Ten years ago tonight, I lost my sister, Carolyn. That’s her, second from the right. I’m pretty sure she organized this wonderfully cheesy Christmas photo, which is now in a frame in my brother’s living room. It sounds like something she’d do, anyway.
I’d love to write something uplifting about her here. It shouldn’t be very hard, since she was better than me in every conceivable way. I’d like to tell an old story, and bring back an old memory, and hope that somebody who knew her might read this and share one of their own.
I’ve spent much of the day thinking about how I might do this. Now, it’s nearly gone, and the right words haven’t come. I know why, I think. If I’ve learned something over the last decade, it’s that time might help to close a wound, and it might even take the freshness away from the sting.
But time doesn’t heal shit.
So, instead, I’ll pass along something I wrote about her a few years back. Just as I am now, I was on a road trip for work, and I didn’t know quite what to do. It’s from this exact same date, one that I’ll dread for the rest of my life. As it turns out, time doesn’t help with that sort of thing, either.
June 21, 2004
PHOENIX — The last time I heard my little sister’s voice, she was telling be about how she was going to see her favorite band, “No Doubt.” She’d loved them for years. But for the first time, she got the chance to see them live, and she couldn’t wait.
Those who were with her at the concert that night would tell me later that when the band took the stage to play their first song — they opened with “Hella Good” — she was euphoric. Midway through the song they looked back and saw her dancing. When the music stopped they looked again, only this time, she was motionless on the ground.
There’s no way to know for sure, of course. But I’ve always prayed that the last thing she heard in this world was that first song in her first concert with her favorite band. Mostly, I pray that it at least brought her some joy in the moments before she died.
Her name was Carolyn, but we all called her Lyn, and I spent every minute of today thinking about her. She died on June 21, 2004, exactly six years ago today, though to me it still feels like six minutes.
My kid brother, who used to call her “manang” because it means big sister, is the one who broke the news to me that night. He called just past 1 a.m. on the East Coast so I figured it was bad. He sobbed but kept himself together just long enough to say, “it’s manang…” The way he said it, he didn’t have to finish the sentence.
The morning that we buried her, I did the most important thing I’ll ever do in my life. I delivered her eulogy. I closed it with a line from the last song she heard:
You’ve got me feeling hella good
So let’s just keep on dancing
I figured that it was just about what she would’ve told us herself that day if she could. After this terrible thing, she would’ve wanted us to keep living our lives, to keep on dancing. Thankfully, as hard as it was, we did.
One of the people with her that night, her best friend, has since gotten married. Soon, she’ll be a mom. The other person with her that night, our cousin, recently had her first baby, a beautiful daughter, named Wynterlyn. My other little sister is working a job she loves and is on her way to a college degree. My little brother is getting married in October. I’ll be there as his best man.
After tonight, I’m more convinced than ever that Lyn will be there, too.
It was the eighth inning and the Yankees were getting beat badly and it was easy for the mind to wander. I looked at the clock on my laptop and realized that it was about this time of night, exactly six years ago, when my phone rang and it was my brother.
Right then, over the stadium loudspeakers, I heard it playing.
It was “No Doubt.” They were singing “Hella Good.”
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