Finding a new path

Learning to live with loss in high school

Gabby Buchholz, Copy editor

On Nov. 15, 2017, senior Mackenzie Daiber expected her Seminar to be like any other before it. She was getting coffee from a teacher’s room, and chatting with friends. But she was called down the office, and everything in her life would suddenly, and drastically change.  

“My parents came up to the school and they were bawling their eyes out,” Daiber recalls.

At first, she didn’t comprehend exactly what was happening. She hadn’t realized the full magnitude of why her parents and sister came to pick her up.

“My mom and dad were just told me, ‘Josh [her brother] was in an accident.’ And I thought, ‘So we’re going to go see him?’”

But Daiber’s parents had to tell her that her brother’s car accident was fatal. Due to his epilepsy, he had died of a seizure while at the wheel.

Her reaction was similar to others who learn of the sudden death of a close relative or friend: complete and utter shock.

“I just kind of sat there. I was like, ‘This isn’t real.’ Even to this day, there are days when I think, ‘It’s not real, he’s going to come home at three, I’ll see him after school,’” Daiber said.

Riley Jamieson, another senior, understands the sudden loss of a sibling. It was late at night on Easter this year that she found out her sister, Paige, had died of a car accident as well.

“I heard my mom screaming, and I was asked her, ‘What’s going on?’ She told me and my brother, ‘It’s your sister. She’s dead.’”

Not only was Jamieson shocked, but at first she tried to imagine it wasn’t true.

“It was April Fools Day. We all knew she wouldn’t go that far. But you just wanted to believe it. You wanted to believe that it wasn’t possible,” Jamieson said.

Because of the significant loss of an immediate family member, their lives were forever altered. How they viewed that person, how people now viewed them, and the overall dynamic of their families was changed completely.

For Daiber, she has reflected on the time she spent with her brother, Josh — the good and the bad.

“I think about all of the times that we fought like brother and sister, and I kind of wish I could make it up, but that’s what we did,” she said.

Even more, she reflects on what her brother will not be apart of now that he’s gone.

“He’s not here for my graduation. He should be here for my 18th birthday.”

For junior Sydney Aleksick, significant moments in her life are also lacking, ever since the death of her father, John Aleksick, last school year.

On Feb. 6, 2018, he died at home due to health complications. She was on her way home from Nationals with the Sensations varsity dance team.

But before prom this past year, her sister was able to give her one final gift from their dad.

“He was supposed to get a kidney transplant, so he wrote me a letter for if he didn’t make it through the surgery,” Aleksick said. “He was so intelligent. [In the letter] he wrote, ‘Always prepare for the worst,’ because everyone jokes that the Aleksicks have the worst luck.”

It’s in moments like that when all three reflect on what they ultimately miss most about their brother, sister, or father: talking to them.

Whether it be asking them random questions they thought of through the day, advice on what to wear, or advice about difficult things in life, Aleksick, Daiber, and Jamieson all agree that one more conversation is all they could ever ask for.

While they cannot talk with them again, they can talk about them to others.

For Jamieson, she noticed a large number of people reached out to her after her sister’s death. She garnered a lot of attention on social media and received tons of messages on her phone.

“I was contacted by almost every person on my contacts list. I got random texts from like, friends of friends,” Jamieson said. “I got Instagram follow requests from people that have graduated like, one, two, three years ago.”

However, at times, it is difficult to talk about. Sometimes Aleksick will also avoid the subject to not make things awkward for others. But she’s still open to talking about who she lost, and how he died.

“If people want to learn about how [my father] passed away, that’s not so upsetting. Because that’s just part of the human anatomy and not taking care of your body,” Aleksick said.

All three have experienced outpourings of support from friends, teachers, and even complete strangers. Despite all of the pain that they have faced this past year, they’ve also been able to find light in this darkness.

For Daiber, her family has plans on the one year anniversary of her brother’s death to keep his memory alive.

“There’s a park in Wentzville where you can buy stones for mothers who lost their children, we got him a stone. There’s a cute little waterfall over it. We’re actually going to spread his ashes over it on the 15th [of November],” Daiber said.

Likewise, herself and her mother have gotten tattoos as reminders to themselves of Josh and his life. For Daiber, she has a purple ribbon for epilepsy with her brother’s birthday, and his initials. For her mother, it’s a peace sign with his initials.

To memorialize Paige, Jamieson and her family have done similar things. Her and some of her family share necklaces with Paige’s thumbprint on the front and her name on the back. They also donated a Buddy Bench in her honor at Becky David Elementary School.  

“My mom works there and they donated a Buddy Bench. They put it out at recess and if you don’t have a friend you go sit on it,” Jamieson explained.

Aleksick has found that while she is still dealing with the loss of her father, she’s grown into a stronger person because of it.

“I’ve become more of an adult and more responsible,” Aleksick said. “Trying to figure out my own path without him hasn’t been a blessing. But it’s helped me figure out what I like for myself.”

Ultimately, Daiber has been able to take what happened to her brother and apply it to her life. She’s been able to take on new challenges and hardships with the mindset, “Dying hurts worse.”

“I have ‘Dying hurts worse’ on my shoes for soccer,” Daiber said. “So with everything I do, I think, ‘Would it hurt worse if I was dying?’ So I know I just have to push through it.”