Sometimes I’ll be doing the most ordinary, mundane thing when it happens. It happened Thursday night when I was downloading old pictures so I could transfer them from my old PC to my Mac. I was efficiently clicking through folders, choosing pictures, having a nice trip down memory lane when. I came across a file in one of the folders that seemed out of place. I clicked on it and up popped a group instant message from 2008 between me and my sisters.
In the weeks and months after Julie died I went through every email and IM I could find searching for any electronic correspondence between us. Not trusting technology and fearful of someday losing them, I printed and saved each one I found, desperate not to lose the memory of her written voice and record of our ordinary, everyday correspondence. For a while, I read them pretty frequently because they made me feel connected to her in some small way. Now they’re all filed away along with my other personal papers and memorabilia, saved like letters were in the days before email, texting and instant messaging.
Sometimes Amy, Julie and I would have group chats via IM. They seldom had a purpose, they were just another way we stayed connected with each other, sharing little details of our daily lives. We did the same thing over the phone, one of us calling the other and then conferencing in the third. I read the copy of our pointless, scattered conversation over and over, smiling at the memory of our silliness and then overcome with sadness, reminded of my loss and missing my sister all over again.
Our chat on January 30, 2008 started at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 8:39 a.m. We were all at work just starting our day, probably drinking coffee while we checked our emails. Nine minutes. It’s amazing how many memories and feelings can be dredged up by reading such a short conversation. Julie’s words as she left the conversation that day are what really got to me. One of the many painful things about her death was that she didn’t give us a chance to say a final goodbye. One day she was there and then she was just gone, leaving everyone who loved her with unsaid goodbyes. I wouldn't have wanted to ever tell her goodbye or let her go. But if I had, I like to imagine her goodbye as cheerful and lighthearted like the one she gave us as she signed off that morning five years ago.
Julie: “Got all dressed up in a cute outfit and then decided to look out the window and it was snowing.”
“So I had to change.”
Keicha: “Is it as cute as the one I have on in my IM picture?”
Julie: “Amy, do you know what the male species of elk are called?”
Amy: “ I don’t see an outfit in your picture Keicha.”
Keicha: “What is a male elk called?”
Amy: “Ask Julie”
Julie: “What did I call them?”
Amy: “Men elk. They’re actually called bull elk.”
Julie: “I like men elk.”
Keicha: “ Only if they’re in full rut though, huh?”
Julie: “You two.”
Amy: “Keicha started it.”
Juile: “Nice picture.”
Keicha: “Sorry. This is too much. I’m reading emails, instant messaging and answering messages on my Blackberry. AAGGH!”
Amy: “Would you say Jon is near East Boston?”
Keicha: “ Like I would know. Ask Julie. Cute picture Julie.”
Julie: “He is actually in the south suburbs.”
Amy: “OK, I want to send a balloon bouquet.”
Julie: “Peace out sistas.”