LIVE LIKE JAMIE
How a family must rally together and remember to celebrate, even in the face of tragedy. By Siri Arti
I was teaching in Germany when I saw the calls. One from South Africa; the other from America. Six missed calls, I knew something was wrong. It was half an hour to the end of my teaching day, so I gave the group an exercise to do and checked my messages. There was only one. It was from my sister and it read: ‘Jamie died’. I shut off my phone, did whatever I could to take a single in-breath and calmly brought the day to a close. Everything turned to slow motion, but eventually I was alone and able to make the call. It was time for family.
Jamie was my niece. She was a vibrant 20-year-old university student and her death seemed inconceivable. The next few hours found me booking flights, arranging a dog sitter and organising my children, before flying across the ocean to be at my sister’s side. My brother, who lives in America, was doing the same thing, and a day later we were both in South Africa (where we all grew up) in full support of my sister and her family and dealing with the worst tragedy my family has ever faced.
Coming together, we pulled inwards and held each other tight. Although my sister is older and stronger than me, I felt an almighty fierce protection over her. The family was in turmoil, but were very clear in their choice to not have a funeral. Instead, they invited friends and family together to celebrate life. The message was posted on social media: ‘Come and join us to celebrate life, wear bright colours and bring an uplifting story to share’. There was such a strong intention to celebrate Jamie’s life instead of mourn her death, and I was amazed to witness my family standing rock solid in their community to do exactly that. During the impossible days to follow, love was the glue that held us all together. It poured out of each of us so strong and compressed that it became physical. There were rivers of tears, endless moments of confusion and disbelief, and yet through it all there was an outpouring of love so vast it seemed to envelop us all to keep connection complete.
Force of nature
Jamie was a force of nature. From a young age, she dealt with asthma, short sightedness and epilepsy. None of this got the better of my niece.
She was determined, funny, warm, and high achieving and never complained about her condition. She worked hard and played hard, and developed a zest for life that awarded her places on sports teams and to be surrounded by hundreds of people who loved and admired her. Jamie died at 20, and there is nothing that can take away our pain, but her lesson to all of us who knew and loved her is to ‘Live like Jamie’. It has been an honour to be part of this family, experiencing unimaginable loss, and yet cultivating such strength, optimism, vulnerability and courage, qualities I will carry in my heart forever.
A loving family and a supportive community offers strength and solidarity, and powers that truly heal. There is a constant reminder that we are together in this, that love feeds the emptiness to enable us to remember to celebrate life, to be grateful for all we have, and the special times we shared with Jamie. We will continue to grow from this, and to change things that don’t serve us, until we remember to live like Jamie. To be kind in our actions, light in our attitude, and slowly we will replace sadness with joy. Over the past month, I have witnessed a family so conscious in their positive behaviour, that even through searing pain, they remain closely connected and are still able to hold tight to gratitude. A lesson in family living and loving that I will never forget.
Siri Arti is the founder of Starchild Yoga which runs yoga teacher training courses in the UK and overseas. Find out more at: starchildyoga.com