(Originally posted after Taylor’s passing, in March)
The news has focused heavily on the recent University of Oklahoma SAE racial slur video. People have, of course, been heavily weighing in on the matter on social media. Not only have they been commenting on this specific chapter of the fraternity, but on the national organization, and Greek life as a whole. I can’t even begin to explain the negative comments made about ALL of Greek life in the midst of a PR nightmare. But why does the media have to focus on all the negative aspects of Greek Life, and not on the positive?…
But somewhere else, seemingly far away from Oklahoma, in a busy Kentucky town on wonderful campus stood a circle illuminating the night. Sorority women and fraternity men made up this circle, most dressed in purple, and most of whom were members of Alpha Omicron Pi. Rose peddles lined the walkway to the AOII suite, doors opened and flowers everywhere. Advisors and alumni gazed with heavy hearts as we stood, holding the ones we love most dear to us. We moved at a slow pace to continue lighting our candles and filling the circle. I tiptoed carefully as to not drop or let my candle go out, because my hands were shaking and my knees were weak. I stood in this circle among so many others with tears in my eyes, my arms around one of my sisters as we sang the following,
“You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy,
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know dear,
How much I love you,
Please don’t take
My Sunshine Away.”
Around 2 years earlier, I stood in the same room as Taylor Eubanks as we with the 30 something girls in our pledge class pledged ourselves to Alpha Omicron Pi for a lifetime. We initiated together, cried together, laughed together, went out together, won Fryberger together, recruited together, grew together, prayed together, fought for what matters together, fund-raised together, and most importantly loved each other and the bond we made to our sisterhood. Things have changed in the almost 3 years I’ve been in the chapter; people changed, ways of life changed, the chapter changed. Not necessarily for the worse, as any amazing chapter such as our own would be subject to do. We, as current juniors were ready to take on the tremendous task of being the leaders in the chapter, as well as knowing the underclassman really had the power. We knew our journey in AOII was going to take us farther than Pi Alpha, farther than Louisville, farther than Kentucky even.
We sat in Davidson hall for our chapter meeting on, one in which we were all encouraged to wear purple in honor of Taylor Eubanks, our dear sister. Taylor has suffered from Cystic Fibrosis her whole life, and that Monday we got the news that Taylor’s organs were failing and we were asked to begin to say goodbye. Death is never easy. When it happens because of old age, it is almost justifiable because of the natural ease of that person having lived for so long. But when it happens are a young age like 21 and because of an illness, the pain is stronger and the death unreasonable. I haven’t dealt with a lot of death or grief in my lifetime so far. From the moment I got the news I strive to keep in mind at Taylor would no longer be in pain, and also to remember numerous good times we’ve shared. To also stand and support my sisters, for we were all loosing a sister.
March 11th at around 7:50 we all got the news that Taylor had passed away. We were in our chapter meeting, a large amount of us there to support each other before we had even heard the news. With shock and dismay, we hugged each other and cried. Someone said it later on, that Taylor knew we were together and that we would be ok if we had each other. As a chapter, we got an over-pouring of support from our community. Greek and Non-Greek alike that knew and loved Taylor got word of her passing, and joined us in a candlelight in her honor. In times like these, during a tragedy, we should be thankful of what we had even in a time of loss.
As we gathered for our candlelight, Panhellenic sisters and IFC brothers came and supported us being a shoulder to cry on. Standing with us were AOII alums and advisors, and even AOII new members, just joining recently. Non-Greeks and friends of Taylor were also in that circle remembering the time they had with her. That is one thing we had: we had time with Taylor to make memories. One of my favorite’s is going to Taylor’s 21st birthday dinner, because anytime one of us (mostly me) did something stupid, Taylor would always get this smile, laugh, and shake her head at us. Way too often she would laugh at me, my little sister Brittany, and her little sister Maggie, and tell us to be quiet because we would be kicked out of wherever we were going. I remember dancing with her, at social gatherings and laughing as we danced as bad as possible. Fryberger, sisterhood retreats, philanthropy events, big/little weeks- we have had only 2 ½ years with her as our sister, but it seems like a lifetime.
Taylor leaves a legacy that anyone would wish to have. She loved and enjoyed her life despite her internal battle. She wanted to have fun, and help other people. Highly competitive, she always strived to exceed every expectation life threw at her, and she did. Taylor left a large impact on everyone she met, something I know that her parents must be proud about. I am forever grateful for the time I got to spend with her, and am so proud that she is forever my sister. She lived out ritual each and every day. Taylor touched the lives of so many people and that should never be lost sight of.
“I honesltly have to say going Greek was the best decision of my life. Two huge banners, a set of paddle lungs, and over 200 cards/notes just from UofL Greek life alone. I have cards from people I didn’t even know (but they listed their Greek affiliation) and signatures I can’t even read. The outpouring of love I received from my university during the hardest time of my life still baffles me. I still meet random strangers who want to give me a hug and say how they are proud of me. But I should be the one hugging you all and saying thank you. I wouldn’t be the Lil Tay, Tay Tay, T-Tizzle, Lil Wheezy and whatever else nicknames you freaks have come up with if it wasn’t for you supporting me every step of the way. ❤ #UofL #PanhellenicLove #Gocards”
RIP Tay ❤