To say I miss you is an understatement

There are some people in your life that you expect to always be there. For me it was my sister Stephanie. She was always there when we were growing up and she was always there as we grew into adults. But suddenly she is not here anymore and my heart is having a really hard time accepting it.

Stephanie and I are two years apart. Growing up people always stopped us in the grocery stores and asked my mom if we were twins. Maybe we were twin souls just born at different times. We have always been very alike. We both loved horses, the same music, hanging out with the same friends, sharing clothes. We both decided to become vegetarian when we were teenagers. I never minded her following me around like most younger siblings do. I always wanted my children to be close in age so that they could have the relationship Stephanie and I had. She was my person. My best friend. The one I went to when I was sad and needed to vent or when I was happy and I knew she would share in my joy. She knew me inside and out. I am lucky that my sister and I had such a great relationship. I have no regrets about fights we had or the amount of time in between conversations with her. The closeness of our relationship does make losing her so so painful but I love and hold onto what we had.

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March 21st 2015 will always be known to me as the day my life forever changed. My father called me at 11 o clock that night which I thought was strange but I didn’t answer the call because I was at my sister in laws house celebrating her birthday. Then he sent a text message to call him back no matter what time. I knew it was bad. We then grabbed our stuff and headed home. When I finally called him back he asked if Ricky, my wonderful husband, was there with me and I prepared myself for the bad news. But no matter how much you prepare, those words saying your sister has died, cuts you like the sharpest knife right through the heart. I did not want to believe it. That’s the first step of grief, instant denial.  It can’t be her. I just saw her and talked to her a couple of hours ago. I didn’t and still don’t want to believe it. The grief and the pain is still very fresh. I see the world differently now. It has gotten a little dimmer. Trivial things seem to matter less. I go throughout my days surrounded by a thick fog, randomly crying, wondering why it had to be her. One day I will be ok. I have to. I have my own life to live and kids to be strong for but it is going to take some time.

Stephanie was out trying to enjoy a beautiful spring day with her new friend Levi. They were out for a motorcycle ride through the beautiful mountains of Colorado. One moment of distraction from a driver going in the opposite direction forever ended their stories, their light, their right to live and love and experience the future. Both of them just beginning a path to greatness. Here is the news article on the crash http://www.9news.com/story/news/traffic/2015/03/21/shaffers-crossing-crash-285/25160937/

Steph was one test away from joining the LAPD. She had been working with children with autism but was ready to do something new. She was a month or two from moving back to sunny California where she realized she was happiest. She had been living with me for the last year and a half while she figured out where she wanted to go in life. She loved to dance.  She loved shoes. She loved her family. She loved animals. She loved Muay Thai. She trained 6 days a week and did yoga on the 7th day and that is only because they didn’t offer a Muay Thai class that day. She was probably the healthiest person I know. She was always on the go and out with friends. She wasn’t one to just sit at home. She liked to experience as much life as she could. And she had so many friends. Everyone that met her instantly loved her. She used to complain to me that she had no friends and I would tell her to stop being ridiculous but I hope she sees now all of the people that she touched in life. People get busy doing their own things but it doesn’t mean they weren’t her friends and didn’t care about her. Steph was looking for love. She wanted that person to spend her forever with that she could have children with. I feel robbed of the nieces or nephews I could have had. She would have had beautiful children. She was an awesome auntie to my kids. She was the stand in for my husband when my youngest Deegan was born while my husband was out of state working. As soon as I called her to tell her I was in labor she jumped in her car and drove 6 hours to be there with me. She got to cut his cord and give him his first bath. She had the best smile, beautiful eyes and, loving heart. There are so many more things I could say about her.

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Here is a video from her instagram of her sparring. I love watching it just to see her moving again. She is the without the head gear.

Steph sparring

This is the video we had made for her memorials. We had two of them, one in Colorado and one in California. It has a lot of pictures from her life. I would have loved to have added more but this video is already pretty long.

http://thetributecenter.com/tributeplayer/default.aspx?webvideoID=19158

Levi was just starting his own business in graphic design. He was a wonderful artist and had done tattoos in the past. He was an avid outdoors man who loved hunting, fishing, skiing, snowboarding, rafting, hiking and riding his motorcycle. He cared so much about other people and put together a fundraiser for his brother who was injured in a car accident. He won first place at the Denver county fair for his epic beard. I never got to meet Levi but I think I would have really liked him. He left behind two beautiful children who my heart truly breaks for.

Levi

Here is a link to a funny video that he made that my sister had shown me the morning of their accident.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQYsvvlZJvU

 

Steph and Levi were only in the beginning of their 30’s with what was supposed to be many more years on this earth. I looked forward to growing old with my sister. I could imagine us old and wrinkly sitting on the front porch watching our grand kids playing. Listening to her tell stories about how she kicked butt back in the day. I have many emotions lately and these feeling are all new and confusing and I am told with time things will get better but right now it is so hard to imagine my life without my sister here. It’s like a bad dream I can’t wake up from. I want nothing more than go back to that day and change her plans.

Hug your loved ones and tell them you love them. Make time for them. Be kind to other people for you never know what they are going through. I have had a lot of support through this from my awesome family, friends and even strangers. I am so grateful to everyone who has messaged me, donated to the funeral costs, sent flowers, prayed for us, hugged me and just kept us in their thoughts. I have gained some awesome friends that were my sisters friends and we are helping each other get through this hard, not fair, part of life.

This tragedy just reaffirms my love for photography. I want to use it to cope with my loss. I want to find a project that speaks to my heart that I can throw myself into. I was lucky enough to do a couple of shoots with Steph and I will forever treasure them. She was a big time supporter of my dream and I hope I can make her proud with the things I accomplish with it. I love you so much sister and I will forever miss you!

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I urge you not to wait for that photo shoot that you are planning sometime in the future after you loose weight or find the perfect outfit. You never know if you or your loved ones will be taken from you in the blink of eye!

♥ Jenn

Bonnie Crouchman

Oh baby ! That’s so beautiful . Love you heart and soul ..Love you so much Momma

Absolutely beautiful. I love that your sister truly lived her life, she took advantage of it as if she truly appreciated how fragile it could be. I hope you can find peace and your life brightens back up very soon.

So sorry for your loss. Your sister is beautiful inside and out. Sending you love and healing.

Chris Erin Loring

This breaks my heart for you. She seems like an amazing sister to have. Sending hugs and prayers your way.

Keziah Kelsey

oh my heart! Loss is so hard, I will keep you in my thoughts. A beautiful tribute to your dear sister.

ANNAdventure

I have no words. I am SO deeply sorry for your loss. I don’t have a sister so I cannot even comprehend what you are feeling but based on your beautiful words, I have a glimpse. I am so very sorry. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. One thing I am happy about is that you have these beautiful photos of her to keep her spirit alive. That is why photographers are so important. Again, I cannot express enough how sorry I am for your loss. I don’t know you in person but I am sending much love your way.

Willy Wilson

What a heartbreaking story. I’m so glad you had that chance for a last photo shoot and these beautiful images to remember her by. You are so right that we need to capture photos of our loved ones now, not wait for some other day. I am so very sorry for your loss.

Amy Broome Stephens

What an amazing testament to your sister. I’m so sorry for your loss. My heart hurts for you and your family so much. Sending you love and light.

Lindsay Beetz

This was awesome. Love you Jenny!

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