Gillian Marie Sabet was born December 12, 1987. She came into the world like a breath of wind from heaven, earlier than we expected and eager to experience life from the very beginning. At home, in a family of brothers and boy cousins, we called her “Princess Gillian”, our one precious girl named after the heroine in a love story and she effortlessly embodied that role.
She was a treasure, a bundle of sparkling laughter and light that could not be contained. She had sad times, she suffered through the difficult days of her big brother’s illness and finally his cruel death, but her loving spirit overcame that awful blow. She missed him; she wrote about him; she asked questions. But, she didn’t think as much about her own sadness, as about the ways in which she could bring happiness back into our home and, later, as she grew into a young woman, how she could draw others who seemed in pain, out from their troubled thoughts and shadowy places, into the circle of light that surrounded her.
Jill never really knew how that light just emanated from within her. She thought herself just lucky to be basking in it. She was silly and carefree most of the time, fun-loving and often full of mischief. She tried to follow the rules and color in the lines, but when it simply didn’t work for her, she gave herself permission to seek adventure outside the lines. She was loved, and spoiled by a family who simply could not resist her and wouldn’t’t dream of stifling the willful beauty and tender spirit inside her. As a result, perhaps, she just believed the light shone on her from somewhere up above and never really questioned why it didn’t seem to shine on everyone the same.
She never thought she was special, except to us, but she determined early on to make her world a special place. She was as comfortable with her friends whose families spoke only Spanish and made meals of rice and beans into three day feasts, as she was with other friends who lived in million dollar homes with panoramic ocean views and limos in their driveways. She loved staying overnight in a houseful of people crammed into a little apartment, sleeping on the floor or in a car, or in a tent with her dad, as much as she marveled over a night spent with girlfriends in their parent’s magnificent pool houses complete with big screen TVs. It was truly all the same to Jill, as long as she was with a friend and felt accepted. She knew the difference between rich and poor, but did not live long enough to see how terrible a difference such disparity often makes in the way people are treated in this life. She would have loved living in a big fancy house, but no more than she would have been happy living on a boat or in a motor home, traveling around the world and making new friends in exotic places.
She hated injustice, and had a deep compassion for those who didn’t feel the light around them. It troubled her to see anything in pain, or abandoned, be it the runt in a litter of puppies or a bird’s nest with a broken egg left behind. She brought everyone home with her, happy or sad, rich or poor, troubled or not, and she saw the very best and most beautiful things in every single person she met. Once Jill’s friend, always her friend – she often defended even people who sometimes let her down or mistreated her. She found reasons to excuse them and to forgive them. Like the princess she was named for, and the heroine in every great story, she just found a way to slip into the dark places of other people’s sorrows and pull them back out into the sunshine she loved so much.
Jill had a temper, a wild and fiery one, but she never kept her feelings secret. If you were brave enough to ask, she always told you exactly how she felt and then she promptly let go of her anger or frustration. She didn’t have time for bitterness in her life. She never bore a grudge or stayed mad at anyone for long. She had hundreds of friends and she was absolutely loyal. She never abandoned anyone or anything she loved. She cherished her family and her relationships above everything else and she spent most of her time nourishing them. She collected purses, borrowed everyone else’s clothes, usually put off her homework until 2:00 a.m., she loved to shop and watch scary movies, and had an incurable addiction to her cell phone and instant messenger. She was always talking to someone, planning her next adventure and her phone rarely ever stopped ringing. She might forget to set her alarm before bed, but never her “away message”.
In the fall of 2004, Jill met Jonathan Schulte. She had had other boyfriends, but Jonathan had a very special need and some unique qualities she saw at once. They had the same initials; he shared her beloved older brother’s name, the brother who’d died of cancer. He was good to her little brother, Jason, and Jonathan had also experienced terrible grief. He’d lost his mother to cancer only a few years before. He needed someone special to pull him out of the dark place his spirit had retreated to after his mom’s death. This, and his devotion to her, spoke to Jill’s heart, and she determined to bring Jonathan into the circle of light she lived in.
Jonathan knew, like the rest of us, that the light came from inside Jill. It was that part of her that drew others to her like moths to a flame. “I love the fact that you love me,” he wrote to her. “I love the fact that I’ve cried over you … and that you’ve cried over me. I love the fact that the tears shed, show us how much we care about each other and how much we need each other. I can’t survive without you Jill … you’re the last thing I have to keep me going.”
Jill and Jonathan should have lived long and happy lives. They should have experienced the joy of their senior year in high school and then gone to college; they should have seen the world as they wanted to. Whether to each other, or to someone else, they should have gotten married one day; they should have had children to love as they were loved so deeply by their parents.
Instead Jill and Jonathan were both killed, side by side, in a senseless automobile accident on May 26 th, 2005. They were passengers in a friend’s car, on their way to Jill’s junior prom, when they were both ejected from the vehicle as it flipped multiple times. The impact at 75mph was too much for Jill’s small 5’2” body, and her beautiful loving heart was crushed, along with multiple other traumatic injuries that resulted in her death. Jonathan died of massive head trauma only five feet away. It should have been one of their happiest nights. Jill was 17; she was wearing her favorite dress and shoes. She smelled of sweet young girl mixed with Aveda Brilliant Hair Gel and Cool Water cologne. She was carrying a little black velvet drawstring bag she’d found in her mom’s closet an hour before, just big enough to hold her keys, the lip gloss Jonathan loved, and her tiny digital camera. “Adorable” she called it, no doubt hoping to make it part of the purse collection we all teased her about. She was at the most vital and beautiful point in her young life. She had just, that very day, been elected as JSerra High School’s ASB President for the coming year, and she was to be named “Queen” of the Spring Dance.
Instead …Jill remains our Princess … apart from us, but always part of us.