Tag Archives: grief

Life is about taking risks and finding the hidden reward

megs beach135It started out as a quiet Friday, just like any other before a holiday weekend. We chatted about our Easter plans hundreds of miles apart. Megs in CT home for Easter break and me in South Bend, Indiana, trying to make it in my first TV job post college. My weekend was a little less exciting. Just a soccer game, followed by a sleepless night that I passed up to too much Gatorade. Megs was home on Easter break, ready to enjoy life with friends after a week studying for exams and interviewing for teaching jobs with graduation just a few weeks away.

MegsIn a flash, it all didn’t matter. Megs was gone, and my sleepless night made sense. When the phone rang in the middle of the night to alert me to the accident, I picked it up on the second ring already wide awake for some unknown reason. After all, it wasn’t too much Gatorade. It was that sick sense shared between sisters that something terribly was wrong. Megs wasn’t coming for another visit. The woman I knew was gone forever, remembered only in my heart.

Instantly I thought back to our visit two weeks prior in Syracuse, the surprise Christmas trip, and previous summer vacation. Three occasions where we put each other first and visited each other spending quality time. We both had no money, but put our sisterly bond first and saved up to make our trips possible.

MegsMegs drove through an ice storm to come to Syracuse to hang with my friends, which with Megs meant “our” friends. Being so close in age, we shared and got along with each other’s friends. My college friends embraced Megs when she visited her big — actually little in stature — sister. I’m reminded of that last trip in horrible winter weather every March. Megs came to Syracuse to watch the ‘Cuse advance to the Final Four. She didn’t care about my team, just sister time. Every March Madness I am now reminded of that amazing risk she took driving through terrible weather. The memories are the best reward. That was the last time I saw Megs alive. She was killed two weeks later.

skydivingThe previous summer we took a leap of faith and jumped out of an airplane in an awesome girls weekend. Something I will forever cherish.

It’s been 11 years, and this weekend is exactly as it was then. Good Friday followed by the day of shock and then Easter on Sunday. A day that will forever be marred by the memory of picking out caskets. Not exactly what I thought I would be doing for my 21 year old sister. Easter will never be the same for me.

It’s been a long, challenging road full of twists and turns. It took many years to collect myself, contain my anger over the injustice of what happened, and open my heart so I could love again. I lost the closest thing to me — the person who could answer my sentences — and knew me inside out. The years of legal maneuvers leading up to the trial, then an early release, and request to end  probation early weighed heavily on me. Just when I thought I was doing better, there was a new and unexpected legal fight. I found it hard to heal constantly dealing with the court system, but I vowed to never stop fighting for Megs. None of it really mattered. Nothing would return what I lost, but I committed myself to standing up for my sister. Finally, about seven years after Megs was killed I was able to begin the healing process.

Wedding sunset with heartI had to find my new normal. My husband helped me find that. He taught me how to love again. Not only love another person but love life again. I continued to pursue my career, and dragged him along the way.  Having been through his own significant loss, we both know what life is really about. If anything, we have gained new perspective on life from our losses.

In the TV business, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers especially the size of a market. Last year, I faced a turning point. Move to a city because it was simply a bigger market or move to a city that offered a better lifestyle. We took a risk, and packed up our belongings and moved to Florida.

There were many critics along the way who told me I was making a huge mistake. I ignored them. You get used to ignoring critics after you’ve lost someone so close and so suddenly.  Throughout the last eleven years, plenty of people have told me how I should be grieving and handling the stress and emotion that accompanied my loss in. Plenty of people also told me why I lost my sister even though there is no reason. It was bad luck and bad timing. Megs was on the wrong road at the wrong time. I once again ignored the critics, and listened to my heart and the guidance of my closest friends who have stood by me for eleven tough years.

imageAs my windshield wipers dried up the last of the raindrops on my windshield, a rainbow appeared in the road in as I drove the last few miles in Ohio. I had hundreds of more miles to drive to Florida, but that rainbow was a sign to me that I knew I was making the right choice. Sunshine awaited to wipe away all the tears and agony of the last eleven years.

Fast forward a year, I am living in a city and state I should have moved to years ago. It is not about the size of a city, but the circumstance. I am working at a TV station that is the dominant leader in the market and state, and exposing stories and issues that haven’t been exposed for years in this community. I feel I am making a difference in a place I am happy to finally call home.

megs beach139The beach. The sun. The warmth. What is not to love?

A place that reminds me of Megs. She went to school on the beach, and loved all it had to offer.

Losing Megs was the worst thing in my life. It turned my life upside down. That being said, I learned the true value of life. I am the first to admit my life probably would not be what it is today if she were still here. I probably would have chased an elusive dream rather than focusing on my husband and the personal things in life that fulfill us.

jenn and meg

Life takes unexpected twists and turns. I never expected the dark path I would have to walk. Luckily, Megs left a few angels to walk that path with me. In honor of Megs, live each day to the fullest and take risks. They lead to the greatest rewards.

imageThanks to all my friends who guided and pushed me along the last 11 years. Some of you never knew Megs, and those of you who did still stick by me knowing the scar sometimes still bleeds often at the most unexpected times. Thanks to all who still remember a young woman who touched so many of us in her short time.

imageMy friends have given me so much. You allowed me to walk this painful journey and guided me as I took a big risk. Now I want to give back to you. Come visit me in Paradise. A place where I feel closest to the sister I love no matter how long ago I lost her.

 

 

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Don’t let money get in the way of life – part two

This weekend my Inbox started filling up with emails from people I never met. They were emails I wasn’t expecting. Memories I wasn’t expecting to hear. Moments they felt compelled to share about a woman we all lost nine years ago today.

One person said she still remembers “that call.” I remember it too. The one that stopped my heartbeat. The one that changed the beat of my life forever.

It’s a day I dread every year. The weeks leading up are painful. The weeks following too. The NCAA tournament brings back memories of the last day I saw Megs alive. We were celebrating Syracuse’s march to the Final Four. Good Friday is the last day we spoke. April 19th is the day she was killed. Easter is the day I picked out caskets. Oh, by the way May is no breeze. Graduation brings up the memory of walking across the stage to pick up her diploma. The one she worked so hard for, but never would hold. Then, there’s her birthday and Mother’s Day. A lot of days of sadness packed into a one month span.

For nine years, I’ve tried to move on. Last year, I finally composed my thoughts on life and publicly shared them. I almost didn’t post that article, afraid to share such raw and personal emotion with such a public audience. The simple title — “Don’t let money get in the way of life” resonated with so many. A year later, that post is still being shared among the masses. I still have no idea how many of Megs’ college friends found that article last weekend, but I’m so honored the message and the memory of my sister is still being shared and still living so strong.

Who knew a day I dreaded could bring such joy?
I never expected this year would be the one that brought such comfort. After all it’s been nine years. So much time has passed, I thought most people forgot. I’m overwhelmed by people who still remember, honor, and miss Megs.

Plus, I didn’t expect April 19, 2012 would be the easiest of anniversaries because I’m getting married this August. It’s a day I thought about in those early days after our loss. Back then, I didn’t know if I could love someone so much again. How could I ever walk down the aisle without my best friend and maid of honor there? It’s taken nine years and an amazing man to find a way to do that.   It’s moving that this year, the year I’ve dreaded, I’ve had so many people unexpectedly offer such support.

A few days after the unexpected and comforting words from my sister’s college friends, one of my college friend’s husband posted something on his Facebook page. “You have a lifetime to payoff debt, but only a number of years your kids want to hang out with you….. Book a family vacation and enjoy the time with them.” He has two kids, and obviously had a moment that made him compelled to post that. Little did he know the timing of that post coincided with the anniversary of losing Megs.

Both events made me realize I need to make it a yearly habit to remind people that money should not get in the way of life. It’s hard to do during such tough economic times. I’ve seen friends deal with sudden job loss. I know how difficult it is. No matter your financial state, you can still find time to make memories.

Our lives are so hectic, and sometimes we get so caught up we really lose sense of reality. The reality is — life is short and as much as you think you control it — you don’t. At any time, it can change.

You don’t know what’s around the next corner
It was the last thing on Megs’ mind. When I walked into her dorm room, I remember staring at her appointment book full of notes about job interviews and exams. It was a chaotic scene – – clothes and books thrown about. Sticky notes covered her desk with tasks that needed completing before graduation. In a heartbeat, that life no longer mattered because Megs’ would never return.

All I have to hold onto, are those memories we created for 21 years together. I’m so glad we spent the money and went skydiving the year before she died, or that I went home that Christmas never knowing it would be the last. There are so many other things I wished we’d done, but we let money get in the way.

When you grow up with four siblings, money is tight. We didn’t take many family vacations. We took mostly day trips. The only exception was in second grade when we traveled to Orlando to see Disney. I’ll never forget it. All these years later, the memories are fresh. It’s a trip that probably broke the bank, but I don’t remember my parents ever complaining about money during that trip. They probably saved up for years, but it’s a memory we’ll always remember.

There’s one memory I don’t have, because my family let money get in the way. My junior year of college, I studied abroad in London. I saved up for years. My mom had dreams of taking my sister overseas during April vacation to visit me. The trip never happened. My family simply didn’t have the money. At the time, my brother was also in college so I understood the hardship. All my other friend’s parents came over to visit, but not mine. It was a missed opportunity and my family knew it. Now that Megs is gone, it’s more than a missed opportunity. It’s a missed memory. To this day my mom talks about the regret over that financial decision. We can only imagine the memories the three of us would have created that week. The only memory we have — not having enough money to take that trip.

That trip was probably possible. At the time, we couldn’t justify the cost given the other expenses facing our family. I think we all realize now we should have made it a bigger priority and made other sacrifices to make it happen. Losing Megs made us realize that instead of thinking a trip is financially impossible, we need to focus on ways to make it possible. We should not have let money get in the way of a once in a lifetime moment. A trip like that simply can’t be duplicated.

In honor of Megs and the other young man who lost his life, don’t let money get in the way of your life. It doesn’t mean you should spend lavishly or spend your way into debt, but take those trips that are once in a lifetime. You’ll be able to do that if you find ways to save in your daily life even if it’s $5 here or $10 there. It adds up, and then you can use your savings to take a once in a lifetime trip.

Create a bucket list and chip away at it each year. Skydiving was on both our lists, and I’m so glad we did it. It’s a memory we wouldn’t have if we dwelled on the $150 price tag. Instead, we splurged and took a leap of faith. Now, I’ll have that memory forever.

While an African Safari is on my bucket list, the next one I’m crossing off is a beautiful wedding on the beach followed by an amazing honeymoon. We’re making memories that day on a budget, but we’re splurging for things here and there that we know will be memorable for us and our guests forever. Thank you to everyone whose reached out to me over the years to help make this year a year I’ll treasure rather than dread. I look forward to the day I start the next chapter in my life and begin to make memories with my husband and hopefully family to be.

This year how are you going to make sure money doesn’t get in the way of life?