As the semester nears its end and holiday spirit cheers the campus, the annual sense of happiness and joy usually sets in sometime early December. This is something I used to look forward to, but now I realize that for me this time of year will never be the same. Last year, on the first night of Hanukkah, Shira B. Palmer-Sherman ’02, one of my dearest friends, died after having been hit by a car nearly a week earlier. I’ve spent the year since then mourning her death, missing Shira desperately, and wondering how the world could possibly go on without the smartest, kindest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.
I’ve never truly understood when people who have suffered a loss say that it altered their entire outlook on life, but losing Shira has changed me, and my closest friends, in many ways. It’s not just the loss itself, however, that affects me every day; it’s the memory of and admiration for a truly special friend that makes me a different person today. It is rare that a day goes by without some thought of Shira passing through my mind, and certainly over the last few days she is all that I’ve thought about. But even in the moments when I wasn’t remembering some funny e-mail she sent me or some ridiculously silly conversation we had our first year, Shira has been a part of my everyday life.
Because I never had the chance to say goodbye to Shira or to tell her how much I loved her, today I’m much more appreciative of my friends. I realize now, in a way that I couldn’t have last year, just how important each and every person in my life is. I’ve stopped spending time going to random parties and going out of my way to meet new people. I would much rather take the time I have and share it with the people I love. I think Shira would have approved. She had a unique way of making people feel important and loved when she interacted with them. You never doubted that you had her full attention during a conversation, no matter how ordinary the topic.
I think the hardest challenge for me this year has been trying to move on and live a happy life when it seems as though my world had been darkened. More than anything though, Shira hated self-pity, to the point where she would yell at her best friends if they became too self-involved. As today, the one year anniversary of her death approached, I began to fall back into those feelings of sadness and even anger.
The difference now though, is that when I think about Shira and all the wonderful times we had together, the memories make me happy. It is only the memory of loss that hurts. I love talking about Shira, her elephant sweater, the time she and Mikey were “lost” in the snowy woods of New Hampshire or how she and Moshe used to argue incessantly. I remember Shira tap-dancing around all the time to the point where she inspired Ben to want to take tap classes. Then of course there were the beautiful Jane Austen era costumes Shira and Naamit made out of curtains for Purim sophomore year. There is no one story that can explain how wonderful Shira made my life. Sadly, even I didn’t fully realize it until last year.
We all have so many strong memories of Shira, her smile, her strong opinions and of course, her singing and dancing. Shira’s gift in life was that she brought happiness wherever she went—her death hasn’t changed that one bit.
Tova A. Serkin ’02 is an environmental science and public policy concentrator in Pforzheimer House. She is an executive editor of The Crimson.