's ok. She knows you think of her. She's taken care of. She loves you, too.
Last year, I knew Liam was going to make an early entrance (but not too early). I was afraid I would have him on May 30. I didn't want my son's birthday to be the same as my dead sister's. I wanted each birthday to have their own significance and reason. I wanted to cry on their birthdays for different reasons. Gabe pointed out that if Liam was born on Amber's birthday, it wouldn't be so bad. It might be symbolic, like a recycling of spirit and love. I cried (more) when he said this. Anyway, Liam was born a week later.
This year, I didn't cry as early as I usually do. In fact I barely thought of the day until it came. I have a child to care for this time around. I think in some ways that grants me a tiny bit of closure, with a little (well, a lot) less emptiness and absence.
I feel that this year Amber was close by, and I feel this way because of some of Liam's behavior. I can't explain it and I don't want to, not on the internet. It won't come across right. But I feel that he saw his Auntie Amber because he's a baby and he hasn't been taught not to see everything.
I stayed up late on her birthday and in the last few minutes before midnight, I heard the name Amber on TV like five times. They kept saying it. And I knew: the sunset was always right. She does know I think of her. And she knows there's love here for her.