Repost from August 3, 2011
Bill died when he was 19 years old. He was in a car accident while traveling home from Desert Hot Springs, in California, with his best friend and a hitch-hiking passenger.
I was a sixteen year old sophomore. A young girl who seriously idolized her down-to-earth, friendly, always-had-time-for-me, artistically inclined, nice looking, wild-long-blond-haired brother.
I remember as a small child, Bill and I were one of the four youngest kids in our family that took day trips with our parents. Fun times, for sure. It wasn’t until I was in high school, though, that I really began to realize what an impact Bill had on me. Specifically with the way I saw myself and the potential of being someone special.
Insecurity ruled me during those teen years. I was so focused on worrying about how I was perceived by others that I forgot to just have fun. When I was a freshman, Bill was a senior. He warmed my heart, pushed my I’m an awesome person button, simply by acknowledging my presence as he was walking within my vicinity. He would literally stop, his group of friends in tow, approach me, smile, say hi, and hug me before he continued his journey. So simple. Yet, so rewarding. He pumped up my confidence.
When two police officers walked up the drive, onto our unpaved, pebble-filled porch I was lounging on an aging, wooden outdoor chaise. Interesting, I thought. “What did one of my brothers do now?” I asked, jokingly. “Do you know Bill Palmer?” one of them asked me. Or maybe he used his full name, William. I can’t remember. Anyway, my heart skipped a beat. “Yeah, he’s my brother,” I responded quietly. At this point I began wondering if maybe they should be talking to my parents, not me. I was a too-young girl that loved her brother more than he ever knew. “He was in a car accident. He was killed,” the officer stated, without much emotion.
Did I hear right? My heart was beating so fast. I stumbled out of the chair, fell into the house and tried with all my might to scream, to alert my mom and dad that I needed them. “What is it?” my mom asked, or maybe it was my dad standing next to me. I’ve lost that memory. “There are some cops out there, saying Bill died,” I choked out. Their eyes grew wide, yet they seemed confused. I re-opened the front door without a word and pushed them towards the officers.
Life was a blur for quite a while after that. School needed my attention but I couldn’t even stay in my music class, to learn the graduation song for the upcoming graduates. It made me cry. I left the room. My brother, Kit, just watched me leave. I could see in his eyes he was hurting, too. The music teacher didn’t object when I quietly left the classroom, tears gently rolling down my cheeks. I don’t even remember what I did after that. Maybe I just left, walked the mile home. People were very kind, but I was so wrapped up in trying to figure out Why? Why did Bill have to die? that I didn’t let them in to console me.
I lost a very important person, someone who helped form the way I think, the way I am today. Sadly, he never knew. All I can believe is that he watches me, sees I’m doing fine. He’s everywhere. Even in some of the behaviors of my kids, especially in Roberto. He’s in artwork I see framed around my world. He’s in friendships I observe, especially the friend who is extremely charismatic, and in stories I read about brothers caring about sisters, sisters caring for brothers.
Here I sit, thinking about Bill, my brother. I am fortunate to have had someone very special in my life, someone who travels in my thoughts, reminding me to make the most of everything, and to take nothing for granted. Daily, I take the time to slow down, live in the moment, to observe my world, and appreciate the good things.
This was written so beautifully. I am so sorry for your loss and I love that you added you were lucky enough to know someone like Bill. I lost a loved one nearly two years ago now and it was life changing- but I always say I would have preferred to have known and lost her, then to have never had her in my life at all. Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you, Soph. Yes, so true… “I would have preferred to have known and lost her, then to have never had her in my life at all.” I hope you are healing…
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