When people have asked how we’re doing this week, I’ve been answering with the truth: It feels like we’re living in an alternate universe, and when we wake up tomorrow everything will be back the way it was.
That’s the sort of impact sudden death has on a family. Confusion, shock, disbelief, and when the grief really begins, you start to wonder, “Is this even real?”
Chuck’s sister, Tami, who was ONLY 47, passed away suddenly Monday night. There is every reason to believe this didn’t actually happen. Tami was still a newlywed. She went to Zumba. She loved her job. She was still decorating her new house. She was happy. Happy, happy, happy. And healthy, and in love, and all of that.
When Brenda, Chuck and Tami’s mother, passed away in 2010, there was a sizable shift in our family. Even though her terminal illness told us all to prepare, it was heartbreaking to lose the family matriarch so much earlier than anyone anticipated. And in the logical understanding of death and dying, we presumed that when it was Bill’s time to move on from this life, Chuck and Tami would again rely on one another to bear the weight of losing a parent.
When death happens out of order – when children go before parents – another layer of grief takes hold. The sequence doesn’t register. It feels too cruel.
As we busy ourselves making arrangements and trying to process what happens next, I wanted to share with you some photos of my sister-in-law. She was a spunky woman who loved her nephews dearly. She was a fierce Mama Bear to Hayli and worked her tail off to make sure her daughter had everything she needed and more. Tami was a devoted daughter and never missed an opportunity to pick on her little (but much taller) brother. Finally, she was in love. She met Jeff and we officially welcomed him into the family only a year and a half ago. All was going just as it should be.
So of course, none of this makes sense.
This was too soon, Tami. Way too soon. We love you.
Obituary in the Chattanooga Times Free Press
Tami Michelle (Miller) West was born on March 5, 1968, to Bill and Brenda Miller of Chattanooga, Tennessee. She was a spunky, affectionate girl who never lacked for friends, most of whom remained her friends into adulthood. She attended Hixson High School and The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and eventually settled into a career she loved at CBL Properties. Tami was a stellar mom, the kind of woman who went to every length to ensure her daughter, Hayli, was taken care of and well loved. She cared for her own mother during a two-year battle with brain cancer and survived her own battle with kidney cancer five years ago. Tami had military strength and a profound compassion for those in need.
A few years ago she met Jeff, a man with integrity, devotion, and a dynamic sense of humor. The two were married in May 2014. With their dog, Bella, and cat, Josie, Tami and Jeff were enjoying life in every capacity, be it through lazy weekends, intense Zumba classes, or weekends away with friends.
Tami passed away suddenly Monday evening, August 31, 2015. Though there is comfort in knowing she is with her Creator, there will always be a void in this life without her. We will miss Tami’s laughter and zeal, her unfailing support and encouragement, and the way she made even the most mundane tasks amusing. To know Tami was to have had a loyal friend. She was a bubbly, beautiful woman who would cry alongside those in pain or raise a glass to celebrate with those in joy.
Tami is survived by her husband, Jeff West, her daughter, Hayli Chamberlain, her father and his wife, Bill and Susan Miller, her brother and sister-in-law, Chuck and Jennie Miller, her nephews, Jeremy and Jackson Miller, and countless aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. She is preceded in death by her mother, Brenda Miller.