It was Friday, September 19, 1997. Nine days before my 15th birthday. I was a sophomore in high school and in a start of a new school year. This was going to be the year of greatness with lots of fun and I was determined to let go of the shyness that always plagued me! I went to a high school football game and had fun flirting with some cute boys, hanging out with my cousin Katie and my friends. It was cold that night and I was thinking of how my throat was starting to hurt a little bit. It was kind of exciting too cause my parents were out of town for the weekend. We were going to be sleeping at my house with just my sister and my brother. Nothing interesting happened that night. We hung out and talked and I even talked to my brother some. My brother was busy getting packed up for his next day of National Guard and he was also going to be driving to North Georgia College in Dahlonega, GA to talk to his advisor about returning to school for this school year. So I didn't get a chance to talk to Bob much since he was busy and I was not feeling that great. I went to bed with thoughts of cute boys in my head.
The next day we woke up and it was just another Saturday. It was Saturday, September 20, 1997. My sister went to work and Katie and I spent the day with her mother. I remember we were in the car with her mom, and her little brother Brian who was 3. I believe she had just picked us up and we were going to head to her house for the night. We stopped at the railroad tracks when all of the sudden Brian just started to cry hysterically. We didn't have a clue as to why. I just thought man this is strange. Later I would think that maybe in some strange way my brother got in the car accident that killed him just at that time!
Katie and I were in her room when all of the sudden there was a knock on the front door. Katie and I peeked out the window and there was a cop car outside. A cop was then in the living room with my sister and my aunt. I was like what is going on? What happened to Cheryl? Did she get in trouble with a cop? I walk out in the living room very timid and nervous. I just have this queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach! As I sit there with my sister, my cousin Katie, my aunt and this cop I just have to know what is going on. My aunt tearfully tells me that my brother Bob was in a bad car accident. At first I'm thinking okay we can handle this where is he and when is he coming home. It takes a little bit for me to realize that he is not coming home anymore! I'm in shock and just sit there in silence. I'm not crying but deeply hurt and afraid. More than anything I want my parents to be here with me.
My Aunt had the awful job of having to call my parents while they were on this trip away. They had not been away just the two of them for some time so to have this happen just at that time was awful. So my parents immediately drive back from Charleston. As I am sitting there waiting for their return my sister's boyfriend comes with his family and are sitting with us. I call my best friend Deanna and tell her the news but for some reason I do not want her to come over. I just feel that I want to be alone and not be with my friends. I still have not shed a tear. I'm thinking trivial thoughts of how my sister's boyfriend's brother is here and I look dreadful and how cute he is. I was thinking about things other than what needed to be thought. I then call my other best friend who lives in NJ. She is not there and I can tell her dad is annoyed that I am calling the house at this later hour. However, as soon as I reveal why he is quick to change the tone of his voice and then proceeds to try and locate his daughter who is at a friend's house.
It is not until very late into the night that my parents finally arrive at my Aunt Patti's house. As soon as they walk in the door my sister, my parents and I get in one big hug and that's when the tears start to flow. I cannot stop them. I am so overcome with grief I could barely stand. We did not let go for a very long time. We then loaded into my dad's truck and took the drive home. I just immediately went up to my room. I took out my journal and just wrote every thought that was in my head. There was no way I could sleep. I just could not believe what had happened. How? He was young only 19 and the best big brother ever! I started praying for the first time in years. I went over to my dresser and pulled out my rosary beads and said the rosary until I fell asleep.
When I woke up the next morning I was hoping it was all just a bad dream and this did not actually happen! My brother was going to be downstairs talking with my parents! The house was awfully quiet as I dressed and brushed my teeth. I walked downstairs timid and scared that I would find this is not a dream. As I rounded the corner to the living room I saw that it was indeed not a dream. There in my house were friends and family surrounding my parents and giving words of encouragement. I sat there in silence for most of the day. I went upstairs and tried to do things to occupy my time. I called friends to talk to them but that didn't helped. I played my stereo but then they played a song that hit way too close to home, Puff Daddy's remix of "I'll be missing you". I was then in tears and had to turn off the music.
The next week just went by in a blur. My family and friends all came into town. It was so nice to be surrounded by all the people who cared about us! The wake of my brother was the worst thing I have ever had to do. It broke my heart to go up to that casket and see him so blank and expressionless. That was the worst thing to have to remember. I had hoped to never have to see that on someone I love's face. It took a long time to get that image out of my mind. I had to immediately go and look at the pictures of him smiling so I could remember how much he could light up a room with his smile! That week was a lot of time spent with family and friends reminiscing the good times we had with my brother. The best was listening to his friends tell us stories about him and we even found out some things he did that my parents would have freaked out about. Telling stories really helped to get through the rough patches of that week. My family was still around to help to try and make my 15th birthday something to celebrate. Even though we all tried to be smiles it was rough to know that I would never have another birthday with my brother around.
It used to be really hard to even talk about him because then I would have to mention to people that do not know me well that I had a brother who passed away. As the years have gone by it has gotten a little easier. I try not to think of him as gone and how much that hurts. I just think about all the good times we had and all the things I learned from him. I have never fully told the story of his passing and how that effected me and it was hard to do so but I know that now I can maybe truly move on and be free of the burden of pain that is on my heart and soul!