Have you ever heard of the 27 Club? Jaime and I used to talk about how crazy it was that so many amazing musicians died at age 27. It just occurred to me today, on what would have been Jaime’s 28th birthday, that she ended up part of that damn club.
From my FIL/MIL’s Facebook this morning:
Today is the day 28 years ago that God Blessed us with a baby girl! We celebrate YOU today Jaime! That’s what you would want us to do! The Beautiful, Kind, Very Thoughtful, Hilarious woman that you had become! You know how much we Loved You! That’s how much we miss you! Happy Birthday!! Mom and Dad
I get choked up even reading that. Tears literally spring to my eyes and my throat constricts. I cannot imagine losing one of my children EVER. The mere thought of it makes my stomach turn.
At any rate, back to the 27 Club. It refers to a group of popular musicians who died at the age of 27 for various tragic reasons. Jaime wasn’t a famous musician by any means, but she was an amazingly funny person who lived BIG. She worked hard, played hard, and spent every minute of her life interacting with others and making an incredible impression upon everyone she met.
Unfortunately, she also struggled with addiction.
I’ve wrestled with deciding how much to share here about what caused Jaime’s death, but ultimately I think it’s good (and hopefully helpful to someone) to share and be honest about things. FWIW, this is a feeling that the entire family shares, so we have been open with people in the community who have asked us about her cause of death. This isn’t just me blathering the family secrets!
So ya… our immediate family was sitting in our guest room writing Jaime’s obituary when we got the call from the coroner that Jaime had died from acute fatty hardening of the liver. I just remember there being a collective sigh of sadness in the room. Honestly, we had all been hoping it was something like a brain aneurysm that was a fluke event and generally unpreventable.
You can read more about fatty liver disease here. Initial symptoms are non-specific, and the definitive diagnosis of fatty liver disease can only be confirmed by liver biopsy. Your doctor might notice a slightly enlarged liver on physical examination, or a CMP may show mild abnormalities of liver function. However, there was nothing in particular that would have made her family and friends (or even herself) realize how sick she was…nothing, that is, except for how much vodka she drank.
Like I said above, Jaime was 27 years old when she died, and she was always the life of the party. She worked hard and played hard, and like many of us in our 20s, she drank more than the recommended amount from time to time. Sometime over the past decade of her life though, her social partying took a dark turn, and by the time she died, we know now that she was a full blown alcoholic.
I’d like to tell you we had no idea, but that would be a lie. She hid it very well as most alcoholics too – one rarely even saw her drinking that last year of her life. That being said, her immediate family and closest friends still suspected she drank too much on a routine basis. It was honestly a large part of why we quit having her watch Stella for us last summer – we didn’t trust her to be sober all day. It was never stated directly like that and we never had an intervention with her or anything, but when we told Jaime that we were going to send Stella to daycare instead of having her watch her one day a week for us, Jaime didn’t fight it, which was weird because she LOVED spending time with her niece. In retrospect, I think she knew she had a problem, and I think she probably felt a little relief that we took that responsibility off her hands. I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d have talked to her directly about her drinking instead of just pulling away. We all honestly though she’d end up getting her stomach pumped in the ER some night and it would be a wake up call and things would change. We just never thought it would actually kill her at the age of 27.
The morning Jaime died, my husband chatted with her on the phone with her just two hours prior to the unraveling of her life. She sounded fine and they made plans to get together later that day when we got back to town. Nobody knows for sure what happened between 11:15 and 11:30, but the coroner is pretty sure she probably felt light headed, laid down on her bed, slipped into a coma and was gone. When her boyfriend found her just minutes later, she was laying there peacefully with her eyeglasses still on.
It still blows my mind to talk about this. How in the world is she gone?
The ambulance crew worked on Jaime for a long time trying to save her. Time is a fog to me now, but it was probably 60-90 minutes before they finally pronounced her dead. I just remember the EMT looking at me with eyes full of grief saying, “Nothing we are doing is making a bit of difference, Josey. I think she’s dead.”
That’s the blessing and curse of living in a town of 1,000 people – everyone knew her & loved her, and nobody wanted to give up or believe that there was nothing they could do to save her.
I read this post by Linda on All & Sundry the day after Jaime died, and it hit me like a punch in the gut. I wonder how much of this Jaime would have identified with. I wonder if she could have changed – if she could have gotten sober – if she had only realized how dire her circumstances were.
I’m realistic. I know that not all alcoholics can quit drinking. But I’d like to think she could a have. I’d like to think she could have cleaned up her act and had the husband and children she told me she dreamed of having.
It’s so hard to know that will never be a possibility; that she will be forever young in our hearts & memories.
Happy Birthday, Jaimers. I miss you as much as I loved you – to the moon and back.