The Day Before

This picture was taken a year ago today. January 4, 2014. I was tired and overwhelmed, caught in the blissful whirlwind of having a newborn and a toddler. I look at it now and I think of how innocent I was. How unaware I was that my world was about to come falling down.

There are days in your life that you want to remember forever. You want to re-live them a million times over. These are the days that you cling to desperately but somehow the details manage to fade away. 

There are other days that you wish you could forget. And these are the days that stay with you, playing over in your mind more times than you’d ever imagine. I couldn’t have known when this picture was taken that my tomorrow would be one of those days…

January 5, 2014. Kevin was on a roadtrip and I was driving my friend to the Edinburgh airport. It was a gray day, but for the first time in what seemed like weeks it wasn’t raining. Which was perfectly inconvenient given the fact that we ran out of windshield wiper fluid on the motorway. We then encountered several obstacles as we tried to replace it. We eventually made it to the airport on time, though just barely. The ride home would have been uneventful if I hadn’t missed the exit and extended the trip by twenty minutes. Twenty minutes that felt like a lot more because Tyler cried for at least nineteen of them. By the time we got home, all I wanted was a nap to give the day a much-needed restart. But the boys had different plans. And they were just as cranky as me. In the exact moment that Ty finally fell asleep, I heard Brayden waking up in the other room. I will never forget how I felt right then. So close to the nap that I desperately wanted but very clearly wasn’t going to get. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. And alone. I wanted to cry. It’s hard to look back at this moment where I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself because, little did I know, at that very moment, my sister was thousands of miles away… dying.  

I know that, no matter what kind of day I was having, it would be painful to think back to that moment. And, no matter how I’d been feeling, it would be impossible to forget it. The same goes for every other detail from the day Stephanie died. I can’t un-hear my mom’s broken voice on the phone later that night when she called to tell me about the accident. I can’t un-feel the knot in my stomach and ache in my heart as I cried, shook, and screamed out in agony. I can’t un-feel the trembling in my knees before I crumpled to the floor. I can’t un-see Tyler’s sweet face as he continued to sleep soundly in my arms while I rocked myself back and forth. These details are etched in my memory as permanently as my sister’s fate is written in history. They are a part of me now. And they will be forever.

I imagine tomorrow all of this will come flooding back. As will the thoughts that have haunted me at different times at different intensities this past year...

The questions about her final moments: Before her car started to skid, what had she been thinking about? What song was playing on the radio? When she lost control of the car, was she consumed with fear? What did she think about in the final seconds as her car slid over the embankment? Did she feel pain as she broke through the windshield? The thought of my beautiful baby sister lying broken beside a frozen pond is as unbearable now as it was the day it happened.

I’ll think about the people that lived by the scene of her accident. How they’d raced across the street only to find there was nothing that could be done to save her. How traumatizing it must have been for them, but how comforting it has been to my family to know she wasn’t alone.

I'll cry at the thought of my parents driving up to Vermont to see the body of their youngest daughter. Nobody should have to endure such a nightmare and I feel so deeply for parents that have. As much as I mourn the loss of my sister, I also mourn that my parents have lost their baby girl. Even now, their heartache shows behind their smiles. It hurts to know the depths of their love for me as it's the same love they have for Stephanie. And feeling this love gives a glimpse into the depths of their pain.

I’ll reflect again, for the millionth time, on my relationship with my sister. And how, as much as we loved each other, I’ll always wish for more. One more chance to say “I love you”. To see her hoop on the back deck, dancing in the sunshine. To watch her hold my babies, covering their cheeks in kisses. I’ll wish for one more hug. One more shared laugh. One more outrageous story. One more. Always one more.

I’ll remember the seemingly instantaneous and incredibly widespread flow of support in the hours after I heard the devastating news. All the love Steph had shared with the world was being gifted back to my family. It's a year later and I am still humbled. I’ll be forever thankful to the people that took care of my mom, dad, and sister in the days before I got home. And to all the people involved in getting me, Kev, and the boys back home to join them. There was so much support and it’s continued all the way up to the conclusion of this first year.

These are the thoughts that will likely race through my mind as the day passes. They are things we will inevitably talk about as we spend the day missing Steph. Like the 364 days before it, I imagine it won’t be easy. But the day will go on. As days always do. And if we are lucky, the end of it will come and we will feel a small bit of relief. The details of the day Stephanie died won't ever fade. I might not ever be the same person seen in the picture above. But the first year will be over. 


  1. Hey Sarah. It's been a long time since we've been in touch, I think we last saw each other at the service for Steph, but I just wanted to thank you for writing this out. When I heard about Stephanie's passing, I was devastated. Over the past year, one of the things that was the hardest to cope with was that Stephanie died all alone, but in reading this I know she really wasn't, and that provides a small bit of comfort.

    What I continue to remember most about Steph is how much joy and happiness she brought to everyone around her. There wasn't a single time I was around her that I didn't laugh or smile. She truly lived her life to the fullest, even when I knew her.

    I know Steph had big plans, and wanted to travel the world. I have no doubt she would have achieved her dreams; that's just who she was. I have traveled a lot myself, and wish to see the world just as she did. I know that wherever I travel, when the sun shines, I know a little piece of her is with me, and in that way, we will travel the world together.

    <3 Susie