I don’t know what your voice sounded like. I don’t know how your body worked-how you moved, your mannerisms, if you spoke with your hands. Frankly, I don’t know who you were.
I have a slightly-edited version of your name: my mother turned “Jean” into “Jenna.” You don’t even know me, you never did, and I walk around with your name.
I should know you. You should know me. Honestly, I find myself thinking sometimes about how angry I am because we never will know each other.
She still talks about you. Constantly. It’s been 25 years, but my brother and I hear the stories. We’ve known about you always; talking about you as if you were still here. In a way, you were a part of my childhood, even though, in reality, you weren’t. You didn’t know me, and I didn’t know you.
She says you were kind. You always looked out for other people. You listened to what everyone had to say, and you put others before yourself. I wish I could have learned from you.
I’ve heard the story of how you left. You were only 26. I’m 19, and you’ve been gone for 25 years. You’ve been gone almost as long as you were here, and I wasn’t around for any of it.
I find myself wondering who you would have been to me. Would you have lived in the same town? Would you have come over for Sunday lunch, with my brother and I running to the door to greet our “cool Aunt Jeanie”? Would I have gone to you to complain about school?
There are pictures of you on the walls. Both at Grandma’s house and at mine. I find myself looking at them from time to time. You were pretty. I can see how you and my mother are sisters. I don’t see much of a resemblance between you and I, but truthfully, I see some of you in my brother. I don’t know why, but I do.
I see how your death affected them. They still mention you. I can hear the grief in their voices even now, 25 years later.
25 years. 25 years, you’ve been gone. I’ve only been around for 19, and though I didn’t really know you, you’ll always be a part of my life. You always have been, and you always will be.
Hope everything’s going well up there. Say hi to Grandpa for me.