My ‘forever best friend’: Love lives on after death

A personal essay about losing my sister

The last birthday party I shared with my sister. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Medina

The last birthday party I shared with my sister. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Medina

Stephanie Medina, Community News Reporter

In some ways, Oct. 29, 2017, was a typical morning. I woke up early, showered and got ready for work.

But something gnawed at me all morning and my anxiety only grew worse when my mom, Susan Raya, called from Carson City, where she lived with my dad, Gerardo Medina.

“Have you heard from your sister?” she recalled asking.

“No,” I said. “She stopped texting me last night.”

I knew there was something wrong. We both did.

I shakily drove to work, nearly hitting a car stopped at a stop sign. I wasn’t able to focus on my driving or the road. All I could think about was the phone call I had with my mom. It left me uneasy.

As I pulled into work, I received a call from my godfather telling me I had to go to my house in Pico Rivera right away.

Feeling an overwhelming sense of dread, I told my manager and headed home.

Everyone was waiting outside. My cousin was at the end of the driveway. My aunt and my godfather were leaning against the wall by the garage. My grandparents were both crying hysterically in the garage.

I immediately phoned my mom and her voice sounded so different: It was quiet and cracking.

“Steph, your sister had an accident,” she said, stuttering to find the words. “She didn’t make it. I love you.”

I was in complete shock. I felt nothing. I couldn’t comprehend that my sister was really gone.

The rest of the day, I kept busy. I did homework. I cleaned my room.

I did not let myself think about what I had just heard. I couldn’t take it.

When I got to our house in Carson City, that’s when it sunk in.

She wasn’t there to greet me. Her laugh no longer filled the house. The house felt empty without her.

I thought about how we used to talk being “forever best friends.” No matter what happens or where life took us, we would always be there for each other.

She was my best friend and supposed to be in my life forever.  How could I have lost her?

After her services, I got on the first plane back to Los Angeles because I couldn’t stand being home. As much as my parents needed me, the memories at home were too painful.

In L.A., I continued with my life. I went back to work as if nothing happened. I continued with school as if nothing happened. I threw myself back into life to cover up the hurt I was feeling.

Anger and sadness quickly took over my world. I had so much hatred and hurt in my heart that I turned into a bitter person.

Samantha Laura Medina. Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Medina

I hated that my sister was no longer with me. I hated that she was taken away so young. I hated that she would no longer be able to accomplish everything she wanted. She would never be able to become a marine biologist like she wanted. She would never be able to explore the seas as she had hoped. I hated that she would never meet my future kids.

The thing I hated the most is that she would not grow old with me.

My relationships began to suffer. My grades were taking a dive.

I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I didn’t want to go back to Carson City. I absolutely hated seeing people together, especially siblings. All I wanted was to be alone and be with my sister. I only wanted her and no one else.

I fell into the darkest hole I have ever been in. I felt empty and lost, like the world was coming down on me. I had lost control of my life and I didn’t know how to pull myself out.

On Jan. 3, 2019, I decided to go back home because I had pushed it off for so long.

As I drove home with my parents, I felt safe. The safest I had felt in a while.

The first thing we did was go see my sister. As we approached the graveyard, I grew anxious. I had felt guilty for not visiting her sooner. I was scared that somehow she was going to be angry with me.

Those feelings disappeared as I got out of the car. I felt relaxed and strangely, warm. It felt as if someone was hugging me.

Once I got to her tombstone, I began to cry. I missed her. I sat with her for 30 minutes in silence just feeling the wind blow across my face.

I looked up at my parents and they had smiles on their faces. They had been talking among themselves about memories they had with my sister. 

At that moment, I knew I was going to be OK. Although she is no longer physically with me, I know she’s there and she would not have wanted me to be the bitter, hateful person I was in the first the year after her death.

It has been four years since she died. The pain has mostly eased and I have found ways to cope.

I had 22 years with her and shared amazing memories with her. I think back on those times a lot.

When I miss her, I watch some of her favorite movies. I look at pictures we took to see her smile. 

There are still days I want to call her and listen to her tell me about her day. Or days when I have questions for her and want to ask for her advice. I sometimes see something I want to buy for her but can’t. I have days where I cry because all I want is to be with her again.

But I have learned that it’s OK to feel the way you feel. It’s OK to have your bad days. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a journey that is never easy and it takes time.

I think my sister would be proud of how far I have come. She may be gone but she is still my forever best friend.

Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]