Updated: Feb 26, 2022
One of the hardest holiday's, when you feel so alone.
I am NOT Alone ~ by Ryan Thurgaland
I am the youngest of our parents' four children. I have an older brother and 2 sisters, one being the eldest, and the other is Kathryn. She was 2 years older than me but we have always been extraordinarily close. She is my best friend. Growing up so close in age, we did everything together. All of her friends became my friends as well, and vice versa. Kathryn and I were very close as siblings; always getting in trouble for our constant cackling and howling at each other to the point where the powers that be would have to separate us. Being in the car during road trips together always ended up getting us in trouble for being far too rowdy for the parents to tolerate. In middle school, we took dance classes together, and would always get into mischief. When in high school, we both joined marching band and again, our tomfoolery made us easy targets. Pretty soon it seemed like most kids in the older grades knew me as “Kathryn’s little brother that she was always with”, and the same went for her with the younger kids.
I live near a beach bar and grill on Lake Weir called Gator Joes. On a regular basis, Kathryn and I would ride our bicycles there to go swimming, play volleyball or just to eat fries and drink sweet tea on the water. When we were lucky, there would be a musician playing that would attract my whole family down to listen and dance. Gator Joes was also the place where we celebrated my Dad's 50th birthday.
We had a great time that night. We ate, danced, and sang. However, later in the night, Kathryn told Dad she was invited to the club with a friend and planned on going. My Dad begged her to stay with us and bring the party back home but she was persistent on going. I tried again to convince her to stay and make her feel guilty for leaving Dad on his birthday night with no avail. Realizing that trying to convince her was futile, I proceeded to walk her out to the parking lot and sit with her while she waited for her friends to show up.
We sat for about 5 minutes. I told her I was going to our cousins house after for a bonfire and asked if she would come over when she got home because we would likely still be up partying. She said she would. The next morning was like a scene from my worst nightmare.
My sister never came back home like she said she would and nobody had heard from her all morning. When it was almost noon, I noticed a police vehicle pull into the driveway and I got my Dad. That was when we were told the news. I remember hearing him say there had been a crash and Kathryn had died. Immediately I collapsed into my fathers arms and he just stood there holding me in shock. The days proceeding were like a terrible dream and maybe someday soon I will put them into words in another essay.
About a week later, we had my sister's funeral service as well as her celebration of life. We asked our cousin Father Jason if he would speak during Kathryn’s service, and he gladly and humbly accepted. When the day of the service came, I put on a yellow button down shirt under my gray suit and began the long, agonizing ride to the church. I stood aside with the rest of the immediate family as we watched nearly everyone we knew flood into the church doors. There was a lady who then talked us through how we would enter and I tried my best to pay attention. My older brother, Avery, made sure I still had my paper that had my reading on it and we both began reciting them to each other. I had chosen my reading only 2 days prior. I felt as though I needed to find the perfect reading that says everything I want my sister and everyone else to hear.
Our family entered after everyone was seated and we walked my sister's ashes down the aisle. The moment we walked in, all heads turned to watch us walk by, however, my mom cried out for everyone to face forward to watch the slideshow that my dad had made, which was playing at the same time. Despite my cluttered mind, I tried my best to focus on the priest and what he had to say. There was one thing in particular that stood out to me. After describing the wonderful memories Father Jason had of Kathryn, he began crying, and stated that he was mad at God. I was shocked. To hear a priest say that he was angry with God was unnerving. In a way, I felt relieved that even as a priest, the reasoning that God had for doing such a thing was unknown and aggravating. However, in the same sense, this statement filled me with dread knowing that even a priest questioned God’s reasoning for taking Kathryn away. The celebration of life afterwards was filled with Kathryn's artwork everywhere you would look. Everything went so smoothly and it ended up casting a perfect depiction of the life that my sister lived and the love that she shared and was surrounded by. I realize trying to cast blame is not worth it and will not change anything. I am learning to use my experiences as well as my sister's guidance in productive ways that will allow me to change the world around me. Kathryn is an inspiration to me all the time, lighting up the way
and guiding me through life. Deep down, I know there will come a time where I crack emotionally, and maybe get lost somewhere along the way. In all honesty, I’ve been broken since the day Kathryn left, and I don’t feel as though I’ve gotten better at all. In fact, the opposite feels true at times. The more obstacles life throws at me, the more overwhelmed and anxious I get. I am going to graduate, and she can’t celebrate with me. I am going to college in Nashville soon, and she can’t compare my dorm to hers. I am going to have kids, who won’t get to play with hers. I am going to get married, without my sister in the audience.
Despite all of this, I know my sister is still with me. Though not often enough, or rather, I am not as open-minded as I should be, there have been some signs from Kathryn. She has visited me in numerous dreams, to play as little kids again. There has been an abundance of her favorite animal (which she insisted IS an animal), yellow butterflies, all around my house. It’s because of these signs and many more, I know that she is and will always be with me. I will exemplify her in all of my thoughts and actions, and spread the flame that she has passed on to me.
To learn more about the kind of relationship between these two siblings, click on the links below to see Kathryn's side of the story.
(I'm the taller one)
(My brother is my favorite dance partner 😎)
(My forever buddy🙃)
(Ryan words can't even explain the relationship we have....)
(we were so young!!!!)