The Nicholas Sparks fan-favorite A Walk to Remember is a real tear-jerker at the best of times, but the real-life story that inspired the movie will make it an even bigger emotional rollercoaster for you next time you watch the romantic classic.
Jaimie, the teenage protagonist with leukemia, was actually inspired by Nicholas Sparks's own sister, Danielle, who died of cancer at the age of just 33. But, just like in the movie, her untimely death didn't come before she had found and married her true love.
Although Sparks hasn't shared many personal details about his sisters diagnosis with brain cancer out of respect for her memory, the author has opened up about how, to him, the adorable Jamie Sullivan is basically his younger sister.
Jamie shared more than just a life-destroying disease with Sparks's sister Danielle (known as Dana by her family) though, and Sparks wrote a moving piece about all the similarities between his late sibling and A Walk to Remember's Jamie on his website. He wrote:
"In many ways, Jamie Sullivan was my younger sister. Like Jamie, my sister was sweet. Like Jamie, my sister had tremendously strong faith."
"Like Jamie, my sister loved church. Like Jamie, my sister wasn’t popular at school."
"Like Jamie, my sister was always cheerful. Like Jamie, all my sister wanted in life was to get married."
"And like Jamie, my sister got cancer."
"Like Jamie, my sister met someone. And like Landon, there was a long period of time when this fellow couldn’t imagine himself marrying a girl like her. And yet, in the end, he couldn’t help himself. Even when he knew she was sick, even when he knew that she might not make it, this man asked my sister to marry him."
Although Sparks tragically lost his sister at such an early age, the prolific romance author once told People magazine that writing about the experience helped him get through the agony of losing a loved one. In his brother Micah's words:
"He [Nicholas Sparks] made a conscious decision about which genre to pursue, based on where the voids were."
Just like in his work, Sparks has a way with words in real-life and he explained to his fans on his website that he thought the proposal to his terminally ill sister was:
"Just about the sweetest thing that’s ever been done for anyone, and I suppose I wrote this novel not only so that you could get to know my sister, but so that you would know what a wonderful thing it was that her husband once did for her."
Although Dana might no longer be with us, she lives on in Sparks's work and, most importantly, the memories of those who loved her dearly before she passed away. Sparks recalled the dark day of her funeral when he said:
“I told [the congregation] to remember my sister with a smile, like I did, for even though she was being buried near my parents, the best parts of her would always stay alive, deep within our hearts”