I'll get around to recapping my vacation last week sometime soon, like tomorrow soon, but there was one thing that my mom pointed out early in the week that made me stop short.
Just before I came home for my vacation, my sister Robbie had been back at Honey Rock Camp in Wisconsin, a camp operated by Wheaton College, which a long line of my relatives on my mom's side attended. I broke that legacy and began one of my own at Grove City College, much to the chagrin of some of the older folks in mom's family. Robbie spent a lot of time back in Chicago (where Wheaton is) and up at Honey Rock when we were growing up.
My parents had been good friends with the director of Physical Ed. at Wheaton and his wife since before all of us were born (back when they were all our age, or younger, I suppose). So, while we were growing up, they were good family friends that we visited on a fairly regular basis. They had 2 kids, Emily - who was a couple years older than me, and David, who was a bit younger than me. As kids naturally go, I connected well with David while Robbie bonded Emily. David and I were friends after a fashion, but we were never anything like Robbie and Emily. Emily quickly became like the older sister Robbie never had, and their bond was fast and true. They kept in solid contact, whereas David and I were content to go all year never talking then take off for a night of rebuilding a car whenever we were together again. It was under the transmission of a '72 Bronco that David confessed his affections for Robbie to me, and under that same Bronco that I threatened to crush him with said transmission (Dave's married now, not to my sister, but he's a great guy and I'm glad he found the right girl).
I never knew Emily quite as well as I now wish I had. At that age (our mid-teens), I wasn't concerned with the more important things in life, but Emily clearly had already been granted some of that grace, and was selfless enough to share it with my sister. I know that my sister is a better person for who Emily was and the influence she had in her life, and I know we're both thankful for that. She was one of the kindest, gentlest, and sweetest girls you would ever meet. Robbie still has a picture of Emily on her dresser at home and its one of those smiles that literally stops you in your tracks, every time.
Emily died in a rock climbing accident while climbing with her family near Honey Rock, ten years ago last week.
Mom pointed out the anniversary when I got home and told me that's why Robbie had been out there, in part. I got that sick feeling in my stomach that I still get every time I think about the day we first heard the news. I couldn't believe it had been that long since she died, and I knew that Robbie, David, and his parent's conflictions must have far outweighed mine last week.
Emily wasn't just one of those souls that people laud all of their best qualities when they eulogize them. Emily was one of those people who you instantly would have spoken of in the same way while she was still alive. Her qualities all were the best, and I know of nothing bad that could have been said about her. The praises I've made don't begin to recount the amazing person she really was, and I knew her far less well than my sister did. Why she, of all people, had to go at such a young age is a question that I'll take with me to eternity. Sometimes providence just doesn't make any sense.
I'm writing this here because I don't want to forget about it again, and this has become something of a journal for me, at times. Emily's death changed her family's life, and my sister's life, and mine as well, to a lesser extent. But not, I hope, so much as her life changed ours. I'm thankful for that, and that someday I will get to know her all over again.
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"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."