By Amy Tenbrink
Grief is a slippery emotion, full of overwhelming despair and false hope and occasional, fleeting comfort. It is finding, a hundred times an hour, another devastating low, as I remember one more thing that she and I will never do again. It is thinking that she’s still there, just out of reach, if only I can listen hard enough or look quickly enough. It is knowing how happy she was, as we opened our eleventh year of Sirens, just before she passed quietly in her sleep, surrounded by the community built of her warmth and care.
Sabrina Chin—or often Sabs, if you knew her well—was many, many things to me: A fifteen-year friend. A never-forgotten birthday wish. Shared pizza and sushi and dumplings. Sopping-wet, mildew-smelling Splash Mountain rides. A tentative hike down the too-steep Wall Street trail at Bryce Canyon National Park. A Thanksgiving dinner companion. Space-heater hugs. The best of Hufflepuffs to balance my ambition-first Slytherin. A never-wavering Winnie-the-Pooh to my frenetic Piglet. A rare joy.
And while she was all of that and more to me, I also want to remember her for everyone who basked in her Sirens work every year. Because Sabs has always been the primary caretaker of this community that means so much to all of us.
Sirens is a conference that prides itself on warmth and welcome, whether you’re a ten-year veteran or a nervous first-time attendee—and at Sirens, that warmth and welcome was Sabs. She was a text after you registered, telling you how glad she was that you were able to make it that year. The reassuring reply behind the customer service email address. An understanding exception when you missed a deadline, but wanted to make sure there was space for you at the conference. The first hug as you got off the bus. A smile at the information desk. A flurry of details that almost magically materialized into never forgetting anything about anyone. The person always making sure that everyone was included and everyone was comfortable and everyone had everything they needed to be happy.
Impossibly, even her death was an act of caretaking: By passing at Sirens, she gave us all the gift of being together so we could mourn as a community. The meals she ordered for the staff kept appearing, even as days passed—and even though the cartons with her name on them always brought on a new flood of tears. Her spreadsheets kept Sirens on track when we needed to make on-the-fly changes. Even the murder mystery clues were already out, saving us one more worry. Without her thoughtfulness and organization—her caretaking—I don’t know how Sirens would have persevered this year. Certainly, without them, we wouldn’t have had the space necessary to mourn our friend. The idea that her care made mourning her passing somehow kinder and gentler is so very, very Sabs.
Everyone in the Sirens community will miss her. Some of you were her friends, for a decade or more. Some of you never spoke to her, but felt her presence in every caring thing that the Sirens community does. If you’ve ever felt welcomed at Sirens—and I very much hope that you have—that welcome was Sabs. If you ever felt included or comforted or seen at Sirens, that was Sabs. Her hard work, her organization, her details, her care, her love, so much of it behind the scenes, but all of it so readily apparent in the Sirens community.
As we move forward without her—such an impossible thing—I hope that we all remember how caring she was. I hope that her legacy is that we all find a way to be a bit more like her. More birthday texts. More shared pizza and sushi and dumplings. More patience and grace and forgiveness. Since she’s left a Sabs-sized hole in each of our hearts, we’re going to need all the warmth, love, and care that we can muster to patch them all back together.
Sabs, you were the best of all of us. We have every reason to know how much you loved us. I hope you knew how very much we love you.
Beautiful message — thank you! All we did was give a bit, because we knew how much Sirens meant and wanted to help share the experience with more people. But Sabrina immediately wrote to us, thanking us in a way that was specific and sincere and obviously not the boilerplate that donors usually get. Thank you Sabrina and all of your Sirens friends, for making your welcome broad enough to include anyone who just touched you for a moment. We will miss you and hope that many others can be inspired by the way you lived and cared.
I am heartbroken to hear this news. Wishing comfort to all of those who feel her loss.
These have been days of mourning for the magic that was Sabs, for her heart and her presence and her kindness – those were her charms, constantly and without reservation.
We are all devastated for her family, and I know that each of her friends is so aware of how much all of her friends will miss her, forever. She’ll be with us at Disney World, at Comic Con, in New York, Maryland, DC, and everywhere.
You’re all in my thoughts in this horrible time.
I didn’t know Sabrina. But I must say, that is one of the most heartfelt tributes I’ve ever read, and through it, I felt your love for her and her dedication to Sirens and its community. I’m truly sorry for the loss of such a beautiful light in your life and those of many.
Amy, Hallie, Manda, Faye, and the rest of Sirens staff and community:
What a beautiful tribute. I was only able to attend the inaugural year of Sirens, but I lived close to Sabs and whenever we’d meet up she’d share the excitement and challenges of conference planning. She brought back shirts and bags and various swag over the years and I followed along vicariously. Her deep love for all of you and pride in every event was so clear.
As her role changed and she took on more and more responsibility, she’d express some of her fears and doubts to me. She was a true introvert, but it was your belief in her abilities that gave her courage to rise those concerns and embrace the leadership you entrusted to her. She grew in confidence and ability and you all made that happen – you nurtured the tiny Gryffindor in that big Hufflepuff heart.
She packed a lot of living into 38 short years. I’m already missing the updates on your road trips and conference planning and her plot to get you all to play DMK. I’m going to try and follow her model to embrace all of life, despite your fears, and love with all of your heart.
Well, I’m crying now. I wondered how you were all coping with Sabs’s death and running what looked like an excellent conference from what I saw on twitter. I imagined it was brutal so I’m glad to hear that she took care of you all so well that you were able to keep going. That sounds like Sabs. The first time I met her in person at Nimbus she thrust like 40 Pumpkin Pie pens into my hands. She had a dufflebag full of them and was trying to give them all away. We used them for about 10 years in our house. I want to dig around and see if I can find any left even though that was 16 years ago. But she loved that ship and I think that’s how we really got talking before Nimbus. Her unfailing kindness and generosity often baffled me, because I am a bitter soul. She was absolutely not. She was funny and appreciated a good math pun. I will miss her.
Such sad news. I knew Sabs from my HP fandom days. She was always a shining light there. Never had the time to make it to Sirens but I know she will be greatly missed. Hugs and prayers to her family and her Sirens famly.
I am grieved to the core to hear of Sabs’ passing but cannot imagine lovlier tribute. Thank you for that. I really am so very sorry and send you all my deepest condolences.
Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to one of my first fandom friends, stalwart pumpkin, fierce Hufflepuff and recipient of my many tackle glomps (the first so powerful I almost knocked both of us to the ground at the Orlando airport.)
I will miss her forever, and feel the grief all over again when Christmas comes and goes without the card I’ve received from her every year without fail.
She was the best of us, and her loss will be felt for years to come.
I knew Sabs from the early days of the Harry Potter fandom, back when Pumpkin Pie and Nimbus were a strong fixture in my life. She did so many incredible things for our community and Sirens seems wonderful (I’ve never gone, but always wished I could make it). My heart goes out to all of those grieving this loss. <3
Dear Amy, This is such a beautiful tribute to Sabrina. I didn’t know Sabrina and was only able to exchange a brief and very warm greeting with her when I arrived at Sirens this year, but her work and care were certainly evident in every aspect of Sirens 2019. You were all so brave to keep going and the way you kept her memory alive at the conference was such a beautiful thing. Wishing you all solace and comfort in your grief, and thanking you all for letting me part of your community. May peace be with you, Ausma