On August 10th, 1983, my life forever changed. Shawna, my baby sister, my heart, died from a snake bite in Sri Lanka.
My father had been working there for 4 months and had flown his wife, my stepmother, her oldest daughter, and their 2 daughters, Shawna and Bridget, over to be with him for the remainder of his time there.
The day after their arrival Shawna went out to play with the other children and returned 15 minutes later in tears complaining that a bee had stung her. (We later found out that it was actually a snake) She died in my fathers arms about an hour later at the hospital. She was 3 years old.
Shawna was indescribably special to me. I was only 14 when she was born and lived with my mother, so I didn't see her as often as I would have liked. For that matter, I was more interested in girls my age so I didn't want to be bothered with a baby sister.
That all changed on her first birthday. After spending most of the day with a friend I was asked to look after Shawna during the fireworks show. (Shawna was born on the 4th of July). I carried her to the spot where we thought we had a good view. One of the girls who had been fawning over her most of the day walked up to us, put her arms out, and said "I can hold you now, Shawna."
Shawna shook her head, threw her arms around me, and buried her head in my shoulder. My heart melted instantly. From that moment on Shawna and I were inseparable any time I was visiting my dad. I would read to her, push her on her tricycle, or just pay attention to her when everyone else had something "better" to do.
My life has been empty since the day I was told that she was gone. I feel as though I've lost my own child. How can such a young child have touched me so deeply? None had before, and none have since. I love all of my sisters dearly, but I had a connection with Shawna that I believe only happens once in a lifetime. I would give my own life just to have another minute with her.
But I know that's not possible.
It's been 17 years. Most of the time I am all right, but there are still times when it feels like only yesterday that I lost the light of my life.
I will always miss you, Shawna.