Affirmation- Happy Birthday, Pam

It’s my sister’s birthday. It is the day I choose every year to remember my little sister. Although I lost her to depression in the fall of 2005, it is her life and her presence in our lives going forward that I miss- so March 31st is when my heart gets wrenched and more than likely I will breakdown during the day in recollection. This year I am actually drawn to remember what it has been like to live life without her.

PAMDRIVENMy real thoughts are with another family and more importantly, an older sibling who had a very recent similar loss. I would not attempt to think I understand what they are going through as the circumstances are not similar. However, what is similar is the sudden loss of a younger sibling, a friend, who shared so many similarities, hobbies, interests, etc.


My thoughts go back to 2005 and the years following the loss of my sister. I felt like I walked around with a sympathy tag, but at the same time I put up a pretty solid wall of confidence. The bottom-line: I was damaged inside and every day something reminded me that Pam was not a part of my life anymore. My parent’s kept her cell phone active for several months and I would call it to hear her voicemail for comfort. I had to turn-off the radio if certain songs played, since they would bring me to dizziness and tears. Over time, I healed. I had a great group of friends in Virginia Beach that helped me channel my energy into sport and coaching young people. I had an amazing girlfriend (now the mother of our children) who somehow came to me at the right time to partially fill a huge void left by Pam’s departure. It was brutal, and not all the time, but there were moments I was just crushed.

 “Do you have any siblings?”

In the couple years after the loss of Pam, I was young, not married, dating, but still statistically single. More often than I cared for, someone would ask me, “if I had a brother or a sister?” I still remember the first person, Paul, a good friend to this day, who asked me if I had siblings (just two weeks after). We were on a bike ride in Palm Springs, CA. I was so saddened by the thought of answering this question that I slowed to a soft pedal and nearly fell off my bike. For the first year or so, the answer was so terribly difficult that I would dance around it based on how I was feeling. These people did not intend to assault my emotions. I eventually found the words and would attempt to explain her loss without making it too awkward. Looking back, I wish I always had the strength to pull it together and fully explain how amazing she had been and how much I terribly missed her.

Life moves forward minus someone

Over the years, the question about having a sibling seemed to go away, but certain special moments caused sadness. In June 2009, I married Lara, and it was the day those sibling questions seemed to start to disappear. On the way to my wedding, unbeknownst to my friends driving me, I was brought down, almost physically ill with emotion. One of the happiest days of my life, but Pam was not going to be there and it was marked by extreme sadness. The day my daughter Paige was born brought, so much joy. Much like my wedding day, it was both one of the happiest days, but horrible since I did not have Pam there to hold my daughter and share this moment. I am sure there will be many more moments, and in some ways I welcome them. I do want to remember Pam, even if it is sad.


Therefore, on this day, my sister’s birthday, I again affirm, that I had a sister. She was notably amazing as an athlete, a musician, and a scholar. She was my sounding board, my biggest fan, and my harshest critic. She was modest, yet driven to greatness. I seek to do her proud and remember her for what she did in life and how she lived life. Despite the disappearing chances to tell people about how amazing she was, I will use this opportunity to do so.

 I hope my fellow older sibling finds similar solace, but I know it will not be easy at all. My thoughts are with her and her family.

10 responses to “Affirmation- Happy Birthday, Pam”

  1. Barry Siff says:

    Billy – absolutely pain-wrenchingly beautiful, poetic, and endearing. Your love for your sister will never be lost, and a part of her will be with you forever, helping make the complete person, wonderful person you are. Believe me – she’s proud.

  2. Tommy says:

    We all have our crosses to bear. Yours is worse than mine, mine is worse than yours. “Do you have any siblings?”, “Are you married?”, “How many children do you have?” are questions often asked out of a simple exchange of pleasantries. We don’t want to lie, but we don’t want to create an uncomfortable exchange either. 15 years later and I still have no idea how to answer “my” question. Some days I mourn more than others, and some days I remember more than others, and some days I feel robbed more than others. But I always cherish her birthday – always. I owe that to her and I owe that to myself. I never did get to meet your sister, Billy, but I’ll be more than willing to raise a toast to her older brother.

    • billy says:

      Tommy, I am with you in all of that. I will say it now- it is the only subject I have intentionally lied about since before USNA.

  3. Emily Joyce Hannah says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family today!

  4. Mel Parker says:

    Thank you Billy for this post. I too lost my sibling to depression I’m impressed with your openness and honesty. My thoughts are with you and yur family. Xoxo

    • billy says:

      Mel, it does not come easy. There are days that I despise the positivity around people with cancer. Mental illness is an illness. Thanks for mentioning your loss- it sucks- my sympathies and my support, as well.

  5. Larry Perry says:

    Thanks for using your abilities to help other people through their struggles. I am still grateful that you were and still are my only “coach”. Thanks for sharing your difficult times with me as I shared mine with you. I hope you are doing well and that the kids are doing well. May your sisters memories continue to live on in your mind and push you to new heights. God bless

    • billy says:

      It’s folks like you that also keep me driven- I know that shit ain’t easy. Thanks for reading. May our paths cross sooner than later…on a bike or with a beer.

  6. billy says:

    Thanks for reading and responding, that was kind of unexpected. (Barry, Emily and others who might visit this blog.)

  7. Linda Misencik says:

    Although I only spent a brief few days with you when you stayed at our house in Ohio, this just brought me to tears. I’m in tears now as I write this. So well written to make me feel your sadness. I cannot even begin to know how you and your parents felt. But it is such an honor to your sister that you loved her so and continue to honor her with the blessed life that you lead. I hope our paths cross again – Mark and I are hoping to move to Colorado soon.

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