Updated: Jul 6, 2020
| This is the 207th story of Our Life Logs |
I was born on June 18th, 1974 in Mentor, Ohio, and joined my happy family—made up of my doting parents and my exuberant older brother Jimmy. Naturally, being four years older made Jimmy the boss of me. I always looked up to him, though I must admit I played the part of an annoying little sister perfectly. He teased me mercilessly—not to be mean, but just for a good laugh. He was forever dreaming up pranks and engineering booby traps for me.
I’ll never forget one epic prank he played on me. It was summertime. I was a budding teen, and had been invited to a pool party. I really wanted to attend, but my parents refused to let me go. Oh, I was so upset. Like a typical pre-teen, I threw myself face down on my bed and sobbed loudly. Unbeknownst to me, Jimmy had snuck in my room and hid under the bed with a tape recorder, documenting all my hysterics. He kept that recording at the ready and replayed it when I had recovered from my tantrum, only to send me into another emotional frenzy.
Even though Jimmy teased and bossed me around, he was also my biggest protector. He was the one I looked to for help in dealing with our parent’s divorce. When we were both in college, we developed a deeper sort of relationship. He was still my taunting older brother, but I had finally discovered that my wit could beat his brawn. He might still be able to wrestle me, but I could stop him in his tracks with a well-timed insult. We began to behave more like equals, although Jimmy still looked out for me quite a bit.
As the years went on, Jimmy and I grew up and started down our separate paths. I attended graduate school in Virginia where I met and married my husband. I started working as a clinical psychologist and started a family at the same time. We soon had two sons and had settled into family life in Cincinnati, Ohio. Jimmy started a successful career in business and moved to Texas with his wife. While we lived in different parts of the country, we still saw each other often because Jimmy owned and flew his own plane. He enjoyed visiting me and my new family. He especially enjoyed spending time with his two young nephews who had inherited his personality and huge smile.
On January 5, 2011, I was alone in my office preparing for my next client when I got the news that changed my life. My mom called to tell me that Jimmy’s plane had malfunctioned and crashed. My brother died on impact.
Time stands still when you get that kind of news. I refused to believe her at first. How could he be gone? I had just sent him a picture of him and my boys on Facebook that morning and talked to him on the phone the night before. I turned to the Internet to see the story for myself. When I saw that indeed there had been a crash, I fell to my knees and sobbed.
I eventually made my way to my co-worker’s office and stood in her doorway with tears streaming down my face, unable to articulate what had happened. Luckily, she was also a psychologist and knew how to help me. She called the office chaplain and a few other co-workers who sat with me and prayed until I was calm enough to drive myself home.
On that drive home, I thought about my evening commute the night before. I had been talking to Jimmy on the phone, as I often did. I tearfully remembered exactly where I was on the route when we said goodbye. I will always think of Jimmy when I drive that path home from work.
My life changed that day in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. As I grieved for Jimmy and tried to support my parents in their grief, my marriage of ten years slowly began to crumble.
During these difficult days, I would often find myself reaching for the phone to call Jimmy. In these moments, there were so many memories of Jimmy that swam to the surface; memories from our childhood but so many more from when we were adults, when our conversations were real, honest, genuine, supportive and vulnerable. Each time I thought of calling him and realized I no longer could, it was like losing him all over again. There I was struggling to come to grips with this loss, and I knew my husband wanted me to get over my grief faster than I was able. I was alone.
One day I was reflecting on my situation and a thought popped in my head, “Is this the life Jimmy would have wanted for me?” I got the distinct feeling that Jimmy would have pushed me off that lonely island and toward happiness.
Jimmy was always looking out for me and this hadn’t changed after his death. A few days after he died, I received a package from him in the mail. According to the postage time stamp, it had been mailed just one hour before his plane had taken off. The package contained an old Mickey Mouse pillowcase and a handwritten note saying, “Here’s something your boys can have from our childhood.” This was my first inkling that he would continue to look out for us.
Thinking about what he might want for me eventually inspired me to make a change and find happiness. I came to believe that being alone is far better than being with someone who is weighing me down. I ended up separating from my husband in 2012 and I later met the love of my life, Del. We married in 2016 with the blessing of my two young sons.
Jimmy was the king of selfies before selfies were even a thing and before cell phone cameras even existed. He loved aiming his digital camera in an attempt to take a picture of himself and the person he was enjoying spending time with. Looking back, it seems like the connection in the moment was what was most important to him. He wanted to commemorate his adventures and those who would share these good times with him. Since Jimmy’s passing, I’ve learned to be more like that.
Things will never be the same as they were. His hugs, smiles, adventuresome spirit and all the other things that made him special will continue to be remembered and honored. But this tragedy inspired all of us to live a fuller, healthier and happier life. My parents live close to us now and often pop in for dinner, attend the boys sporting events, and go on family vacations with us.
I’m sure that Jimmy’s death will continue to affect me and help me grow in ways I have yet to learn. And I know Jimmy would be proud of me, his forevermore “little sister.”
This is the story of Jennifer Farley
Jennifer grew up in Mentor, Ohio with her parents and older brother, Jimmy. She and Jimmy were close throughout their childhood and maintained a special relationship into early adulthood. In 2011, Jimmy, a small plane pilot, was killed on impact when his plane crashed. As Jennifer grieved her brother’s death, her marriage of ten years started falling apart. She reflected on whether this was the life her brother would have wanted for her. She ended up divorcing her husband and ultimately found true love in her new husband, Del. Losing Jimmy has brought Jennifer and her parents closer together. She learned that the gift of spending time with the ones you love is the best gift of all. Jennifer lives with her husband, Del and two boys in Cincinnati, Ohio. She works as a clinical psychologist using her own experiences to help others in their life journey. Jennifer can be found around town at her boys’ sporting events, volunteering at her sons’ school, running in 5K races and playing on a women’s volleyball team.
This story first touched our hearts on November 7, 2018.
| Writer: Dr. Jennifer Pinto | Editor: Colleen Walker |