Five years ago I received a text from my mom saying Emily was in Brain Surgery. She had been in a car accident and it was serious. I was in the middle of filming commercials for my college’s Freshman Orientations. I was an Orientation Leader and the first orientation was happening in a few weeks. I stepped out of filming and called my mom. I was upset, why would she play this kind of joke. How could she send a text to tell me this information. Why didn’t she call, I thought? I finally got through after multiple attempts where she gave me details. I looked out from the school’s dorm hallway to the view of the empty parking deck brought on by the lull between spring and summer semesters. I cried as she told me Emily had been in a single car accident. Nobody else was involved but it seemed she veered off the road, overcorrected and flipped a couple times and was ejected from the car. She was now in surgery.
When someone tells you your best friend is in brain surgery you don’t know what to think. All my years of Grey’s Anatomy did not prepare me for this moment nor do I think anything could’ve prepared me. I cried. A lot. I asked my mom if I should come home. I really wanted to go home. She said that there was nothing to be done, just wait and see.
You see our families were very close. Our older brothers Cory and Joel are best friends Emily and I were Best Friends. Our Mom’s became best friends through countless sleepovers, baseball games, and play dates. We grew up together. Through-out high school and college Emily and I drifted apart. We were involved in different things and just did not have as much in common anymore, but that didn’t mean that I thought of her as any less than my best friend. She and I were like sisters in the way only someone who has been involved in your whole life can be. Em and I met on the school bus in Kindergarten and were inseparable from then on. Our families celebrated birthdays and holidays together, Emily was the sister I never had. So when you find out your sister is in trouble you want to run to her. You want to give her a hug and tell her everything is going to be okay.
I got to the hospital the next day. My mom prepared me as I went back into her room. She said “She isn’t going to look like our Emily.” It felt like the ICU hallway lasted forever. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. I had a lump in my throat, the one you get when you are fighting back tears because I told myself I have to be strong. I am here to show her she is strong and she can make it through this.
As I approached the window I saw her. Her bed was in the middle of the room, covered in wires. Her head was wrapped and hair sticking out the top. Her leg was in a sling, she was on a breathing machine and her heartbeat was on the monitor, she most definitely did not look like Emily. She looked more like a wax figure someone tried to make of her that had never seen her before. I started to cry as I entered the room. I walked up and touched her hand. She looked fragile, like if I touched her she would somehow get worse. I don’t remember what I said to her, probably nothing insightful. Just that I loved her and how strong she was and how she was going to make it.
I saw her a few more times like this, the last time to say my good byes. The days she spent in ICU felt like no time had passed but also that time had sped by. Emily suffered from irreversible brain damage and the decision was made to take her off off life support. I said my good byes in that large room with her tiny bed in the middle. I told her we were supposed to grow old together like we always talked about. I said I loved her and I was going to miss her and I would be Cory’s sister for him from now on and her parent’s daughter. I could never take her place in their lives, but I would be there for them as best I could.
The day I said good bye was probably the hardest day in my young 20 years of life. I had never known someone close to me to die before and especially not someone who is like a sister, someone who knows your secrets and you know hers.
It has been five years now since we lost our dear Emily. She was a light in a world of darkness to so many. She was one of the most artistic, charismatic and carefree people I will ever know. She didn’t know her worth most of the time and was always late. She taught me to not care too much what others thought of me and how to laugh so much your stomach hurts. It’s hard to put into words all the things that she was and how much she meant to me but I did and do love her very much. She had a special part of my heart and it was lost the day hers stopped beating.
I have told a lot people since Emily’s death that it doesn’t get any easier, you just learn how to live with the pain and the hurt and the sadness that you feel. I vowed to not let my life be any less, because I was now living it for two. I make a lot of decisions now thinking “What would Emily have done?”, “Stop being so afraid, Emily wouldn’t have been.” I don’t let any opportunity pass me by because Emily can’t have those opportunities, it’s my turn to take them.
At her celebration of life Momma Gibson had some of Emily’s art work on display. One that stood out to me most was a doodle that said “Our Bodies are mortal, but our souls are eternal. We must live with ourselves for a long time, find the good in yourself and ones around you” Emily’s body may be gone but her soul still lives in us, all the ones who loved her and knew her because she made an impact on us all.
I miss her more and more everyday, but I know she is with me. About 6 months after her death I got a tattoo of a butterfly with her initials in her honor and to fulfilled our promise. With her on my body we are able to grow old together, she can still experience all the things I do. The biggest thing I have learned and I encourage you all to remember, is that life is fragile and not guaranteed. Do all you can to make the most of it. As another one of Emily’s doodles says “If you love life, life will love you back”