The first time I held my sister Faith was when I picked her ashes out of a funeral bag that had been thrown into a pile of trash on our front lawn.
I never knew much about Faith, but the information I do know is important.
She was going to make me a big sister at the age of four. She was going to be beautiful and eagerly drink the bottles of cow’s milk I refrigerated for her.
She was going to be evidence that my mother’s body could, in fact, hold a child. I was a miracle, but Faith would be proof.
I know I would never have met my brother and sister if Faith lived. They were adopted in the absence of Faith.
When Faith died, I was too young to understand what happened. I don’t know if my parents ever said the words, “Your sister died,” but I knew. My mom — sunny, beautiful, social — did not leave the living room couch for a month. No eating. No talking. No moving. No life.
I don’t know if this process — the twelve year spiral that led to us losing everything — started with Faith. I don’t know if she took something from us when she left, waving her hand feebly before departing from the world weeks before she was due to be born. I don’t know when the lottery tickets started, the New Age spirituality hit, my parents’ marriage dissolved, and the mortgage payments stopped.
All I can say is that this spring my childhood home was finally foreclosed. I was sorting through the things my family left behind when our neighbor turned to me and said, “This looks like a funeral bag.”
I took Faith’s ashes back to Wofford with me. I ended up putting them on my altar of international trinkets.
An antique car replica from Cuba.
A book of stories from the jungles of Panama.
A doll from Mexico.
A drum from Morocco.
A fan from Spain.