December 21, 2014

Remembering Jennifer

March 2, 2013 by · 31 Comments 

This article first appeared on Seamheads.com on March 2, 2009, a little more than three years after my sister’s tragic death, and will be re-posted here every year on this day, her birthday, with slight modifications.

My sister would have been 42 today. But for the senseless act of a coward who took her life on Valentine’s Day 2006, I would have called her to wish her a happy birthday and probably stopped by her house later this evening to give her a hug. In fact, her phone numbers still reside in the contact list on my cell phone even though they’ve long been disconnected; I can’t bring myself to delete them because that would mean one less piece of her to hold on to. And every once in a while I surf down to her name and number to remind myself how fragile and fleeting life can be.

This is the first time since she was killed that I’ve been able to talk about it openly and, though this is supposed to be a place where people go to embrace baseball and its glorious history, I couldn’t think of a safer place for me to share my story and my sister’s legacy. And frankly it’s time to get it all out.

I was working when the call came. My sister Rosemarie received a call from Jenn’s co-workers, who had disturbing news; Jennifer had missed her second straight day of work and no one had heard from her. They were worried. So was Rosemarie, who asked her husband John to call me and ask me if I would go to Jennifer’s house and make sure she was alright. I climbed into my car for a trip I expected would take forever; it was rush hour and the thought that something might be horribly wrong with my little sister made seconds feel like minutes and minutes like hours.

Rosemarie called me to let me know she was on her way to Jenn’s house as well and made me promise not to go into the house without her. I promised. I lied. Now, not only was I fighting traffic and my own fear of the unknown, but I was determined to get there before Rosemarie. I had no idea what I was going to find, but I had a feeling it was going to be terrible and life-altering, and had Rosemarie seen it before me, it would have lived with her for the rest of her life and whittled her down until there was nothing left. Jennifer wasn’t just Rosemarie’s sister, she was her best friend. I was damned if I was going to lose two sisters that day.

When I arrived, I found a few of Jenn’s friends and co-workers standing outside her house and looking into her windows. “Are you Jenn’s brother?” one of them asked. “Something’s not right; her purse is on the kitchen table and the television is on, but no one’s moving inside or answering the door when we knock.” I called the police and told them I wouldn’t wait for them and that I was going into the house to look for my sister. The first thing I found was Jenn’s husband lying in their bed with a bullet in his head, his hand still clutching the .38 revolver that ended his miserable existence. I’m not ashamed to admit that the first emotion I felt when finding his body was relief. The weight that had held my sister down for so long had finally been lifted, the pain he brought her went to Hell with him. She was finally free.

Little did I realize that he had freed her from her pain moments before when he shot her in the chest while she was taking a shower. He then turned the water off, put the dog in the backyard, wrote a suicide note, laid down in bed and pulled the trigger one last time. When I opened the bathroom door, I instinctively knew what I would find. The shower curtain was drawn. I was only 15 feet from the bath tub, but it was the longest walk of my life. I peeled the curtain back just far enough to know what I needed to know. Then I went into mild shock and staggered back to the front yard, muttering something about finding my sister and her husband and asking one of her friends to call the police again.

My sister’s death wasn’t the first I’d experienced in my life, but it was the most tragic. Almost 20 years before, my father died on the operating table while surgeons attempted to repair a heart that had been abused by years of stress, cigarette smoke, saturated fat, and alcohol. My father was a difficult man to get close to. He was part Andy Sipowicz, part Ralph Kramden, part Will Hunting, working as a janitor for most of his life even though he was often the smartest man in the room, waiting for life to stop beating him down, and establishing his presence with four-letter words that would make Sipowicz blush. He was exacting and critical, and slow with a compliment, but passionate about baseball. He taught me how to play the game and how to love it, but was left heartbroken by the Boston Red Sox and his son’s failure to make it to the big leagues as promised. There was a lot of unfulfilled promise in my father’s life. In the end, he became a modern-day Captain Ahab, chasing demons disguised as a white whale that eventually took his life.

I was 20 years old, Rosemarie was 19, and Jennifer was just old enough to drive. We all had our own relationships with my father. We all dealt with his passing the best we could. We cried a lot; we grew up a lot, maybe too fast. I was already married with a daughter and a son on the way. Rosemarie was only a few years from being married and having two kids of her own. Jennifer was still trying to find her own way in a life that was becoming more confusing than it had a right to be. But somewhere along the way, she developed a fantastic sense of humor, which served her well. She laughed more than most, had a smile that could light up a room, and adopted a positive outlook that had us all convinced that no matter how difficult things might be, we would all be okay. She longed to be a mother and when she found that having babies would be nearly impossible, she mothered us instead. She turned the passion she would have had for her children towards her family and friends, and we were all the better for it. No one who ever met my sister will ever forget her first impression nor her last. She impacted us all.

And that’s her legacy. She brought a family closer together; she rallied a community; she opened our eyes. Rosemarie and I were never close, but Jennifer’s death brought us together, and I can’t imagine a brother and sister being closer than we are now. My mother has always been a strong woman, but rarely outwardly so. But when my sister was killed, my mother found her voice and shouted to whomever would listen, “We, as women, and as a community, can no longer stand for this.” She established the Jennifer A. Lynch Committee and Fund in my hometown of Brookline, Massachusetts, dedicated to “promote awareness of domestic violence, link victims to appropriate services and aid in the creation of a prevention program.”

Brookline's Garden of Remembrance

Brookline’s Garden of Remembrance

Her voice was heard. She was named Brookline’s Woman of the Year in 2007. Almost exactly a year later, a memorial “Garden of Remembrance” was dedicated in honor of my sister and other victims of domestic violence. There’s no telling the number of lives my mother has touched and possibly saved.

On March 5, 2009 the Jennifer A. Lynch Committee Against Domestic Violence presented the 3rd Annual Domestic Violence Forum at Newbury College in Brookline. Speaking at the event was former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci, District Attorney William Keating, and other lawyers, representatives, and doctors.

Their voices were heard, must have been heard, and my little sister, Jennifer, is smiling down on us all, and taking care of us. I couldn’t be prouder.

She would have been 42 today.

In Loving Memory:
March 2, 1971 – February 14, 2006
jennifer.jpg

Comments

31 Responses to “Remembering Jennifer”
  1. TL says:

    Best thing on the site. Well said.

  2. Justin Murphy says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Mike- it’s good that you are able to. I hope it gives you some relief. Congratulations to your mother for turning her pain into positive energy.

  3. Wow Mike…that took some courage to get out. I can’t imagine witnessing such a tragedy, and then being able to so eloquently write about as you have. Kudos to you and your family for turning this into a positive no matter how hard it may be.

  4. Chad says:

    You’re amazingly brave for sharing that, Mike. Thank you.

  5. KJOK says:

    I don’t know how you managed to write that, but that was some great writing – I think your sister would be proud.

  6. Mike Lynch says:

    Thanks for the sentiments guys. From an emotional standpoint, it wasn’t easy to write, but it’s something that’s constantly with me, so the words just spilled out. I’m glad they finally did.

  7. Brendan Macgranachan says:

    Wow Mike, I could never write or share anything like that if I lost a loved one. Very touching story and as a previous commenter said, best thing I have ever read on this site. Best wishes to you and your family as you continue to heal from this. I will say a prayer for Jennifer tonight.

  8. Charlie Gould says:

    Thinking of you cousin. Say hello to Rosemarie for me. I’ll hug your mother for you next time I see her. She is an amazing woman.

  9. joe shrode says:

    What a wonderful, terrible story. Thank you for sharing. You deserve what bit of relief that writing those words gave to you.

  10. What an amazing story. God Bless, Mike.

    I have felt for a long time that if there is a girl or a young lady in your life, you have a responsibility to see that she meets the right people who respect her and treat her with like respect. Too many times do stories like this happen. Let’s make a difference here, guys, and there is no telling how many lives and families can be saved.

    Tony De Angelo- Pomfret, CT

  11. Dave Doyle says:

    Mike, wow… that’s powerful. I wish you and your family all the best. And much success to the Jennifer A. Lynch Committee and Fund.

  12. Anthony says:

    Mike,

    Tremendous writing. Your sister and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  13. Pete says:

    Wow Mike,

    I have family in Brookline, too. Or at least they use to live there. My cousins grew up there.

  14. Mike, just saw this. Incredible writing…I don’t know how you did it. I will be sure to call my sisters asap just to see how they are. Thanks for reminding me how precious life is.

  15. Austin says:

    A moving story, Mike; thank you for sharing it. It’s strange how such a tragedy will buckle your knees and make you stronger all in a moment.

  16. Joe Lano says:

    WOW Mike! That is a heart breaking story. It brought tears to my eyes. So sorry you and your family had to go through that and live with it every day. What strikes me is what a strong person your mom is and the relationship you now share with your other sister. I am sure Jennifer looks down on you all smiling with pride.

  17. Judy Johnson says:

    well done, Mike. wow, what a powerful tribute. it’s painful just to read about this devastating event in your family. amazing how you capture in words the raw truths about your dad and your sister in the same piece. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  18. Chris Jensen says:

    Mike,

    You did a superb job of addressing an unbelievably tragic story, showing us all how to take a tragedy and turn it into a message of hope for others. I’m sure your sister is looking down and is very proud of her family members. It’s just another reminder to all of us how to treasure the moments we have with family. Thanks for sharing this painful lesson.

  19. Ted Leavengood says:

    Amazing. It hasn’t lost its edge for the reader. I hope it has for you.

  20. norm Coleman says:

    I was deeply moved by your well written piece about this tragic event in your life. I never thought I would
    ever read such a personal story in a baseball magazine. My heart goes out to you, and your family.
    It shows once again how important it is to hug, kiss and tell your loved ones how much you love them
    for one never knows when the bell tolls for you, or the ones you love the most.

  21. Somewhere up there is a sister who is very proud of her big brother. Well done, Mike.

  22. Rich Johnson says:

    Thanks, Mike. Peace.

  23. Alfonso Tusa says:

    It’s too hard to experience the loss of a sibling or a close person. They always will be in touch with us because the links and the love are stronger than death. My condolences and a big hug Mike.

  24. Mike Lynch says:

    Thanks, everyone. It’s nice to know there are people out there who care. I feel like you’re all my brothers and sisters and that’s one hell of a family!

  25. Brian Benson says:

    Thanks for sharing your story Mike. I hope it helped you get through a painful time of the year. I used to be a domestic abuse counselor in New York state back in the 80’s. If you ever need an ear, you know how to get in touch with me…B

  26. annie says:

    im sorry about your sister, i am glad that there is a group as a tribute to her against domestic violence.

  27. I’m so sorry about your sister. Thank you for a well written inspiring story. I’ll look forward to sharing it with my readers again next year.

  28. Rob Coker says:

    Thank you for sharing your families story. It was inspiring!

  29. Ron says:

    Mike, I can’t imagine how many tears and the courage it took for you to type out your heartfelt real life story. God Bless your sister and your family.
    Even in real life, the loss of family that isn’t a tragedy of murder/suicide, the only thing that dulls the pain of the loss of a loved one is time, but we never forget our loved ones.

  30. Chris Waters says:

    Every time I read this, all I can say is “Hang in there, Mike!”
    Life is unfair, but sometimes it is more unfair than most. Take care.

  31. Dios bendiga a tu hermana donde quiera que este. Excelente y muy emotiva tu cronica Mike.

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