Today is Sandi’s birthday. She would have been 42 today. I woke up at 12:07 AM and my first thought after the usual “What time is it?” was the fact that it was her birthday today. We’d been friends since out college days in the late 1990s after meeting in the online fan community for the Wallflowers, one of our favorite bands at the time.
I can’t think of her anymore without thinking of Thanksgiving 2016 when I found out the news from her sister that Sandi had died, leaving behind two small children who she had wanted her entire life. I knew that she’d been having a very difficult time as the man she was deeply in love with had broken up with her a few weeks earlier. I hadn’t talked to her since the previous Wednesday and had emailed her that Friday, but she hadn’t responded. I remember sitting at the airport in San Francisco on my way to Peru and wanting to check in with how she was doing, but stopped myself since it was late in North Carolina, where she lived. I never would have guessed that Sandi would be dead less than 48 hours later.
I regret that when I saw her in 2011, she had offered to let me stay the night with her, her then-husband, and the kids. If I had known that was the last time I’d ever see her, I’d have stayed. She was also in SoCal about a year ago and asked me about possibly meeting up with her there. It was a last minute trip for her and I look at flight prices, but at $400+ for a day, I thought it was too expensive at the time and we agreed that we’d meet up the next time she was on the West Coast.
That day will never happen.
I’d gladly pay that $400 now just to see her for an hour.
Sandi with her children, Andy and Annie, in August 2015.
I’ve thought of her every day since Jenni told me that Sandi was dead. Angry for what she did to her own children who needed her more than anything in the world and able to forgive as I know she was not in the right frame of mind during the last moments of her life. She wasn’t the Sandi that I’d gotten to know and love for the last 17 or so years. I’ve had some pretty low moments in the last 7 months and Sandi has helped me through that as I know it’s not worth it to go through the path she ultimately chose.
It’s not completely unfamiliar either. My grandmother was a severe schizophrenic and took her own life on 23 February 1993. I’ve thought of that day too every day for the last 23+ years. It’s been worse when I’ve heard my mother lie to people on how my grandma died. She sees it at shameful whereas I’ll fully admit it because it’s a scar that I don’t want to hide from the world. Like the 6 inch scars that run across my hip joints, the emotional scars show what I’ve survived. Life hasn’t always been easy for me and I’d be a lot weaker if it had been.
My grandma and me in November 1977.
I grew up thinking that my grandma was just my grandma. I loved her. I was always excited to see her and spend time with her and treasured the couple of weeks a year that I’d get with her since she lived back in Peru, where my mom is from. I couldn’t understand why she killed herself. I didn’t know that she was severe schizophrenic until after she died and my cousins told me some weird stuff she’d say or do. I happened to be reading a book about mental illnesses and saw her symptoms under the “severe schizophrenic” description. It turned out too that my relatives knew about my grandma, but it was kept from the grandchildren. I’m thankful for that in a way because I saw her nothing more than just my grandma. I only regret that it may have softened the blow when my uncle called my mom to tell him that their mother was gone.
During my time at Panda Restaurant Group’s headquarters in SoCal, I grew a lot as a person. I learned the importance of personal relationships. I learned the importance of telling people how you feel about them because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Combined with my surgeries, I learned to live today like it’s your last day. Live today like it’s their last day. I’m glad that I told Sandi that I loved her when she was alive. I just wish I’d spent more time with her when I had the chance. Don’t waste time and chances to be with people you love.
At Sandi’s funeral, her father told me “Thank you for being her friend.” I replied “That was easy.”
Happy birthday sweet girl. I miss you.
Sandi in August 2015. Sent to me by her mother Karen after the funeral.