Thursday November 29th, 2007 - 13:34

On Thursday, August 24th 2000, my sister passed away.

She was 23.

Normally, on August 24th and today - November 29th - I put up a page to remember her by.

Today, I thought I'd actually write something.

It's November 29th again, and she would have turned 31.

We were about three years apart. In September, when I turned over a new year, I was one year closer to her until her birthday came in November. That was always a fun time when I was younger, because I could puff up my chest and pretend to be nearly as old as my big sister.

Jaymi and I had a rocky relationship growing up. I imagine it's always tough when you have a sibling. There's the fighting, the lack of sharing, the resentment. All of this is because you're both too young to really know what's going on. From what I understand, as people get older they often develop a closer relationship with their sibling(s). Unfortunately, I never really got that chance.

I have vivid memories of growing up and doing mean things to my sister. In one instance, I was quite young - maybe in 1st grade - and I threw a big metal toy truck at her. We'd fight constantly when we were kids. Over toys. Over all kinds of things.

I remember sitting in my bedroom in the first house my family lived in and staring out the window as she went off one cold winter day to play with some friends. I couldn't have been older than 8, and all I can remember is feeling sad that I wasn't going too.

I guess that's probably the root of everything. I wanted to be friends with her, and she probably wanted to be friends with me, but neither one of us really knew what to do with that.

When we got older things leveled off a bit. We still fought now and then over stupid things like the TV and the phone, but for the most part we were friends.

When she got out of High School and went into the Navy, she moved away to North Carolina and then Florida. She came home for holidays and special occasions and that, combined with me actually growing up a little, made us a lot closer.

It was much more of a treat seeing her when she came home for Christmas and although we still argued, it was much less often and the general feeling was that I had a bigger sister that I could look up to and even ask advice of sometimes.

In 2000, I had just landed a pretty good job and even bought a new car.

I remember talking with her on the phone about my car and her asking if she could drive it. I remember telling her "No way!" and her laughing about it. She probably understood, but I imagine that she was a little sad that I said no.

Maybe I would have changed my mind if she ever saw the car.

On the 24th, I was working at my desk when my phone rang. It was around 2:30 in the afternoon, I think, and it was my Dad.

Anyone who has met my Dad knows that he doesn't really cry a whole lot. That's probably where I get it from.

On the phone, he was choking back tears as he simply said. "She's dead. Jaymi's dead."

It was like tunnel vision for me. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had no idea what was going on. I said "I'll be right home" and hung up.

For a minute I just sat at my desk, staring at the floor. There weren't any thoughts going through my head - I was just dazed.

Eventually I looked around and tried to think of what to do. I turned to my coworker, Arnold, and told him that I had to go.

"Is everything okay, dude?"

"I have to go. I think my sister just died."

His slight concern turned into immediate action. Arnie jumped up as I stood and he looked hard at me as I grabbed my coat and bag.

"I'll walk you out", he said.

I worked on the second floor. There was a big spiraling staircase in the middle of the room that led down to the first floor and we started down the stairs.

I was still in a sort of daze at this point, with Arnie walking next to me probably watching me to see if I was okay. About halfway down the stairs it hit me, and I suddenly couldn't see through the tears in my eyes.

My knees started to buckle and Arnie grabbed me and held me up.

Even now I know that I'm glad he was there.

Arnie helped me navigate the rest of the stairs and make it out of the building. By the time we got to the car, I had regained enough of my composure to be able to move on my own.

"You call me if you need anything at all", he said.

Once in the car, things changed a bit. I didn't remember the fragile kid who just lost his big sister. All I could think about was my Mom and Dad at home. I needed to get home right now.

I worked in Cambridge and I drove like a bat out of hell to get to Quincy, about 20 miles away. It was nearing 3:00 at this point and rush hour was starting to ramp up in Boston. I took the back roads, knowing that to be the fastest way if you're aggressive enough, and I never dropped the needle below 50MPH on the surface roads when I wasn't stopping.

It's a miracle I wasn't pulled over, but I was determined. I slipped through cars as fast as the GTI would take me and I pegged the throttle on the short section of freeway that took me the last few miles to home.

When I was about a mile from home, I realized how stupid I was. If I got into an accident - something which was exceedingly likely given the way I was driving - my parents would be out two kids in one day. Suddenly I felt incredibly selfish and foolish. Dropping to the speed limit, I made it home in one piece and without incident.

The next few days are a blur.

Sometimes when tragedy strikes, all you focus on is the tragedy and the pain you feel. It's hard to notice that there are people around you that rise to the occasion and become true friends.

At the wake, my friend Rob showed up and stood next to me the entire time. He joked with other people, laughed with my parents, and really made a difference in the mood of everyone. I remember him just standing there sometimes as family members would approach us and say their condolences through tear streaked cheeks. Rob would just stand in the background and wait silently. Never leaving.

I'll never forget Rob's strength then. He helped me keep going forward. He made me laugh at just the right time when the mood was coming down. He helped keep my parents talking and joking. He really was invaluable that day.

At the funeral, I stood in the grass waiting for the 21 gun salute. Cars were passing by the busy intersection, and I could hear the songs coming from car windows that were open to try to combat the warm day. After the guns fired, I picked up a shell and pocketed it.

I can't say that my family ever really got over the death of my sister.

Holidays were never the same, and I eventually came to loathe the end of the year. The anniversary of her death, combined with her birthday, Christmas, and New Year's was just too much to bear some years.

My mother carried a little bit of sadness with her from then on. I know that they argued on the phone a bit before my sister died and I can imagine her keeping that guilt with her.

But that's how it goes. We live and we make mistakes. We tell loved ones we hate them because we're stupid and angry, and then we feel bad later and apologize.

This time of year reminds me to try to keep things in perspective. To cherish my Dad, who's gone through losing a daughter and a wife, and to cherish my friends. Friends like Rob who rose up and helped out my family in a time of need. And friends like Arnie who just held out a hand to help stabilize when the moment struck. And all the other friends who showed their support over the years, in good times and bad. Everyone who has ever needed a hand or lent a hand. True friendship really comes through when there's a crisis, but it's important to cherish friendship even on the day to day bits.

So if you have friends or family - tell them you love them. Even for the little things. The people in our lives are the things we have of most value. It's important to let them know how valuable they are. Sometimes we forget.


Go Home