Monday, May 23, 2011

One month ago....

One month ago, on April 23rd, my sister died in a car accident. Her name is Briana and she is three years older than me. She died two weeks before her 29th Birthday, which would have been on May 6th.

Ian, our brother, and Bri were driving to California when the steering wheel was bumped and they swerved off the road into the median between the North- and South-bound lanes of I-15 just 20 minutes south of Provo, Utah. It was 2 pm on a Saturday. Ian's Ford Explorer flipped 15-20 times while bouncing 3-4 times. Ian was thrown far, far from the car but Briana fell out under the car and was crushed as it bounced. She was killed instantly. Drivers behind them called 911 and stopped to help. They were taken to Mountain View Hospital in Payson, Utah. Around 4 pm Ian called our sister, Candice, who was the first of our family to hear the news. She wrote here about that call and the next few hours.

I didn't hear the news until about 8:30 pm because Adam and I were out rock climbing with some friends and didn't have cell reception. After coming down from the last route as it became dark, I was cleaning up our rope and gear when I heard my phone ring - which surprised me because I hadn't had reception all day. I missed the call because I had too many things in my hands, but when I looked at my phone a couple minutes later I saw I had several voice messages and a text from my mom that said "Call me ASAP." I said read the text out loud to Adam and immediately my mind was racing trying to think what kind of event deserved an "ASAP." There's always the chance it could mean an urgent funny joke or other harmless piece of info, but I couldn't help saying out loud that I hoped it didn't have to do with Ian and Briana since I knew they were driving to California that day. We called my mom right away and she asked where I was because she had been trying to get a hold of me for hours. I said we were out climbing with little cell reception. She told me to put it on speaker phone so Adam could hear and then said, "There has been an accident. Ian broke a few bones and is in the hospital. But, Baby Girl...Briana...she didn't make it."

We all cried as our minds raced through memories of her and tried to piece the story together, as we tried to find peace in the horrible news. Our friends gave us some space and then came over to cry with us. I was glad to be with friends and that we had had a nice day outside in the sun. We finished packing up our gear and started to walk out toward the car and dinner and the 3 hour drive home.

Though nothing really makes Briana's death okay, or better, or easier to acknowledge, I have been surprised at how quickly my family and I have found peace on many levels. I know that this is because we are a close family, we kept in touch with each other, talked on the phone, wrote letters, visited, video chatted. This is also because we have a strong belief that our spirits existed before this life on Earth and that we - and our familial relations, too - continue to exist after we die. We also have found peace through the love, support, cards, and thoughts of friends and family. And, we have found peace in the many memories we made as a family the two weeks after Briana's death as we mourned, prepared our talks, held memorial services, visited with friends, packed up Briana's belongings, cleaned her house, and prepared her body and casket for burial.
What a life this is!
There are so many things I have learned over the last few weeks. I'll slowly pull them out to process in the coming months.

I love my dear sister and miss her every day. I'm glad we were such great friends and that I have many memories and photos (don't miss these!) to get me through the rest of my life. I wish I had more time with her.

I can't believe it has been a month since I heard the news - it seems much shorter than that. The last few weeks have passed quickly; for two weeks I was back and forth between Utah and California, and I guess I have been back at my own house for two over weeks now, though that surprises me.


Kelli said...

Our hearts go out to you and your family, Tess. I'm so sorry for your loss. It sure does help to have the eternal perspective.

cydney sharp said...

It's hard to believe it's been a month...I'm glad that we were able to be there to comfort you and that Micah and I could get to know Briana through your stories! You belong to a pretty amazing family.

amy said...

Tess, thank you for this post. I continue to grieve Bri's loss in my own way, and I think of your family all the time and hope to see you soon. Lot of love to you all.


Ems said...

Tess, you and I have never met, but I am so sorry for your loss. I knew Briana and thought she was so wonderful. I thought your words at the service in Salt Lake were beautiful and real and I think everyone there could feel that she was so great because your family is so great.

I'm so thankful I knew her and for the amazing way those who knew her have celebrated and honored her life.

Tirzah said...

Dear Tess,

I have been missing Jude tonight and went on your blog and found your recent posts about Briana. Thank you so much for sharing those candid thoughts and feelings about Bri and your experience losing her and celebrating her. It helps me to know how you and your family are coping and moving forward. It is comforting to know that others share these intense, profound experiences and feelings that accompany death. Love you. . .