Happy birthday, Amanda

amanda

I received a text message from an acquaintance. “Is Amanda Tames okay?”

“Umm, I think so. why?”

“She had an accident.”

In a world where we have all the knowledge at our fingertips, it wasn’t hard to find what had happened. Hit-and-run. Thrown 200 feet.

I reached for my phone, hit favorites and tapped the only person on the list. Amanda Tames. She’s still the only person on my favorites list. A million thoughts ran through my mind while it rang and rang. Maybe it wasn’t that bad? Maybe it wasn’t her? We were just texting a couple days ago after all. She told me she’d be heading back to Chicago, but she’d be home again the next weekend. We’d get together.

Someone answered the phone and I knew it wasn’t her. It’s hard to mistake Amanda’s voice — sort of husky, but in a way that makes you want to keep listening. I knew it wasn’t her, but I couldn’t come to terms with what was happening.

“Amanda?”

I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but the voice told me that it was her sister, Liz. I asked if she’d be ok. “I don’t know, she’s unconscious.” I asked if I could come see her — not the question I should expect her young sister to be able to answer, but I didn’t know what to say. She told me where they were, and my boyfriend drove me there.

The night was a blur. Her family weary, but not defeated. In fact, I’ve never seen people act so strong. Doctors operated on her for what felt like an eternity, and updates were scarce. We lined the halls — Amanda’s family and friends. She never met a stranger. We were there for her, as she was always there for us.

Finally, they let us see her. She remained unconscious and hooked up to machines, but we were told it was hopeful. I didn’t know what to say when it was my turn. Her mom told me I should talk to her. I told her she’d be ok. She’s too headstrong not to be. I left in the wee hours of the morning. Her dad talked about the long road to recovery, and I told him I’d be in the hospital. I’d see a lot of them in the weeks, months to come. However long it took.

The next day I got a call that there wasn’t much time left. The brain swelling was too severe. She wasn’t going to wake up. Saying goodbyes with her hooked up to machines was the hardest thing. Her candlelight vigil, the funeral — it’s still hard. All because some idiot decided to drink too much and get behind the wheel. Worse, when he hit someone, did he stop? No. He kept going. Took his truck to be fixed. Tried to hide from what he had done. I’ve spent so much time being angry, but he doesn’t get to be the important part of this story. Amanda is.

Here are some of my favorite things about her —

She believed in you, sometimes more than you believed in yourself. I wrote for my college newspaper for four years. I don’t remember anyone outside of my family ever being interested. But when Amanda came to visit me, she picked up the paper and immediately looked for my byline. “I think it’s so cool that you’re chasing after your dreams.” That kind of support comes from only a true friend.

She could find common ground with anyone. It never mattered who you were, where you came from, what you believed, etc. She didn’t care about any of that. She just saw you as a person she wanted to know. Five minutes into meeting her, it would feel like you were best friends.

She was one of a kind, always thinking outside of a box. I remember one assignment in school where we had to make a pinwheel of sorts (I’m sure that wasn’t what it was called). Every student made their assignment on a paper plate, spinning it to show what they made. Amanda came in with some crazy 2-liter bottle cut into pieces. When we all stood up and gave a typical high school presentation there were hurried mumbles and shuffling feet, maybe a poster board. But she stood up with confidence that demanded attention.

lovingmemory

One of my favorite memories was the weekend we went camping with our friend Emily. Amanda said she’d never learned to ride a bike as a child. I think it was raining, or maybe we thought teaching her to ride a bike in Walmart (the only store nearby) was just a good idea. She pedaled up and down the aisles falling into racks of toys and bursting out into her contagious laugh. When store associates saw what we were doing, they weren’t mad. They laughed and even helped pick a bike the right size down. That was her effect on people.

I remember at her candelight vigil, there were signs and flowers around the pole close to the accident site. One of the signs read “I wish you never learned how to ride a bike!”

I was so furious. How dare they take away that memory. How dare that man get behind a wheel after too many drinks and ruin that shared experience. But I’ve moved on from that. They were just hurt, but I know what would have happened if Amanda had recovered.

Underage readers, shield your eyes.

She would’ve said “Fuck that guy. I’m getting back on my bike.”

Happy birthday, Amanda. I’ll always have fond memories of your friendship.

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