My Letter

I can't think about death without first considering love.

As a child, I played house, teacher, chef, postman and nanny with my sister. She was my main playmate. She had friends of her own, and with that brought jealousy. Love can sting.

She died when I was 21, and it nearly broke me completely. The intense grief that was internalized for many years following her death is a testament to that love.

It seemed impossible to open my heart for the romantic love I found for my husband or familial love for my brother's girlfriend.

Love is one of the riskiest emotions to put out into the world. Love always comes with a risk of loss: friends move away, ideals don't merge, and sometimes the ones you love the most die before you are ready to let them go.

The decision to have children can complicate how you feel about love and death. The role of a parent is to extend love without restriction.

Having been through my sister's death I have to acknowledge anyone can die prematurely. Why would I put myself in a position of another great loss? Wouldn't it be safer to not bring children into a risky world?

To do so would be to deny love without restriction. It would deprive me all of the circumstances I imagined approaching with my sister at my side.

There is a small risk with every belly laugh I share with my baby daughter or hug with my pre-school aged son. Love is a risk that fills your life with hope, fulfillment, and contentedness.

When I see families struggling with a family member's failing health, what sticks out to me is the love. The grief that follows the death of a family member is often ingrained in love.

Death may be the absence of things like breath, pulse, and warmth, but never love.

Love can withstand all that life hands us, including death.

Katie Watson


Katie Watson, Executive Assistant / Sibling Advocate

This letter is part of the Death Letter Project - North Carolina, a means to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.


Michael Palko