I Used to Have a Sibling: Thirteen Months (Part III)

Dear Living IRL readers,

What follows is a series of excerpts from a work in progress—a memoir about my experience living life in the world after the death of my sister. Because she and I both grew up online, technology plays a role in my grief. It has strong fingers, has managed to work its way into my endlessly tangled emotions.

I won’t explain much else, other than that this is what I am trying to give you: concrete examples of moments when my grief and technology have interacted. Sometimes this involves phone calls. Sometimes texts. Sometimes emails. Sometimes social media. It’s all always there.

Becca Spiegel


Thirteen Months
Somewhere in New Zealand

Last night was the first night I’ve spent alone in the last six months. I read Open City and drank Pinot Noir in the back of the red campervan Jon and I have been living in and tried to catch the mouse that ran around the van and poked its head out next to a pack of AA batteries. For dinner I ate dark chocolate and plain Cheerios and before I fell asleep I pored over a year’s worth of text messages between me and my sister. Like doing a close reading of an ancient poem, analyzing what was said or not said and finding all of the parts where I could have been better. Mentally highlighting the repetition of “love” to show myself that it qualified as a theme. Realizing that there were patterns to our exchanges that I had never seen before.

The motif of medicine and whether or not it should be taken, was working, was worth it. My feelings of being stuck in my relationship; her feelings of isolation in places both full and empty of people. We used the word “poop” a lot. She was tired, low, and overwhelmed or happy, high, and overwhelming. I was busy, unsure, or going for a run, offering unasked-for advice or platitudes or plane tickets for a visit. We told one another we believed in each other. She was frightened first by how much weight she lost, then gained; I, by how much food I was eating. A list of grievances and love, neither one of us writing about particular happiness. Just being and grateful to be in it together.

I can see how it all adds up now in a sad way— can see on the screen of an iPhone all that I do and do not miss. Can see what I thought about then that I still think about now. Can see everything that has changed and will never change and how I couldn’t have done anything to change it.


Looking for more of this series? Find other installments HERE.

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