True to her seemingly tireless nature, and owing sadly to her mania, in addition to everything else she did, my sister Amanda was also a (self-)published author of several books. The Young Physician’s Guide to Money and Life stands apart from her other publications as the only one with a co-author (the endlessly wonderful Dave Denniston of Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast) as well as the only one published posthumously. In fact she essentially abandoned the then unfinished book to Dave.
Besides furnishing his own writings, Dave braved organizing the chapters, finalizing editing, coordinating design, and generally seeing this arduous project to completion. He approached me to write a preface, and was incredibly respectful and supportive. It greatly comforts me to know Amanda spent time working with someone like him at the end.
When I drafted my preface, I found that though I wanted to address potential readers, I also had a lot I wished I could say to Amanda. So I ended up writing two different versions. Dave wisely chose the version intended for the book’s readers to include. And here below is what I wrote to Amanda then.
I am writing now, now that I have lost you.
You asked me to work on this book in April 2016, after I joined your blog. Working closely together was intense and stressful. I left your projects when we had a big fight, and I felt hurt.
Today, I don’t think about the day you took your own life. I think about that fight. I think about how it began, as normal conversation, in which you urged me to publish. When you heard me hesitate, you pushed harder and grew agitated. At the time I could think only of how aggressive you sounded, and how you were treating me. Now, what jumps out about the fight is how it began with your belief in me and desire to see me thrive. What jumps out about after is how you reached out to mend our relationship. I didn’t know then, but I know now how a conversation can spin out of control so quickly. Now I have a sliver of an idea how your mind can work against you.
Less than half a year after that fight, I lost you. Since then, often I thought I was too hard on you. I should have comforted, indulged you more. Other times I thought I was too lenient. I should have forced you to seek the care you so clearly needed. My therapist says thinking “I should have…” is called bargaining, and that it’s natural. That’s surely so, but it isn’t productive. You would not have liked me to bargain uselessly with the past. You chased productivity to what seemed an impossible degree.
You once wrote on your blog one ought to “optimize what’s in your control and omit thoughts and energy for what’s not in your control”. So today I’m taking a chapter from you, and I’m turning every plea into a pledge. Today, I don’t mourn what you miss in your short life, and I celebrate what you valued. Readers of yours know your advocacy for education, knowledge, learning and the sharing of these. Anyone who reads is one who knows you cared about eating right, eliminating debt, reducing negative environmental impact and a myriad of other good, positive things.
Anyone who gleams knows how intensely and profoundly you loved Mini. Today, I don’t settle for that she does not grow up in the shadow of your achievements or your suicide, I pledge to live in the light with her. Whenever I miss you now, I will seek out what my energy and time can be spent on to honor your life. I want to be the sister you were so proud of that you’d call just to encourage her to publish.
Your email signature used to say: “gratitude is the key to happiness”, but because you always wanted so much more out of life, I used to find it almost jarring. Now I’m teaching myself that wanting more doesn’t mean we’re ungrateful. Gratitude and the want for more are equally great motivators. I am both grateful to have known you, and wish that I could have done more for you and had more time with you. These thoughts drive me to do better, today and everyday after, for everyone I love and everyone you loved. Caring for and supporting the people you loved is how I get to have you stay with me.
Writing today I think maybe I have not totally lost you to the vast dark. After all, even writing makes me feel closer to you now. Who knows, maybe that children’s book of yours will be next for me.