Being up here, talking about my wonderful sister is the easy part of this day. Talking about how incredible she was and the way she lived her life is effortless. And much of what I am saying is a compilation of the beautiful words and thoughts that many of you have shared with me over the past week.
Tyler and I are 21 months apart. She was one class above me so much of our life was shared- friends, books, cars, clothes, bedrooms, and thus later separate closet doors with padlocks on them. As many sisters do, we had our fair share of fights. There was the one fight about Zac Hansen vs Taylor Hansen that resulted in a busted chin. The first time our new neighbors ever saw us, we were in our driveway going to school- Tyler was sprawled out on the hood of my moving car screaming at me to take off her jeans. Our relationship wasn’t always the stereotypical big sister-little sister dynamic. I mean heck I was the one who told her the truth about Santa.
Tyler would want everyone in here to be smiling, so I want to share a few of my favorite Tylerisms. She was a brilliant straight A student, but she had a blonde moment a time or two, which we referred to as Tylerisms. On my wedding day, she looked so beautiful, but the poor thing had put her bridesmaids dress on backwards and had no idea. And my grandfather will never forget her worst Tylerism- when she voted for Obama.
If you knew Tyler, you knew she was fearless. Who goes snorkeling with a torn ACL? Tyler. Who goes hiking on crutches? Tyler. Who dives off a moving boat because she saw dolphins and wanted to swim with them? Tyler. Who spends an hour hiking up a mountain with her dog Milly, just for the thrill of a 30 second ski ride down? Tyler. I swear sometimes I wonder if one of us was adopted.
She lived her life like a wild adventure, often reminding me of the book and movie “Wild.” But she would be so mad if she heard me compare her to that “gaper movie” because I watched it with her and she was muttering under her breath the whole time about how Reese Witherspoon didn’t have her pack on right or wasn’t pitching the tent the right way. But the fact that Tyler spent 3 days in the Maob desert of Utah camping and hiking with only her dog Milly, is put quite simply, Wild.
To be honest, I feel like a piece of my heart has been ripped out and a light inside of me has died. But Tyler would be so disappointed to be the reason for anyone’s tears or heartache. Tyler loved to make people laugh, smile, feel inspired, be outrageous with her. Nothing made her feel awkward or uncomfortable. We ourselves have to find the strength inside of us that she had every single day, use that strength to honor her memory, remember the wonderful times and do something with our own lives. Go after our own dreams. Do what makes us happy, just like she did. I hope everyone can feel peace in their heart knowing that when Tyler passed, she was the happiest she had ever been in her life. She told us constantly, almost daily, “I love where I live”, “I love my life” and “I love yall.” One week before she left us, she had just finished a rock climbing hike and her exact words were “I’ll die happy after that climb.” She wasn’t done yet. She was planning to get her master’s degree in social work so she could continue helping others in need the way she did with the boys at C V Ranch. And she still hadn’t married Andy Roddick. But in 28 years she lived 10 lifetimes more than many of us. She did not waste one second of her beautiful life, so I urge all of you to do the same. She was truly one of a kind and I am so so proud of you Ty.
I want to close with a poem that I wrote for Tyler for her 10th birthday. Because what 10 year old doesn’t want a poem from their little sister as a birthday present? But I can’t believe what I wrote 20 years ago still resonates so deeply in my heart.
I have my own kind of hero, but she’s not a worthless zero.
She’s my role model- pushing me to the top. She’s always there giving me all she’s got.
She’s my hero everything I hope to be. She’s my big sister, she means so much to me.
She’s always there, even when I’m down. Her special smile wipes away my worst frown.
She is athletic and courageous, very caring. She is responsible and respectful, very sharing.
She’s smart and dependable, a good example to me. For every locked door, she is my golden key.
She is loyal, friendly and nice. She’s a great friend of mine. I’ll always watch her, I’ll be right behind.
I’ll always watch her, to see where I need to go. I watch her face, her step, her turn- they all help me know.
So remember now sister, I’ll always watch you. Never forget either, that you’re my hero too.