Monday, July 21, 2014

That Moment

They said it would happen, but I couldn't believe them.  The pain consumed me and grief fogged my thoughts.  Death seemed to be right around the corner.  There was simply no way I would survive such a profound loss.

Suicide shatters.

My life and the person I was before Dude's death lay in a million pieces on the floor. There would be no way to rebuild without cracks in this new puzzle.  The new puzzle otherwise known as my life after Dude's death.

At first, it took every breath I had to make it through the day.  The excruciating pain harbored in my heart made me question how many breaths I had left.  People I would now consider my dearest friends rushed to my side.  They wanted to help.  I wanted them there too, but could not articulate the help I needed.  A hug. The freedom to cry. Food I may or may not be able to eat. I begged people -  please, PLEASE do not tell me to be happy or to remember the good times.  Remembering Dude loved me was hard enough.  Now was the time to feel however I wanted to feel, and I hated that I felt like I had to ask permission to express my feelings.  I gravitated towards those who gave me a pass to be who I needed to be no matter how ugly that looked. 

Why was I still here? Why did he leave me behind? What was my purpose? What are my dreams? You have to ask those questions because asking why Dude took his own life or what more I could have done to prevent this is a vicious cycle.  I never believed this could be a reality, but he did.  He took care of me despite his own pain.  I did everything I could to help him and show him how much I loved him.  He was thankful and I'm thankful, too. 

Suicide shatters but God redeems.

God put the right people by my side and in my life.  He awakened a dream I had put to bed many years ago.  He opened my eyes to the small things that bring beauty to life. The last two years have not been without struggle.  Who sues LSAC before going to law school? I do.  Who got rejected from every law school to which she applied?  I did.  But none of that was as bad as Dude's death.  And my support structure remained in tact. Dude had given up (or rather, decided to end the pain).  I couldn't.  I wouldn't.  I had to press on.

My friend has whisked me away to NYC for some fun.  Another planned some wonderful weekends in Texas.  My parents and I have been able to travel.  I thank God every day for my newest mentor and our strong bond.  My acceptance and scholarships to law school. The overwhelming response to Dude's fundraising campaign.  Mary and her wisdom. These blessings and many more are not lost on me.

Every day I think about Dude. This experience is life changing and will not go away.  But... slowly but surely joy mixes in with the pain. They said it would happen, but I couldn't believe them.

I can smile without tears in my eyes (most of the time).  I can laugh without feeling guilty.  I can remember Dude saying he wanted all my dreams to come true and I can chase after those dreams no matter how crazy others think I am.  I can remember that he loved me, love him, and still more forward. 

They said it would happen.  I couldn't believe them. But, they were right.  That moment you realize you are embracing your new life is SWEET.

In a month, I will embark on a new adventure.  One that Dude went on before me.  I could have never predicted my life would be like this.  The last two years have been horrific yet redeeming. 

I'm nervous and scared and excited for what's to come.  But I know God is picking up those pieces and building a new life for me. There will be cracks - but those cracks. They leave room for the love and light of God and Dude to shine through. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Just Around The Corner

The night before I took the LSAT I had a dream about Dude.  I have only had a couple dreams about him since he has died, and I don't normally write them down.  Oftentimes, it takes me a long time to tell anyone about them because I feel like they are my secret and nobody should know about it except me and Dude.  I want to write this one down, but I think it is an important message for me to remember -- and an important message for our close friends to remember, too.

Here's the dream --

I went to visit Dude's brother in the hospital.  He had a badly broken leg and had surgery to repair the damage.  As I approached Matt's hospital bed, I saw him playing with some Redskins matchbox cars.

"Matt, where did you get those cars? I had given them to Mike some time ago.  And, you are a Steelers fan!  What are you DOING?"

"Mike just gave them to me."

"What?!  How is that possible?!  Where is he?"

"Jess, he's just around the corner."

"What do you mean?!  What is he doing there?"

"Working at the Verizon store."

"Does he have a phone?"

"Yup.  All we have to do is "call" him and he will be with us."

"But, if he is working there, we have to give everyone their money back.  They think he is dead and have donated to honor him.  I am going to get the list together to give everyone a refund."

"Jess, we can't tell anyone.  It's just for us to know.  But if you want him, just ask."

He's just around the corner!

Until I see you again... 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Learning to Dance with the Limp

I am finally feeling the deep grief start to dissipate.  This year kicked off with a lovely invitation from my neighbor who invited me to her annual New Year’s Eve party.  I knew I wouldn’t know many people there, but was thrilled to have been thought of and was excited to go.  Last year, I would have immediately declined the invitation because I couldn’t handle the fact that I was in an unfamiliar situation.  It would have taken far too much energy to fake having a good time.  And, yes, I would have faked it because legitimately celebrating a new year was not possible.  This year, I tried on four different outfits before deciding on the perfect one and happily joined in on the festivities.  Almost everyone I talked to I had just met and the conversation did not feel exhausting as it had in the past.  This party was a big step for me and I knew if I had a good time then 2014 would start off on the right foot!

Just two and a half weeks after that I flew to Texas to celebrate my birthday with my dear friends.  Normally I go to Texas in the summer, but it was Carmen’s idea that I come for my birthday this year and what a brilliant idea that was!  I don’t worry about anything with these friends.  I can completely be myself, whatever that looks like.  Last year, I went to visit, and Carmen and Jason had so many fun things planned.  The Houston Rodeo topped the list!  I cherished every minute with them and appreciated all that they had done for me, but it felt difficult to truly enjoy it all.  I was grateful to be there, but I was anxious. I was sad.  But I was trying.  This year it was a true gift to be able to celebrate – to celebrate my birthday, to celebrate our friendship, and to celebrate the ability to feel joy and recognize it as such.  As Carmen noted, last year I was not myself, I wasn’t all there, but this year, I’m back! I boarded the plane back to DC thanking God for a heartfelt and joyous weekend with such dear friends in which I was able to fully participate.  I’ll post a separate blog on all that I did to usher in 32.

I’m also pretty excited about my upcoming ski trip, some fun weekends ahead, and my family vacation to the Caribbean.  Our trip, of course, purposefully corresponds with the anniversary of Dude’s death, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to enjoy some fun in the sun and sand with a drink in my hand.  It lessens the pain just a little.  Grief counselors told me there would come a time where I could mix joy with pain.  I looked at them like there were nuts and believed that might be the case for other people, but certainly not for me.  Now I see it.  There are still days or moments when I slammed with pain, but I can now recognize and appreciate happy times, too.

Ann Lamott sums it up perfectly:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved.  But this is also the good news.  They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up.  And you come through.  It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
For me, 2014 is the year to learn to dance with the limp.
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