At 6:25 p.m. Sunday evening, I lost my sister.
She had just turned 30 in August, only weeks after finding out that she had ovarian cancer. When I spoke with her last month, I told her that I would be there when she underwent surgery on Aug. 20. I didn’t make it because Aug. 20 was on a Tuesday and of course anyone who knows me, knows that Tuesday is the day we lay out our sections for the current week’s issue of the Paraglide.
As much as I wanted to be there, there was no way I could balance being at the University of North Carolina Medical Center at Chapel Hill with my responsibilities as the assistant editor of the Paraglide.
On May 7, 2011, my sister graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in nursing. She sent me an invitation and I was looking forward to basking in the joy of her college graduation day. But because of a Fort Bragg event at Smith Lake that required news coverage, I had to change my plans, take the assignment and cover the garrison commander at the event.
In November of the same year, my sister bought a house and had a scheduled housewarming event. For whatever reason, I didn’t make it to that either.
Now, she is gone and there is no possible way I can make it up to her.
Don’t get me wrong; by no means am I consumed with guilt. I loved my sister but you see, I am the oldest of six siblings. As the oldest sibling, (there are 16 years older between me and the youngest), it’s common to feel like everything in your life is important, especially when you’re trying to be successful at whatever you’re doing.
I never really had an opportunity to connect with my brother Torrey, 31, or my sister, LaJoy. This was primarily due to the fact that I joined the Army shortly after high school in 1985 and didn’t return to North Carolina until I retired in 2007.
There were times when I came home on leave and I was able to see how much they had grown since my last visit, but time passes quickly. Between 2002 and 2003, while stationed at Fort Monroe, Va., I came home often to visit our father, who was stricken with leukemia. On Nov. 17, 2003, Marion H. Evans, also affectionately known as “Big E” to his Army buddies, passed away. It was then that I had a shocking revelation — Torrey and LaJoy were now adults. “Wow,” I thought, “where did the time go?” What happened to the time when I could come home from the Army and pick them up from school? What happened to being able to watch them participate in little league sports or any other activities that they may have been involved in? How did I miss both of their graduations?
I understood very well, as did they, that I was a United States Soldier and my duties as such often took me overseas for an unspecified amount of time.
But in hindsight (and people often tell me not to look back), it hurts like hell that I did not take advantage of the opportunity to be the “big brother” that I feel like I should have been.
I had a conversation with my brother, Rodney Sunday as we drove to Chapel Hill to see our sister for what would be the last time. I explained to him that as the oldest brother, I never wanted to outlive any of my siblings. That’s not supposed to happen. I strongly believe that God does not make mistakes and I rest well knowing that my sister, who was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and a member of N.C. A&T’s proud “Aggie” family, touched so many people, as evidenced by the number of posts on her Facebook page.
She was beautiful, popular, compassionate, had a great personality, intelligent, and somewhat sassy. She was also determined in her goal of becoming a nurse and last year, she began working as a registered nurse at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, N.C. Ironically, it is the same hospital in which our dad spent his last days.
My sister was a gift to our dad, who always wanted a girl. After several attempts, he was blessed with a beautiful, baby girl named Marion LaJoy Evans, instead of another knuckleheaded boy.
So it’s comforting to know that she is going to see him again and they will be together in Heaven.
Sis, I wish we had more time together, but I know you’re going to be fine and I know dad is smiling from ear to ear as he greets you with open arms.
Rest in peace, Marion LaJoy Evans. I love you.
The morale here is: Cherish one another while we are here on earth. Sure, jobs and other activities are important, but when our loved ones depart, there will be no second chances to tell them how much you love and care about them.