“I thought she understood but really didn’t get it,” said Smith. “It was kind of like that on the first day when we told her. But the second day, she just broke down. She wasn’t making any faces, but her mouth was just wide open, and she was crying and pushing out sounds. She wouldn’t talk, she didn’t want to lay down, she didn’t let me hold her. She just sat there and cried for like 45 minutes.”

Smith and his family have done their share of crying as well, eventually turning that into smiles as they recall Darien’s life and the impact she had on theirs in just 23 years. Now big brother can smile a little.

“First off, she will always be my annoying sister,” he laughs. “The one and only person that could get under my skin. I cherish our arguments, our good times and bad times.”

He pauses.

“How can I explain Darien?” Smith continues. “She was a very strong-minded, bull-headed woman who loved to have fun. She was very outgoing, and now I’m learning new stories about her that shows me that she was even more outgoing than I thought she was. She was still finding her way and she was getting to that point where she was finding her way. She was only 23, with two kids. She just got her first apartment, she jumped from the nest and she was pushing through and dealing with the adult problems and handling them like an adult. She was finding her way, but she still loved to have fun. She loved to go out, she loved dancing and she loved her kids.”

In the midst of finding her way, Darien held two jobs, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her full-time job turned into a part-time one, leaving her without life insurance. A family friend has launched a GoFundMe page to aid with funeral and burial expenses and financial assistance for her two children. The Smith family is thankful for the outpouring of support, but Devonte would give it all back to have his sister around.

“I’d rather her be here,” he said. “She wanted to plan ahead and plant that seed, but the pandemic kinda messed that up. Every little thing, it just hurts.”