This was the image on the front page of the newspaper that morning.My 12 year old sister died on January 14, 2023. as did my mother. My mom had been driving my younger siblings to school through a thick, swimming, cold fog.She missed a stop sign due to low visibility. A Walmart diesel was mounting speed on the cross street going through the intersection.My other sister, Kalli, who was 17 at the time and in the passenger seat with headphones in her ears, told me that she saw the trailer of the truck rushing up to meet her face, and then she was on the ground and there were strangers all around her, alarmed voices, feet pounding the dirt. Nothing made sense in the chaos, and she was fading in and out of consciousness, so that there were large blank spots in her memory punctuated by snapshots of confusion and panic and this sense that something was terribly wrong with the world. She woke up at the hospital in a neck brace. She tried to wet her lips with her tongue and asked in a weak voice, u201cWhat happened?u201dMy sister - Jenna. She was in the 8th grade. For a few weeks prior to her death, she had been bugging me to teach her how to curl her hair. I kept putting her off. Little things like that bother me still.Her father - my stepfather - had died of a heart attack two years earlier, in 2023. She was 11 then. She had tried so hard to grasp the concept of forever, of the permanence of death, and when she finally had an idea of the nothingness of time as it tumbles and spills ever onward, she was unable to sleep alone for the next two years of her life - the final two years of her life.She told me once, u201cI talk to my dad sometimes. People at school tell me he's with me always, so I talk to him just like before. I tell him that I love him and I listen as hard as I can to hear him say he loves me too, but he doesn't answer me, and I can't hear anything but silence.u201dWhen the diesel struck my mother's car, she, my mother, was crushed instantly. The accident report, which contains the autopsy report, says that her internal organs ruptured. After I read that, this odd feeling came over me that I can't describe, unlike grief or shock or any pain I'd ever experienced, this odd eery feeling, like you're being watched by something too huge to see. This feeling did not depart for days afterward.I'm looking up across my bedroom to think as I write this, and my eyes keep falling on my momu2019s guitar, which I've seen across her lap thousands of times, her fingers moving gracefully over the strings while she hummed softly. A million times I have searched for the link between my mother as she was alive, strumming the guitar, and my mother at the moment of her death, her body broken and ripped apart by grating metal and broken glass. I still have not found the link. I cannot. I have not even come close.Jenna almost lived. At least that's what the accident report suggests. She survived the impact, but smashed her skull into the window, which immediately blinded her in one eye. Her brain hemorrhaged. Her body went into shock, unable to cope with the gruesome physical pain that had seized it, and for over 20 minutes she suffered convulsions in the backseat of the car. But she was alive. She was alive. She was alive.She is not alive now. She did not make it out of the backseat of that car with a heart that still pumped, lungs that still drew breath, or a mind that still held any awareness that she had left us behind. The only thing still moving in her was her blood as it flowed from her cuts and matted into her bright hair. I've often tortured myself wondering if, during her convulsions, she was somehow aware that her mother was beside her and she could not reach her. Did she know where she was? Did she know herself? Did she know she was dying?At the hospital, the police officer gave my little brother his school bag back, the one he'd been holding in his lap moments before he was wedged under our dead mother until paramedics tore him free of the car by hauling him screaming through the back windshield, his face torn from forehead to chin in a deep gash down the left side. Luckily his eye was spared, though the teasing from other kids at school about the scar he carries down his face caused him to quit public school about a year after the accident.Anyway, he reached inside of the school bag the officer handed him, expecting to find some of his belongings, ancient relics of a time that existed before that morning, a lifetime ago. But when he lifted his hand out of the bag, we were horrified to find blood squishing through his fingers. Whose blood, we did not know for sure. My older sister, who later was to take custody of him, leaned forward and vomited into her hands.To answer your question, you don't get over it. You deal with it. You sit dry eyed (at least I did) in the office of a funeral director. You make arrangements in a steady, controlled voice, because it's the decent thing to do. You watch people light candles and you accept flowers and cards as they are handed to you with a thank you and a crooked smile. You make sure everyone is eating. You take out the trash. You submit to being hugged, drowned in peopleu2019s perfumes. You look for ways to restore convenience and normalcy. You fill the hours. There are so many hours to fill.I suppose that one can learn to accept pretty much anything. Shock gradually settles into something resembling acceptance. All of the family from out of state who came in rental cars and spent hours flipping through family photo albums with you, laughing and crying by turns, have long since gone home, the rental cars returned to where they came from and used over and over by other people for reasons having nothing to do with you or anyone you know. But you - you are still here, and there is this abstract emptiness here with you that you must share your life with. It becomes normal to you, as I'm sure you've discovered by now.The funeral home had a wake for my mother and sister. I cannot to this day imagine what would've possessed them to do such a thing. I did not go. I did not want to see them.My older sister went. She figured that if the funeral service people were saying they were okay to be viewed, then maybe it wasn't so bad. Maybe it would help with the images of them that her imagination had placed in her mind, replace them, push them away, out of reach or existence.The evening after the wake was over, I went to my sister's house to help pick out some photographs to show on a DVD at the funeral.She was crying when I arrived, and when I spoke aloud to ask her what was wrong (although I already knew), she collapsed forward onto the table and sobbed brokenly, shaking her head, repeating parrot-like, u201cI shouldn't have gone, they shouldn't have shown them that way! I shouldn't have gone, I shouldn't have gone, I shouldn't have seen them like that!u201dAfter a while the sobbing eased into those odd gasps people always get after crying really hard, and she told me even though I had not asked that they were laying side by side, already starting to decay. Their hair was wiry, their skin stretched like paper over their bones.u201cRemember how Jenna had chubby, dimpled baby hands?u201d she asked, sniffling, and I nodded dumbly, not wanting to hear the rest but unable to stop her from speaking. u201cHer fingers, they were so thin. Skeletal. The ends of her fingers were boney. Her fingertips were - pointed.u201d She pressed her hand over her mouth and tears rolled out of her closed eyes. I looked at some flower petals that, having fallen from the vases and vases of flowers that occupied the table, were strewn across the table's surface, and I held my breath for a moment, struggling to force the sadness back in. A tear splashed into the back of my hand, followed by another, and something went out of me - perhaps, at that moment, any belief I still held from childhood that there is a God in Heaven watching down on this world and giving it any kind of purpose.The strangest thing I've realized is that, nearly two years later, the grief comes in bursts. I'll be driving to Office Max for envelopes or tying my shoes or washing a sink full of soapy dishes, and suddenly their absences will strike me to my core, down to the center of my bones. Finally when I regain my sense of here and now, Iu2019ll whisper to my mother and my sister, u201cI love you,u201d speaking to them out loud just like before, and I listen as hard as I can for them to say that they love me too, but they do not answer me, because they are not here, they are not watching over me. They do not remember who I am to them, and they do not know my name. I can't hear anything, but silence.