Last week, I saw Neutral Milk Hotel. It was my friend Sara Weaver’s favorite band. She played In The Aeroplane Over The Sea constantly in her van. The girl was very messy, and she would lose the CD then buy a new one. At the end of the day, I think she bought it 3 times.
Sara died on June 7th, 2002 after a 2 year battle with Leukemia. It’s been over 10 years, but seeing the show was still an emotional struggle.
Sara was one of my very best friends. We dated for a Summer in 1992 then wound up being much better together as friends. I was in several different bands with her until she wanted to get serious with her last band, Swisher. I couldn’t devote the time necessary for touring so I switched to a manager/webmaster/everything else role.
She had a photographer friend she called “The Scottish Guy” (Sara made up nicknames for everyone). He did all her photography which I would then use for flyers, CD art, etc.
One day Sara told The Scottish Guy she was in my neighborhood and he replied, “Oh, you were going to see Jimmy then?”
According to the Scots Dictionary
“In the Glasgow area the name Jim or Jimmy is used informally to address any man not known to the speaker.”
That was it. She called me Jimmi (she was very adamant about it being spelled with an “i”) or Little Jimmi from then on.
Soon there were groups of people who were also calling me Jimmi (including her parents and sister). It got to the point where some folks did not know my real name. She had this big, vibrant personality and was a total charmer — the nicknames she gave people tended to stick.
When she was diagnosed she just released Over Nothing, a great album I think would have done really well if she hadn’t gotten sick. She had just finished a tour that I roadied a portion of. Being a roadie was the most fun I ever had in my entire life.
Sara’s parents, sister, boyfriend Jon, several friends and Mia & I went into full-on caretaker mode. We made a website called The Weave Report; I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a home made blog (done in Perl). It chronicled the whole, horrible 2 years and beyond.
I never thought she was going to die, she had me convinced that she was going to “kick Leukemia’s ass.” At the end she was in organ failure, and we had to make the decision to stop. After she died, I felt like I was dumped back into regular life, and I didn’t know how to function in it. We were all a mess. It took years for the dead inside feeling to subside — the feeling that nothing mattered because Sara died.
When Sara took her last breaths, it was completely surreal. One thing that happened was someone (later, Mia told me it was her) placed Sara’s rings in my hand. They were cheap, silver rings she probably bought off a street vendor near Market Street. One was 3 rings that intertwined to make one. I gave one of the 3 rings to Jon, one to Mia and the 3rd I have worn around my neck on a chain every day since she died. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.
Sara getting sick and dying is one of the most formative experiences of my life. Having someone close to you die is like joining a really shitty club. It changes you as a person.
Now I use the username “liljimmi” whenever possible. I like to think there will be new folks who associate me with that name, the nickname Sara gave me.