My website has been up for a number of weeks, but I just couldn’t decide when the right time would be to officially launch it. As the anniversary of Danny’s death approached, it seemed the right time as he was a big part of who I am.
My earliest memories are of Danny dragging me by the arms through the snow as I was too little to walk through it by myself. He was born four years before me and thus became, by default, my big brother. Danny and his little brother Eric came to our house every day. Eric and my brother Ben were just a few months apart in age. This automatically pitted the younger against the older on a number of wild adventures. (As wild as little kids can manage.)
We played in the corn fields, in the woods and down by the Cold River. We had ash ball fights (where Ben and Eric finally nailed Danny upside the head one day!) and did the things that little kids typically did.
Being the little sister, I didn’t think twice when Danny put me on the back of his bike before jumping ramps, telling me to hang on. Oh, I was fully protected with the motorcycle helmet he found. I didn’t think anything about getting on the back of his white pony, bareback when I had never been on a horse before. And yes, I fell off really fast.
These, and others, are the most vivid of my childhood. Danny was my first love even if I had no words or comprehension of it at the age of five. I even remember the day we were told we wouldn’t be riding the same bus home together anymore. That was the start of the end as after that moment we reached a point of being separated by our ages. A 5th grader hanging out with a 1st grader just didn’t happen.
Eight years ago today I got a phone call from my mom. Danny had been hit head-on by a drunk driver. The man who hit him had no license due to DUIs and no insurance. Danny died. The man who hit him walked away.
As I hadn’t seen Danny in years, the news of his death was a shock, but just something terrible that happens. I was unprepared for his funeral. During his speech, the minister began to tell of stories from when Danny, Eric, Ben and I were children. It wasn’t until that moment that it hit me.
It still hits me.
For some reason the pain in my heart for a boy I once knew still lingers.
In the days that followed Danny’s funeral my brother and I spoke on the phone. I didn’t understand why I mourned so much for the boy I knew and the man that I really didn’t.
Ben simply said, “Emily, Danny is the reason that you are who you are.” He went on to say that as children he would see some of the things Danny and I would do being scared for me as I did them. According to Ben I was never afraid of anything, especially if I was doing it with Danny. I don’t ever, ever remember him bullying me into doing something. It was just stuff we did.
Ironically enough, the very next year, I swore into the Army on this same day.
Now, at the age of 28, I have earned the name Crazygirl from another friend who I miss more than he knows. I was a flight medic while on active duty in the Army; I was honor graduate in earning my Expert Field Medic Badge and am a civilian skydiver. In three weeks I will put my uniform back on for the first time in over four years, but this time as 2LT Emily McGee.
I never grew out of being Danny’s little sister. Hopefully I never will.
To the living, I am gone,
To the sorrowful, I will never return;
To the angry, I was cheated.
But to the happy I am at peace.
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot speak, but I can listen.
I cannot be seen, But I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore grazing at a beautiful sea-
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity-
Remember me in your heart.
Your thoughts, adn your memories.
Of the times we loved.
The times we cried.
The times we fought.
The times we laughed.
For if you always think of me,
I will never have gone.
Daniel C. Hutchings
24 Aug 1971-12 Nov 1995