FARMINGTON – He’s still her dad. In the nine long years since 17-year-old Jamie Beth Shible died unexpectedly the day after her high school junior prom, Steve Shible has never forgotten that.
Every morning, to get to his car as he heads out to work at the Farmington Rec Department, he walks through the hallway where he and wife, Julie, hang the photos of their daughter.
There’s the one with her as a 6- or 7-year-old, offering a gap-toothed, mischievous grin. It’s Shible’s favorite.
Above that is Julie’s favorite: Her daughter being held high during a Mt. Blue cheerleading routine, a triumphant smile lighting up her face.
There’s Jamie as a baby, and Jamie as a 17-year-old, standing next to brother Ryan in a black and white dress right before going to the prom.
In the center is a pencil drawing of Jamie as she was at 15, before a winter dance, curls bouncing around her shoulders, eyes alight, a big smile widening her face.
That was the year she was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes, among other things, achy joints, extreme exhaustion, and inflammation that can redden skin and harm internal organs. Lupus wears people down, Shible says, but his daughter was never one to give up. She continued cheering when she could and maintained the positive attitude that made her so well-loved among those that knew her.
She didn’t even let Lupus get in the way of the teenage rebellion well-adjusted kids tend to go through. Once or twice, just to spite the disease, which worsens after exposure to sunlight, she lay out and baked in the sun.
“She was ready to break out and blossom,” Shible says. Lupus “bothered her in her joints, skin, kidney. We didn’t understand the severity” of the illness “and how vulnerable she would be to things. I admire Jamie for hanging in there, but we just thought it was something we’d have to deal with sporadically,” he said.
They had no idea it would kill her.
Immunosupressant drugs, given to patients with autoimmune diseases to stop their immune systems from attacking their own bodies, also make people much more susceptible to infections and other diseases. The morning after her junior prom, Jamie got sick with bacterial meningitis, but, “We had no idea. … I held her while she had a spinal and I had no clue that she was dying or anything like that,” Shible says, voice cracking.
His family members do various things to remember Jamie. One is an annual scholarship and award for students following in her path.
Doing so helps “keep me about as sane as I can be,” Shible says. “Not that I feel she’s there,” but “I get fulfilled doing things in her name (when) I can still do something.”
The scholarship and awards give “me an outlet to still do for her.”
So every morning, he gets up, he kisses his fingers and touches Jamie’s pictures. He says it’s like Christmas when someone brings him one he hasn’t seen before.
And this Friday, one week before the nine-year anniversary of Jamie Beth’s death, he’ll be giving out another scholarship in her name.