Today marks a very sad event in our family...29 years ago our family lost my 11-year-old cousin Sunshine. In her memory, I am reposting this post from a couple of years ago. No matter how many years pass, the pain is fresh for her family every single year....
Baby Sunshine (pictured with her family her first Christmas) was born in 1975, just a few weeks following my high school graduation, the younger daughter of my cousin Kennetha. I'm not sure what day was her birthday, but I remember hearing about her birth at a local summer fair and even though I'd heard others wonder aloud why Kennetha would choose such an unusual name, secretly I loved it.
As it turned out, Sunshine's light would only grace this earth for just a few short years. When she was a little girl of barely eleven years old, Sunshine went to Heaven, the victim of a brutal murder.
So I knew Sunshine and heard about Sunshine, but I never really KNEW Sunshine. But from all accounts of those who did, she was a beautiful little girl with a radiant personality who lived up to her name.
Today is the 29-year anniversary of Sunshine's death. I remember getting the phone call from Mama. Sunshine had been walking to school as she always did, but that morning she never arrived. Her teenage sister Cari found her lifeless body. I don't know many of the details, but they are very, very ugly and unimaginably horrible. Her killer turned himself in a few days later and is now behind bars for hopefully the rest of his miserable life. So far every petition for his parole has been denied.
The few days after Sunshine's death are surreal to me, like a very bad dream that doesn't even seem like it really happened. I remember her funeral and the heart-wrenching sobbing of her broken family.
I didn't cry. I was numb inside, and I wonder now if that wasn't a protective mechanism that God gave me at that time. I was 29, the mother of 4-year-old, 2-year-old, and 3-month-old children that were my whole life and my mind couldn't even wrap itself around the kind of devastating grief that Kennetha was living through. Over the past 29 years, gradually that numbness has subsided and it wasn't until years and years later when Kennetha shared the incredible pain that she still feels every day and the miracle that she was able to even go on as a testimony to God's faithfulness in her life, I cried over Sunshine for the first time. Sometimes grief gets buried way too deep.
Even though I never got to know the girl everyone called Sunny, I love her family who did know her very well and whose lives she lit up for 11 precious years. And I don't know if this is how Heaven works or not, but I hope when I get there someday she'll be waiting to give me one of her big little-girl smiles. None of us can possible understand the hows or whys of such tragedies, but perhaps Sunshine's legacy is to make each of us love and appreciate our families more.
Because that is exactly what happened to me these past couple of days as I have been...