I remember it like it is happening right now. It was Saturday morning around 8 or so and all I could hear was my great grand mother screaming. “She’s dead, she’s dead!”. I jumped out of bed to find out what she was talking about. My mother was gone which was usual on Saturday morning. I asked my great-grandmother what she was screaming for and who she was talking about. The words that flew from her lips threw me off and immediately made me dive into the deep end of my feelings. I kept thinking to myself that this was not real and I kept telling her to stop saying it because it wasn’t true. She was certain that it was. To help soothe her and ease my mind, I started making phone calls. I called my sister Angel and her phone went to voicemail. I called my sister Chavela and her phone went to voicemail. I called my mom and her phone went to voicemail. At this point panic sits in and I began to think to myself that maybe those words were in fact true. Maybe. I couldn’t accept it until I heard it from someone who knew for sure. Someone that could without a shadow of a doubt confirm this.
I attempted to remain calm and to remain optimistic. I do not know what time it was but I heard the door opening and I remember running to the edge of the steps to the side door and waiting. I stood there for what seemed like forever, waiting. I was waiting for someone to prove my great-grandmother wrong. I saw my godmother walk in with a smile on her face but that did not make me feel better. I saw my mother walk in laughing and smiling and I still did not feel ok. My dad came in with a stoic look on his face and my heartbeat sped up. My sister Chavela walked in…it was at that moment that I knew. Chavela walked in with eyes that were as red as the blood we bleed. Her face appeared swollen with pain and sorrow. Her body language told me everything I needed to know without anyone saying anything to me. My dad reached for me and at that moment the beat of my heart ceased. I loss consciousness. I felt like I died.
When I came to I was full of questions, anger, and rage! I wanted blood! I was ready to fight and avenge! My mother told me to calm down and be quiet. I was just a kid. Just barely a teenager. Only 13 years old and feeling the pain of an adult. I felt guilt. I began to internalize and feel that I had something to do with this. I felt like I didn’t do enough to change the situation so that this would not have been the outcome. Where did the guilt come from?
On Friday night I heard a voice that told me that I would never be the same if I fail. The voice told me that I had to get her to leave from where she was and come to me or I would never see her again. I called her and talked to her. I told her how much I loved her and how much I missed her. I told her that I wanted to see the baby. I told her that I needed her. I told her to come to me. I begged her. I tried my hardest to get her to leave from over there. She wouldn’t leave. She told me that she would come on Saturday. She promised. She said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, ok? I love you!”.
It was April 29, 1995. The day my life changed. The day that destroyed so much of me. I have struggled for years with the loss. Her daughter was 5 weeks old. I was 13. She was 19. She was my sister. Michelle Angelique Shields. We called her Angel. Today marks the day she got her wings. It has been 20 years and the pain is still real. I miss her so much. I have had to watch her daughter grow without her. The daughter that is her doppelgänger. It is hard. I know that there are so many things that would have happened differently had she been here. So many conversations. So many different decisions. Such a strong bond.
Our tomorrow is still coming and I am looking forward to it, but that doesn’t replace the pain of today.