02.24.20 – Grow

Journal entry by Vicki Bunke 

We outgrow many things in life. As children, we outgrow the stuffed animals we loved so much and place them high on a shelf. We untangle and outgrow the myth of the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. Our backyards look different as we long for the swing set and Slip ‘n Slide that have also been outgrown.

But there are some things in life that we never outgrow. I was reminded of this when helping Caroline register for the Atlanta – Swim Across America open water event. After reading what she wrote for her personal fundraising page (Caroline’s SAA Page), I was reminded that we never outgrow our grief. But not outgrowing grief does not doom us to a life of despair. Let me reassure you, it is possible to live a happy and full and purposeful life while also experiencing ongoing grief. All the things you may have heard about outgrowing grief is a misrepresentation of what it means to love someone who has died. I know us human folks appreciate things like closure and resolution, but that is not how grief works. At least not by my observations and experiences. Rather, the loss, the person who died, and our grief all get integrated into our lives and they profoundly change how we live and experience the world.

The important thing I have learned is that although we may never outgrow our grief, it doesn’t stop us from growing because of it. I certainly am very proud of how Caroline has grown over these past 2 years. And I am thrilled that she has decided to join The Amazing Grace Swim Across America 2020 Tour. I can’t wait to swim with her in Atlanta at my 14th and final swim of the tour on September 26th.

Although I completely agree with what Caroline wrote (see below or click here: Caroline’s SAA Page) in that I also will never ever outgrow missing Grace, there is one thing I have grown used to…Caroline beating me in the Swim Across America open water event in Atlanta at Lake Lanier. She swims way faster than me, just like Grace.

Don’t believe me? Well then come and watch for yourself: Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour 2020.

‘God doesn’t expect you to be happy about what has been torn from your hands – whether it’s a marriage, your health, a job, or someone you love – but if you are willing to trust Him, He can turn trash into triumph.’ (Levi Lusko)

If you want to know why Caroline swims, I have copied her Swim Across America page below:

My sister Grace died of cancer on March 25, 2018.

I wasn’t at the hospital that afternoon and although my parents told me that Grace was not in pain when she died, her death was the most painful thing I think I will ever experience in my life. I sure hope so anyway.

She was my very best friend and I miss her every minute of every day.

And now, she’s gone.

But I have learned some things since Grace left me.

I have learned that her death will never feel less unfair and wrong, but it has stopped feeling so unbelievable.

I have learned how to stop imagining Grace getting older. She died when she was 14, the day before her 15th birthday. Last week, I turned 15. Now I am officially older than my older sister.

I have learned that I don’t think my brain or heart will ever get used to that fact.

I have participated in the Atlanta Swim Across America open water event for the past 2 years. Each year, I have worn one of Grace’s favorite swimsuits. In fact, it is the exact suit that she chose to wear when she was cremated. But this year, I will need to buy a new swimsuit. That swimsuit of Grace’s is now too small for me. I outgrew it. That’s what happens, I guess, when you outlive your older sister.

I might have outgrown her favorite swimsuit, but I will never outgrow my love for Grace.

I will never outgrow missing her.

I will never outgrow all of my memories of us together.

I will never outgrow how much I admired her.

I will never outgrow our secret stories and inside jokes.

I will never outgrow wishing we were still a family of four.

I will never outgrow the closeness I feel to her when I swim in Lake Lanier at the Swim Across America event.

And that’s why I am swimming again this year.

Why do I swim?

It’s simple really. I swim because I miss and love Grace. I will never outgrow that.

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