In 1995, I was born into a blended family. My dad came with three boys who became my older brothers, each of us about two years apart. We grew up pretty "normal." Both of our parents worked, and all of us kids were involved in sports and school activities. We went swimming, rented movies, and had pizza Friday nights. We would play outside until the street lights came on, and Christmas was always magical. We were just your average typical American family.
I never felt as if I came from a “blended” family. It was always normal to me. I was the youngest and the only girl, and there were some benefits to this. Michael and Matt, my oldest brothers were close, due to their ages and their common interests. My youngest brother Jesse and I were close in age, and being the youngest of the bunch, we were the best of friends and the worst of enemies. We were like any brother and sister. When we had snow days and no school we went sledding. On a rainy day we would watch movies. You could never catch us inside on a sunny day. We were always together, mostly doing what I wanted to do, because as they say, “I wore the pants in this brother/sister relationship.” Although we fought, we laughed and talked, bringing the best of memories.
As we all got into our teen years, my older brothers started driving and dating. They were busy doing "older teen things", but Jesse and I were still in our "younger teens", so we were still doing only “young teen” things while still hanging out with our parents. Jesse and I went to the same elementary, junior high, and high school. Jesse had his friends and I had mine, but we always had each other at the end of the day. Things changed for Jesse in junior high and high school. Jesse was bullied a lot which sometimes made an impact in our relationship. Jesse had such a kind heart but everything he went through in school seemed to have thrown his emotions into a confused state. Jesse was a misfit only looking to be accepted and find out who he really was.
Our high school years became full of drama. Some of Jesse’s actions embarrassed me and I would tell him how I felt and be upset with him. It was okay for me to tell him these things because he was my brother and we would be family forever. After high school, Jesse went his own way in life. We still talked often, spent holidays together, and would continue to just spend time together. This is what you do in life, right? You grow up, your siblings grow up and go to college, start a family of their own and start a “grown up” life, and someday your parents will be old. Life was what was happening, and so quickly too. Although we were a close family, we were not perfect. Our parents disagreed with some of our decisions, we did not all see eye to eye, but we always came together as family. Always.
As a kid you can’t wait to grow up, get your driver's license, move out and be independent. In life you picture this image that you grow old with your family, typically your grandparents pass away, then your parents pass away and you learn to accept it because they probably lived a life longer than 21 years old.
It was Friday, December 5, 2014. I had gone to my grandparents house that night to watch over my grandmother while my grandfather was in the hospital. Around one a.m., I got a phone call from my mom and she said she was coming over with my dad. I was so confused as to why they were coming over at one a.m. to talk to me. My first thought was something happened to my grandfather while he was in the hospital, but my heart was telling me otherwise. I had no idea that the news they were going to give me would forever change my life.
My parent's arrived and as they stood in the entry, my mom looked at me and said “Jesse has passed away in a car accident.” At that moment I was so confused. I kept telling myself to wake up, but this was not a dream. This was not a nightmare that I could just wake up from and calmly go back to sleep. I cried. I cried hard, I hugged my dad and the tears would not stop rolling. I was 19-years-old at the time and Jesse was 21. He was gone from my life forever. I would never see or hear from him again. The brother I was so close to, the brother I could yell at and laugh with, that knew every single secret I had, and was truly my best friend was gone. The brother who had the sweetest soul, who was always going to be in my life because we are family, is gone. It was a horrible wreck, I had learned. None of us got to say goodbye, none of us were there with him or to help him. The morning of the accident, Jesse sent me a text message. One of the longest ones I ever got from him, telling me how proud of me he was, how much he loved me, and couldn’t wait to see me that coming Friday. I didn’t think I would find myself sitting alone that Friday waiting for a big goofy red head to show up that never would.
His text message suddenly meant the world to me and gave me strength and guidance in the healing process of losing my true best friend. At that very moment when I learned the news, my life all became a blur. My older brothers came home from college, people called, text, sent flowers, cards, and food. Our home became a revolving door with family and friends coming by. Was this all really happening? Did Jesse really die? We then made funeral arrangements. I picked the red flowers out and red balloons for balloon release, Jesse's favorite color. I wanted his service to really reflect who my brother was and to be a celebration of his life.
After making all of the plans for his funeral we were given more news that I will never forget. As we all walked into the funeral home and sat down, the man working that day came in and told us that someone had paid off Jesse’s funeral, anonymously. At that moment we were all in tears. We were all so grateful for the person who had given us that. It was a gift that I will never be able to repay. God works in mysterious ways and we are truly blessed for the kind person who did that.
The day we had all been dreading finally came around, December 12 - it was time to put Jesse to rest. While other families were out Christmas shopping we had been picking out funeral clothes. We all picked out something with the color red in it to represent Jesse. So many people were at his service. It made me proud to know that my brother was so loved and had touched these people’s lives in some way. It was a service Jesse would have loved.
It has been more than a year since Jesse passed. My parents and I are strong in our faith and although we suffer greatly every day after Jesse, we have kept our family going strong. I have been thrown into this life that I never wanted or planned, but while I am left here on earth, until I am able to be with Jesse again I will move forward, make the best of my life and carry his memory with me every step of the way. I often get sad when I see little things that remind me of Jesse. I get sad knowing we won’t have a future with each other, or that he won’t be there to see me get married or be an uncle. This is a feeling I know will never go away, but it is one that I have learned to live with.
The one thing I took away from this tragic event is that everyone has a story. Don’t be so quick to judge another person - everyone is going through something whether it be big or small, we all do or will have a story. Be kind, pay it forward - you may never know someone’s silent journey.
Also, Jesse's death has shaped me into my "new normal" and I hold the path to my future. I am left to heal my wounds, I am left to rebuild me, I am left with me. I have to rewire my thoughts to move forward. I now try and find the positives in the worst situations. Positive thoughts and actions are good for the soul - it is so rewarding to give. I make myself enjoy life's blessings even though I miss my best friend, my brother. My faith is undeniable, my strongest supporter. I love you Jesse.
Megan Story Update "2 Years Later"
"2 years ago from today I woke up with news that would forever impact my life. I remember my mom looking at me and saying “Jesse has passed away in a car accident.”
2 years have gone by and I still don't have answers to the questions that run through my mind daily. I still hear your laugh Jesse, I still hold on to every part of you that I can, and I still wait for a text back that I will never receive. Although this is a day I never want to face as it comes around each year, I am comforted by the joy your beautiful soul still provides me. Because I remember your laugh, I am never alone. I still have all of our videos and pictures, I can relive those memories and hope we can make more someday. God took you out of our lives and I will never know why it had to be so soon. You served a purpose here on earth and I know you serve an even bigger one in heaven. Love you forever, J."