April 20, 2022 is the 15th anniversary of my big sister’s death. Janie was 47 years old when she suffered a stroke. Except for some jaw pain and headaches, she never complained about her health to me. She went to bed on April 6 and my brother in law found her in the morning.
I’d spoken with her two days before. We always talked on my rides home from work, at least once a week, so that was my very last 20 minutes with healthy Jane I’d get to share. I hold that conversation close in my heart like a favorite tattered quilt you just can’t let go of, no matter how frayed the edges or worn the print has become.
We talked about my new position at the Y, my new boyfriend, family stuff. I updated her on Ant and Allie. I asked if she was still packing, as she’d been telling me they were moving to North Carolina. She said she had been. I told her I wished they could move up here, up the road. There was acreage for sale and she could have horses. We laughed about how if that happened we’d be the two crazy old ladies living on the hill. She asked if David made me happy, and I told her he did. And she said she couldn’t wait to meet him. We laughed because we still had each other’s Christmas presents to exchange, and I had her birthday presents from January.
We’d not seen one another in a while, the year before. She’d take the train up here a couple times a year and we’d spend a week or so drinking wine and catching up. We’d do Pizza Hut for breakfast, even though it freaked me out. But that was her thing, and hey, this was her vacation. We’d go to Denny’s for lunch and sit for hours, until we’d have to get home before the kids got home from school, drinking Denny’s out of coffee, yakking away.
We loved to smell each other. Crazy, I know. But when you love someone, you want to imprint them in your mind forever, so you smell them, and you recognize their scent so that they stay with you in as many ways as possible when they are not nearby. We’d hug each other and bury our noses in one anothers necks, breathe deeply, and say, “I love your smell.”
Jane had a hard life. She was a lover. She was a fighter. A nurturer. A Protector. A Path Forger. A Caregiver. A Singer. A lover of animals. A lover of music. She was short, but fierce. Tiny, but mighty. And when a law needed to be laid down, you went to Janie.
Jane left home at 16 years old and moved in with her best Pal, Patty.
Jane went on to graduate high school with her class and finished her nursing certification, even though some people said she wouldn’t. In a way, Jane was continuing a cycle (my mom left home at 16 years old) but also breaking it (Jane completed her education, my mom never got the chance to). And she was determined to finish her schooling to show people she wasn’t quitting or giving up on life, she was doing what she needed to do to survive. And she did.
I miss her terribly, but she is with me still to this day. And she makes her presence known now and then, although not as frequently as when she first passed.
One of her most memorable (after life) visits was captured on a recording. I’d gotten David a new trail cam for Yule, and we wanted to see if we could capture any ghost activity in the house. So we set it up in various places. One video caught both of us sleeping, and you can hear in the background a guitar plinking. The second that happened we both (in our sleep) sighed very contentedly and loudly. The picture of Jane playing the guitar I posted at the start of this blog was on the corner shelf in our bedroom.
Jane loved music. She introduced me to Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and Foghat. A few years after Jane’s death, me and the girls and David went to see Foghat at the Turning Stone in August 2008. I’d been lucky enough to snag a pre-concert telephone interview with Roger Earl for the paper I worked at, The Mercury, along with tickets and press passes for the concert. While there, we kept talking about how we wished Janie had been there to share this experience with us. Afterwards, there was a Meet and Greet with the band. We asked for a group photo, and they happily accommodated us. So Joy and Jeana and myself gathered around the band and David took the photo. And lo and behold, wouldn’t you know it. Look who showed up next to me and Roger!
There are lots of other great memories of Janie, but I thought I’d share these more obscure moments as we honor her today. I’m saddened to say I don’t have a lot of pictures of the two of us as adults, or pictures with my son Anthony, who adored her. She didn’t like pictures because she thought she was ugly, a horrible practice I took up as well for a good part of my life.
One thing is for sure. She was and always will be my inspiration and often encouraged me to never give up on my dream of becoming a published author.
I love her and miss her so much. And that is something I know will never fade.
Blessed DeathDay, Janie Louise Solicito Snow.
I love you.