Do you remember where you were 14 years ago? What were you doing? What did you look like? How did you act? Funny thing, is I DO remember exactly where I was 14 years ago today. I remember every bit of this day, as if it were yesterday...
My sister and I were getting ready for school, the phone rang, my sister screamed and right then and there I knew...Michele was gone. Michele Diane Gatton. The beautiful, incredibly smart, flute playing, my best friends (Veronica) sister and my sisters (Amy) best friend. In August 1995 she had a "mass" removed from her tongue. We were in vacation in South Carolina when my sister call her to see how the surgery went and we got the news that it was cancer. Cancer of the tongue in a 17 year old!?!?!? That was odd, and never in a million years in our young, nieve brains did we think it would actually be cancer, but it was. The first few months of her diagnosis were spent doing chemo, and all seemed "well" but then things took a dramatic turn downhill. She needed a tracheotomy (sp?) and things just weren't going well. I will never forget the day that she told us she was well enough to walk the mall with her mom. I felt like that meant she was well and would never die (again, such a nieve mind I had at the age of 14ish.) I remember one day standing in her kitchen, she had a purple bear in her hand (lilac was her favorite color) and she made mention of wanting to be buried with the bear. My sister and I told her to stop talking like that and to never say anything about her funeral again. She wasn't going to die!!!!! Michele turned 18 on February 17th, 2006. She was due to graduate from high school that May. Little did we know that she wouldn't make it to graduation. At one of her high schools ceremonies for seniors they presented Michele with her diploma. Michele was too sick to attend, but she was made an official high school graduate. Towards the end Michele had fought the good fight and didn't have any more left in her. She no longer had the desire for visitors (she didn't want them to see her the way she was).
The early, early morning of May 13, 2006 Michele, smiled, waved goodbye to her mom and left this earth for her Heavenly home. Her stepmom was the one that had made the call to Amy (it was around 6:30am). Michele was gone. How in the world was she REALLY gone!??! My sister Amy had just lost her best friend. My best friend Veronica had just lost her sister. What was I going to do!?!??!? One of my parents, I think my dad, rushed Amy and I over to Michele and Veronica's house. We walked in and it was just total sadness. By this point several family members had made it over to the house. We just sat around and hugged and cried. Michele was still in her bedroom (in the basement. The family wanted to wait until the elementary school kids in the neighborhood had boarded the bus before the coroner came for Michele.) We (when I say "we" I am referring to my sister and I) were asked if we wanted to go downstairs to say goodbye. We both chose not to. Once again, young and nieve...I wish I had gotten to say goodbye. Another close friend of Veronica's, Emily and her mother came over to take my sister, Veronica and I to Bob Evan's for breakfast. Now I'm thinking they did this so we wouldn't be there when they came to get Michele. Breakfast was spent in a fog, a complete aurora of disbelief. As I'm writing this post, my memory of anything after breakfast is gone. I THINK we may have gone back to Michele and Veronica's house, perhaps we went home. Actually, now I remember, we did go back to their house (sorry for all the "out of the placeness" of this post, I am literally reliving the day in my head as I'm typing.). We spent the rest of the day up in Veronica's room, doing what, I'm not sure. The following days are a complete blur. I know there was a memorial service at Mountain Christian Church and a burial. To be honest, I remember nothing of any of it, except for one thing, one thing that will probably haunt me until the day I am called from this earth...Veronica's cry. Veronica is the type of person, ever since I can remember (we met when we were 8, we are now 28), that when she cries, you know it. She has one of those "ugly" (she wouldn't mind me saying that :) , hysterical cries. During the memorial service that is ALL you could hear, above anything else, was Veronica crying! :( I remember that poems were read...my sister had written two poems in honor of her friendship with Michele. She was too hysterical to read it in front of the church, but someone read the poems for her. Mr. Roger (Michele's dad) gave the eulogy (I think. My gosh, how do I not remember this?????) So many emotions, so many raw emotions over the loss of a person who you loved like a sister! Michele, you are missed!!! It may be 14 year today since you left this earth (it just literally hurt my heart for a second when I typed 14 years. She has been gone for almost as many years as she was alive. WOW! Her voice, her smile, her laugh, the way she got SO easily irriated at Veronica and I because we were "so immature" :)...those are the things I miss the most :)
In 14 years...the 3 of us (Veronica, Amy and I) have graduated from high school, Amy graduated from college, all 3 of us have married, and all 3 of us have become mommies. All those things Michele was never able to do and I know she would have done them all with grace, elegance and maturity. She really was just an amazing person!
Michele, I know that Heaven has been filled with the sweetest flute playing for the last 14 years. I love you!