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  • Sarah Dion Brooks

What's In a Name


What's in a name?

Every name comes from somewhere.

I was given the name Sarah Evelyn Hawkins when I was born. My parents told me they had wanted to name me Sariah Edith. But they thought that Gramma would appreciate it more if I was named Sarah rather than Sariah. I appreciated it too! Not that Sariah is a bad name. But Sarah...just fits me. Much. Better.

Evelyn was my grandmother's middle name. And I loved it. Until I heard the 4th grade boys at school calling another girl, with the name Evelynda,

"Evil-linda". I decided that although I loved my middle name, I was not going to volunteer that information to the boys at school.

My last name changed when I 19 years old and newly married. It would remain my name for the next 19 years of my life. Then a divorce. Then a new chapter. And then a new name that came with my new chapter, and my new husband.

The names all have meaning. Layered between the letters are memories of joy, pain, laughter, love, heart ache. There is a lot that goes with each name. And they are all mine. In my heart.

Layered with the memories.

When I came to the point where I started performing professionally in 2010, I realized that I wanted to have a stage name. I wanted something unique, that wasn't as common. My maiden name and married name were both pretty common. And I wanted something my own. After all, when I was on stage, I felt like a new person. My fears would vanish, and I was who I wanted to be, doing what I loved. My real name was still sacred to me. It was who I was at home. And everyday. But I really liked having a name to perform under. So a lot of thought went into deciding what that name would be.

I thought about changing my first name. I love Ella Fitzgerald. I thought about being called Ella Noir Brooks. I still kind of like that. Sultry, jazzy, cool. But it didn't completely fit me. I wrote down name after name after name. And kept coming back to my own name. Sarah.

The last name took a little longer.....again I wrote down name after name after name to see what fit nicely with Sarah. Something different. But not too different. Something that would roll off the tongue easily. Something that I could own. And eventually, Brooks was that name. And Sarah Brooks sounded great. I loved it. But it was missing something. And Sarah Brooks is a pretty common name as well. I knew if someone did a Google search, they would have to scroll through a lot of other Sarah Brooks in order to find me. And I am pretty sure there was already a musician on YouTube with that same name. So I decided to find a middle name that would pull it all together. Again, name after name after name was being written down. And then, my daughter suggested I use the name Dion. And my heart about melted.

Dion. My dear, dear friend Dion.

We first met in 7th grade. We had some classes together, and quickly became friends. We played sports together in junior high school. We went to dances together, before the days of being asked to a dance by a boy. We had a lot in common and we had our differences. But she was real. She wasn't fake. And her friendship was always something I could count on.

As our schedules didn't always match up, or if she had a boyfriend that took time away from her friends, we started writing notes back and forth so that we could still find time to talk. There was no texting back then. Good old fashioned, hand written notes. Every time we would open a new package of college ruled paper, Dion and I would use the cover sheet to write our notes to each other on. It became a tradition. I was Hawky. She was Wilky. Nicknames. Obviously, anyone who knew us could have guessed who wrote them.

One day, in our home room class, just as the bell rang, I passed her a long note I had written the night before. It was a heavy topic for me. And I was conflicted. She had always given me good advice, and I needed it right then. I explained to her in great length and detail, how I liked this boy, but I was afraid that if he found out that I liked him, he would never talk to me again. Because that's what happened to another girl we knew. She had liked him. But when he found out, he stopped talking to her. And she was hurt. And I really really liked him. And I didn't want him to stop talking to me. I didn't know what to do. But Dion would know.

Now a word of caution - to anyone thinking about passing a note. I don't recommend passing a note at the beginning of class. And I especially don't recommend having your friend read the note while in class, while the teacher is talking. And if your friend does read it in class, at least have her try to hide the fact that she is not listening to the teacher.

Our teacher noticed. She didn't even say a word. She just stopped her morning announcements and walked right up to Dion, who didn't even have a clue what was going on, as her face was buried behind the note I had written to her. Our teacher plucked my note right out of her hands. The class went still. All eyes were on the teacher now. And I think, at that moment, my heart might have stopped beating for a second or two. Or ten.

Another word of caution - if you do decide to pass a note at the beginning of class, and your friend decides to read it while the teacher is talking, and the teacher decides to take that note from your friend, make sure that the content of the note does not include any information that might embarrass the life out of you.

Not only did our teacher pluck the note from Dion's hand, she decided that the best punishment for this disrespect, was to read the contents of the note out loud in front of the class. In front of everyone.

One more word of caution - make sure the content of this note doesn't include first and last names of other students, especially the boy you have a crush on and the girl that had her heart broken. ESPECIALLY when the two of them are both in the same class with you, when the note is being read!

My face felt hot and was turning from a dark shade of red to white. My heart was either beating so fast it was about to jump out of my chest, or it had stopped completely. I wasn't quite sure. I only know that the first words that came to my mind were probably not very kid appropriate, and I just closed my eyes and tried to breathe. I had no idea who was looking at me. I was frozen. Dion had given me an apologetic look, but she hadn't read the entire note yet. She hadn't been able to get to the good stuff yet. That was saved. For every single person in our class. And they had a good laugh. Boy did they ever. An awkward, hahaha, this is funny, but oh crap, I'm glad its not happening to me, kind of laugh. And yet it was happening to me. And my crush, and the poor girl who had had her heart broken. And Dion. Who couldn't have planned it any differently.

That embarrassing moment gave Dion and I something to laugh about for years. And by the way, things turned out alright. That boy and I ended up dating for a year and a half and he became one of my best friends through the rest of my high school days. And the girl in my note, we remained friends. But never as close as I would have liked.

Dion and I shared many things in common. Our love for dancing, Broadway musicals, and music. We would talk about boys, and life, if there really was a god, and our fears of life and growing up, and getting married, and having children...

I remember sitting in her bedroom, late one night, listening to the radio and hearing Garth Brooks song, "Shameless" for the very first time. It was the first crossover from country to pop on the radio. And I actually loved it. She turned me on to country. We even went to a concert together. My family had moved a few hours away, and there had been a snow storm. I didn't think I would be able to get to there, due to the road conditions, to meet them for the concert. But her amazing father took his truck, drove 3 or so hours through the snow, from their house to my house, completely out of the way, to pick me up so that we could go to this concert together, and then drove another hour north to Portland for this concert. And then he took me back home again. It was for the Tim McGraw/Little Texas/Black Hawk tour. I still have my ticket stub for that concert.

I remember staying up all night on New Years Eve one year. Watching the ball drop on TV. Eating redvines and having a blast.

And Dion was among a group of my friends that would sleep over at my house on the night before the last day of school. We would stay up most of the night, talk about the most craziest things we had done, eat, laugh, probably have a little girl drama, and then get up after only a couple hours of sleep, if any at all, and attend our last day of school for the year, in our pajamas. It was cool back then.

I remember when we went together to watch the Rockettes from New York City dance when they came to Portland. And we dreamed of being on stage like that. We loved the arts. We loved the stage. We loved musicals. We were in several high school musicals together. Our sophomore year, we did "Charlotte's Web." I played Charlotte. And she would bring me crispy chicken burritos, with sour cream from Taco Time when we would have late night rehearsals.

Dion was always that friend who I could count on to be there and be honest with me. We went to dance camp together during the summer before our junior year. And we were part of a small team from our small town that got the chance to dance at half time in the Orange Bowl in 1995. Miami vs Nebraska. That was an exciting time. Miami was sunny and beautiful. And we made memories!

Everywhere I look, there is something that reminds me of Dion.

We had crazy silly traditions. I don't even remember how one started. I think we were in Astoria for a dance team competition, and stopped by Fred Meyers. We were killing time, and found ourselves looking in the underwear department. And for some reason we decided to buy matching, silky, lacey panties. Which my mom would probably not have approved of. But they were beautiful. And It kind of turned into this silly tradition for Christmas gifts for the next few years. Now, getting sexy panties from one of my best friends was a bit of a gag. But at the same time, up to this point in my teenage life, I had only had plain, modest underwear. And this was a little daring for me. Even if no one knew about it.

I liked knowing that Dion wasn't afraid to laugh with me about personal things. She wasn't afraid to ask me about my inner fears. And she wasn't afraid to call me out on my issues. Dion made me want to be a better person. She was a good friend.

During my freshman year, I was crowned Princess for our high school charity drive. In Tillamook, Oregon, the charity drive is the largest fundraiser. It is huge. And the amounts they are raising today, are incredible and unbelievable. My responsibility, as princess of the freshman class, was to be at the events, help organize, take part in, and help raise as much money as we could. It was a competition. Each class would compete against the other. And at the end of the 11 day drive, the class with the most money raised would crown their prince and princess, King and Queen. We had bake sales, car washes, scrap metal drives, half time games, and boxing matches. Pop can drives, cake auctions, and donkey basketball. The year that I was the freshman Charity Drive Princess, we did jello wrestling. It was all in good fun. It was messy, and hilarious. And ridiculous. And as a princess, I had to compete. I would be going up against, who else? Dion. I was a good runner. But I wasn't a good wrestler or fighter. I had seen Dion get in a few fights. Usually over boys. She stood her ground and wasn't afraid to fight. She was tough. She was determined. And she was a fighter. I couldn't compete. Especially entirely covered in green jello. But we laughed and laughed and laughed. They held up my hand at the end of the match. We just looked at eachother and grinned. I should not have won that match. We both knew it. And she even told me so. Maybe it was because I was the freshman class princess? Who knows. But both of us knew, and Dion was the real winner.

She went to Hawaii in 8th grade, and she asked me if she could bring me back anything. I said "Yes- A real man!" Because as an 8th grader, that is exactly what I needed. Instead, she brought me back a post card of a sexy Hawaiian man, standing on the beach with out a shirt on, holding a surfboard up with his strong, bronze arms. That was about the best thing I would get. And it was just what I needed. Laughter and knowing that my dear friend cared. And she did. Over the years, she would continue to get me post cards of hunky dreamy men when she would go on vacations, and we always had a good laugh about it.

She went to college in a town only 30 minutes from me. I got married about that time, and had my first baby a year later. We would see each other every now and then. But we were in different places in our lives. And things just got busy. But I always knew she was just a phone call away. Or just a thirty minute drive up the road.

I will never forget the morning of my 25th birthday. I got a phone call from my brother. Expecting to be greeted with birthday wishes, I answered the phone. Instead, I was told that Dion's step mother was trying to reach me, and that I needed to call her as soon as possible. So I got off the phone with him and called her.

I will never forget her words.... "Sarah.....Dion has been murdered."

Life stopped. I have never felt it stand so still. I was shaken to my very core. Tears streaming down my face. They wouldn't stop. How could this have happened?

Dion had met someone. They had dated for a short time. But he was too much. Too aggressive. From my understanding that is. She had broken it off with him and had a restraining order put on him. On the evening of Feb. 1, 2003, the night before my 25th birthday, he had come to her house and kidnapped her at gunpoint. He made her drive and they drove down the interstate towards Albany. I don't know the exact details of events. But I know she was shot and her body was ran over by another vehicle. The car they had been driving was in the ditch. And the man who had kidnapped her was found dead in a nearby pond the next day.

This all happened about 10 minutes from where I was living at the time. And to this day, I cannot drive up that hill without thinking of her.

Dion....my dear, dear friend. She would never get to see my children grow up. I would never get to be at her wedding. We would never get to have lunch and catch up again. We would never be able to laugh about old times again. Or talk about our dreams. Or our fears. Or anything. Ever. Again.

I miss her so much. And I wanted her to be a part of my life. I wanted to have the same strength that she had. I wanted to have that love for life that she had. That fire, that determination, that focus. Always.

So the name Sarah Dion Brooks was born.

And every time I sit at my piano and sing, and write, and perform, a part of her is with me.

And to you, my dear, dear friend Dion, you will forever be in my heart. I love you and miss you dearly. And am so grateful for all of the memories we have shared. You have blessed my life in so many ways. And I am a better person for knowing you. I want to follow my heart and my dreams and be true to myself, just like you always were.

I will honor your name with my music. I will write songs of strength, empowerment, love and healing.

You hold my name together. Just like you hold many of our hearts together. I wish you were here....

~Dedicated to Dion Michelle Wilks, January 12, 1978 - February 1, 2003


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© 2020 by Sarah Dion Brooks