Sara Whitman

Airbags Equal Death

Filed By Sara Whitman | December 29, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Florida, LGBT families, loss, Maine, ogunquit, sister

I'm in Ogunquit now. I needed some alone time, where I could close myogunquit.jpg eyes and let my mind race to wherever it wanted to. It's freezing up here and I moved the overstuffed chair and stool right next to the fire.

My jeans are hot, as if just ironed, right on that edge of too hot. Perfect.

I'm writing my sister's memorial. We are going to have some kind of service, somewhere on the 8th. I know it's the 8th. But that's it so far.

I keep thinking of different stories to tell. Each snippet is a piece of her, a demonstration of who she was. One story, sticks out to me today. Made me laugh again.

It was sometime in the late 80's, just after airbags were required in all cars. My sister and I got into her new, toyota mini truck, and I noticed the steering wheel was tipped up as far as it could go, an odd mix of a bus style wheel in this little truck.

"Why do you have the wheel like that?" I asked. I asked because, I knew what the answer was.

"Oh, there are so many deaths due to airbags going off the wrong way, breaking people's ribs, crushing lungs, or both... no way I'm having that sucker go off in my stomach." She said what I suspected. It was the rage in the tabloid media at the time.

"Um..." I leaned over and pointed out the trajectory of the airbag now, planting my finger in the middle of her forehead. "Better it blow your head off?"

Her chin dropped. She clicked the wheel down to a normal position before turning to me and saying loudly in a goofy voice, "DUHHHHHH."

That was my sister. Afraid of disease, airborne pest bites (flies, mosquitoes, gnats, hornets, bees, killer bees) which would bring on ever worse disease, elevators, airplanes, bridges, heights, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, other drivers (as she couldn't possible cause an accident), anything and everything, always to the extreme.

Now, you may think I'm picking on my sister and I am. If she were here, sitting with me? She'd add a few more that I had forgotten, even more extreme, and be laughing. She knew she was afraid of death. She knew her fears sometime won and sometime? The free trip to Florida on the airplane was doable after all. Not easy, but doable.

I know it was her needing to be seen. Heard. Taken care of. She'd say no way, not getting on a plane. And I would coax her, and promise to sit with her—we all would. She would fill up on the attention and do it, facing a real fear but not quite as paralyzing as she described it to be.

Seeing the wheel tilted up, I knew. Part of me knew it was a chance to point out the hilarious obvious she missed, beat her to the first playful poke. Part of me, always a little sad. From time to time, I'd ask her, seriously, Why? Why are you so afraid all the time? And she'd shrug and say she didn't know but it wasn't easy. She tried to rid herself of them but one would shift into another.

She tried desperately to keep the scared, little girl quiet, resulting in her becoming that scared, little girl.

The story tells how while she was the big sister? I was the big sister. Except when she sat on me, then I was the flat sister.

See, I have to make you laugh because she would have wanted everyone to laugh, too.

And then she would point out that airbags really are dangerous....

Ah, one of many moments I have going through my head today.


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This is beautiful! It made me smile and also brought a tear to my eyes that it was all for the sake of a memorial.
Death is like that. We remember the things which made us laugh, smile, whatever. anything but cry. Then we cry because they will always be memories. No new ones to be made.

I really loved this. Thank-you for sharing this.
I am sorry your sister is gone. She seemed like a person I would love to have known.