In Memory of a Great Girl

Six years ago today my sister died in a car wreck. She and I had kind of fallen out of favor with each other. I didn’t know how to handle the fact that she had grown up in the 8 years since I left the farm and I think she felt I had forgotten her altogether since I had gotten married and had a new baby. Things had just started to open back up again and we had started to make progress towards a relationship when I found out she died.

I was in my home office after church on Sunday the 29th of August, 2004. Mostly likely, I was playing a video game, but I can't remember. Alicia was in the living room watching some TV and I think Timothy was napping. I picked up the phone when I noticed my brother Andy calling.

“Hey,” I said, “What's up?”
He was crying. “Meghan's dead.”
“What?!?!”
“Meghan's dead,” he stammered. “She was in a car accident.”

I didn't know what to do. I hung up the phone and walked in shock into the living room. I told Alicia that Meghan had died and the weirdest thing came out of my mouth. I said, “Timothy will never get to know his aunt.” I have no idea why I said that.

Alicia immediately grabbed onto me and hugged me while I just tried to figure out what was going on. I called my Senior Enlisted Advisor at work and he told me to hit the road…we'd figure out the leave (vacation) paperwork later. I'll forever be grateful to him for that.

We arrived in Girard, Kansas at 2:30am that night. My dad threw his arms around me and said that everything would be ok…he had his three boys with him now. My mom and grandparents were all at my grandma's house in shock mixed with heavy doses of crying.

I soon found out that our uncle, who is the county sheriff there, heard the report over his scanner and immediately responded. He identified Meghan so that my parents wouldn't have to see her. He took care of the reports and the hospital for us. Yet another person I am grateful for. He also made sure we didn't see the car. There was no reason to.

On the day of viewing, I asked to be alone with Meghan. Alicia made sure no one went into the room while I was in there. At first, I couldn't do anything. I just looked at her, studying the lines of her face, wondering how she had grown up without me knowing her. Then I said, “I have to say goodbye!” It took an eternity for me to be able to realize how real the moment was. Finally, I fell apart, weeping violently as all of the pain finally manifested itself. I cried for a long time that day before leaving the funeral home and then I cried more outside the funeral home before finally getting myself squared away. I have never felt like that since.

I delivered a sort of eulogy a few days later to a packed church (my mom, my brother Andy, and our preacher also spoke). I don't know how many people where there, but it seemed like half the school or more. My old coaches were in attendance as well, as my family had become known after three boys had gone through the school. It was great to have that support. People were coming out of the woodwork to help. I don't think we cooked a meal for a week or better.

Click here for my Eulogy of Meghan.

There is a song by The Offspring that reminds me of my sister and how much she meant to me. It's called Gone Away. I've embedded it below. I know many of you aren't into rock, but if you can read the lyrics with it, I think you'll see why it's so powerful to me. I still can't sing it without welling up.




Here are the lyrics:

Maybe in another life
I could find you there
Pulled away before your time
I can't deal it's so unfair


And it feels
And it feels like
Heaven's so far away
And it feels
Yeah it feels like
The world has grown cold
Now that you've gone away


Leaving flowers on your grave
Show that I still care
But black roses and Hail Mary's
Can't bring back what's taken from me
I reach to the sky
And call out your name
And if I could trade
I would

And it feels
And it feels like
Heaven's so far away
And it stings
Yeah it stings now
The world is so cold
Now that you've gone away
Gone away, gone away, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

I reach to the sky
And call out your name
Oh please let me trade
I would
And it feels
And it feels like
Heaven's so far away
And it feels
Yeah it feels like
The world has grown cold
Now that you've gone away
Gone away, gone away, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

She was a good girl, and I miss her.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

She was a terrific girl that wanted to do great things. Not only was she beautiful but she was sooo smartand would do anything for anybody. I am sorry that we weren't as close as when we were younger. I couldn't believe that she died.... But forever will she be in our memories. I love your family and hope they know if they ever need anything I will do all I can to help.

Tony Farson said...

I lost my dad to cancer just a couple of month before your sister died in 2004. That began a long and painful period in my life that only recently ended. We weren't really in contact back then and this is the first time I have heard about this. I know that the shock fades, and pain dulls but that it always remains. It is how I feel about my mom and my dad now that they are both gone. There are times when things come back all too clear and I find myself crying again like the days after they died. So I offer my understanding to you, and my sincere regret at your loss. I wish I could have been there for you, but I know that your amazing wife and family gave you all that you needed.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about her a lot this past week. Still brings tears to my eyes wondering who she would be today. I know that she loved being an aunt, and especially would love being one five times now. Thanks for posting this tribute the eulogy was great.

Andy

Anonymous said...

Dan, this is a beautiful tribute to your sister. My niece, Sandra, died in a car accident at 16. I still miss her and it still hurts to think about her. I hope this tribute has helped you. Priscilla

Dan said...

Tony, thank you very much for those thoughts. For a long time, I kept a lot of thoughts inside because I wasn't where I needed to be with God in order to mourn, and to ask others to mourn with me. I remember asking you about your dad and hearing about that. The memories and pain come back to me once and awhile as well, particularly as I realize that I wasn't as close to her as I should have been. Even now, my brothers know more about her teenager years than I do by far. That hurts.

Andy, it means a lot that you commented on this article, and that you posted the link for your friends. I know you and Meghan were really close and that she loved you very much. I know you loved her too, and I do agree...she would have really enjoyed being an aunt 5 times over, particularly with your baby so close.

Priscilla, that is the main reason I wrote this for today, and why I listen to that song as often as I think about her. There is definitely a hole left by her passing, but this is therapy, and God has drawn close to me in these times.

Anonymous said...

Sheldon, Your mother and I have been thinking a lot about Meghan also. This is the first anniversary that the calendar days have fallen out as they did in 2004 and that Sunday afternoon has returned so clear. I stoped at the cementary for awhile yesterday, it's so peaceful now. I did'nt get the flowers watered this year as I have before so will have to plant new ones. Any way, this whole week will be one of remembrance for all of us. DAD

Nate said...

August 29 will always carry two meanings for me, as if I'm always to be reminded of the balance that God tried to put into our lives. It is on that day that Meghan died, but it was also on that day, in 1996, that I asked Christen to "go out" with me. She obviously said yes.

When I got the call I had just finished up my first ever lunch/social with my Debate Booster Club and students. We were at a park in Lee's Summit and had just finsihed eating, playing frisbee, and having a good time. As soon as Christen and I got into the truck, the phone rang. Her dad called us with the news (being a Sgt. with the County Sheriff, he knows these things). If I remember correctly, I then called Dad.

I remember panicking. With a new job underway, I had no real contacts in Lee's Summit, and I did not know my principal's home phone number. I had never put in for a sub, and was unsure of how to proceed. The only thing I could think of to do was go to Jeanette Parsons' house. She was the person who had recommended me for the job, and had been so helpful in getting us to move up to the area. She immediately welcomed us into our home and without missing a beat, began calling people that either lived near my principal or that maybe knew his number. We finally reached him and the message was clear: "Leave now!"

I will ever be grateful to him for putting into motion a series of events that I am sure I will never completely know and understand. What I do know is that the department head was contacted and found a social studies qualified sub for me that knew the material well enough to teach it (retired teacher). I am also very thankful to her and the sub!

I don't remember much about the funeral itself, except being so nervous trying to play Amazing Grace on the trumpet. I hadn't played the instrument in a couple years, and I barely knew how to play that particular song. But I knew it was one of her favorites, and so play it I did. I remember practicing outside at Grandma's a few times, each time making slight mistakes. But once inside the church, I firmly believe God took over that instrument, or I just don't remember hitting a wrong note (though I'm sure I was considerably flat).

Being the more rational and reasoned person that I am, it was hard for me to display any emotion that week. I avoided having to be in a position of making any decisions, and I hid my feelings the best I could. I don't know why I did that, but I did.

It finally hit me, though, at Ian's funeral (Christy's former husband who was also killed in a car accident). Something about his funeral sparked a psychological backlash in my mind, and it was there that I finally let it out. Wrapped around Christen's arms, and in the presence of many people who had been at Meghan's funeral, I finally wept for my sister-the only one I every had.

I talk about Meghan every now and then to my students. I usually open the school year telling them a bit about me, my family, etc. Obviously, I cannot avoid telling them about her death. I teach mostly sophomores (how ironic, huh?), and I think it makes a bit of an impact on them.

As the years pass, we are more and more removed from the event and from Meghan. Time heals wounds, supposedly, though a loss of a family member will never truly be "healed." But we have continued and will continue to press on with our lives, and hopefully live each day in the blessed grace of Jesus Christ, never taking for granted the mysteries of the Almighty and the glory of a reunion that one day will surely come.

Anonymous said...

I still think of her as the little girl who was so proud of her big brother Sheldon who had went into the Navy....She thought the world of you big guy. Love you all and think of you so often!!!

-Julie Smith

Christi said...

Beautiful, heart-felt words...about a beautiful girl.

Dan said...

Dad, Nate, I truly enjoyed, and needed, to hear your words. I guess even now I don't know your sides of this story, along with Andy and mom really. We all experienced it in different ways and that created different stories. God has blessed me by this post. Thank you all for your comments.

Julie, Christi, thank you both for your encouragement and comments. I appreciate them.