Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

17Mar/118

A Flickering Lamp

Last night I got some sad news, mostly unexpected. Although when I saw two words, "Call me." posted hastily to my Facebook page I already knew the worst news was about to hit.

On one hand, we're constantly surrounded by the worst news. Dictators inflicting violence upon people. Heads of state trying to legalese their way out of having sex with minors. Nuclear reactors on the brink of catastrophic meltdown. Thousands of Japanese lost in the earthquake and tsunami. Children being raped by gangs and then blamed for it. Children being tortured to death by the very people who should cherish and protect them.

Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

Just go sip the daily news and be prepared for the worst. In fact we get such a steady stream of the worst that we're partially numb to it all the time.

On the other hand, it is the personal worst that still gets us.

It got me last night in the form of a phone call with one of my two closest friends from college. She asked me to phone so she could tell me that my other closest friend had lost her fight with cancer.

These two women were the ones that really helped me keep limping along my junior year. They were the ones I went to with the terrible letter from JM saying how sorry he was for raping me. The letter that stripped off every bit of disassociation my brain had put into that horrifying weekend and left me utterly shattered and suicidal.

Jen had been fighting cancer for months and months. The lack of clear understanding of where exactly it had started and how to most effectively treat it led her to refer to it as her "Special Snowflake" cancer. From the very beginning she's tried to keep positive and focused on kicking this cancer's butt. She'd even just posted an update to Facebook about her excitement about having tickets to see Duran Duran.

 

Front of shrine I made for Jen

And now? Now she's gone.

Yes, of course she lives on in our precious memories. Yes, I do believe that her indomnitable spirit, humor, creativity, and outspoken nature will most certainly move onward to her next incarnation. Yes, I know we'll all keep on humming and drumming through today, the next day, and so on. Until each of us is gone.

At the same time I am filled with anger for not going to see her. All those months I wasn't working. Flights to Denver are cheap. Jen's husband certainly would have come and fetched me from the airport. Heck, I could have even rented a car. Had I asked, CK would have helped me make it happen. But I didn't do any of those things. Instead I stayed home with my fear and dread.

Right now I'm still cycling between profound grief and being entirely awash in all the anger I've felt for letting connections falter and fade away. I am angry for all the missed good-byes. Angry for all the unfinished conversations. Angry for the good-byes that ended in recriminations that were never resolved and never can be resolved.

And I miss her. I miss every single conversation. Every single crazy idea, especially the ones we went through with. I miss the late night insanity. I miss the silly books, the music, the cooking, the sarcasm, the compassion. I miss her laughter.

Goodbye Jen

 

**My reference to our lives going on "humming and drumming" is inspired from a poem by Northwest poet David Wagoner. Although Jen wasn't killed by violence her cancer surely killed her, so it seems fitting to include the whole of the poem to honor both Jen and the poet.

Jen would have approved of honoring the poet.

Plainsong For Everyone Who Was Killed Yesterday

By David Wagoner

You haven't missed anything yet:
One dawn, one breakfast, and a little weather,
The clamor of birds whose names
You didn't know, perhaps some housework,
Homework, or a quick sale.
The trees are still the same color
And the Mayor is still the same mayor, and we're not
Having unusual for lunch.
No one has kissed her yet
Or slept with him. Our humdrum lives
Have gone on humming and drumming
Through one more morning.

But for a while, we must consider
What you might have wished for
To do or look like. So far,
Thinking of you, no one has forgotten
Anything he wanted to remember.
Your death is fresh as a prize
Vegetable- familiar but amazing,
Admirable but not yet useful-
And your in class
By yourself. We don't know
Quite what to make of you.

You've noticed you don't die
All at once. Some people, like me,
Still offer you our songs
Because we don't know any better
And because you might believe
At last whatever we sing
About you, since no one else is dreaming
Of singing: Remember that time
When you were wrong? Well, you were right.
And here's more comfort: all fires burn out
As quickly as they burn. They're over
Before we know it, like accidents.

You may feel you were interrupted
Rudely, cut off in the middle
Of something crucial,
And you may even be right
Today, but tomorrow
No one will think so.
Today consists of millions
Of newsless current events
Like the million of sticks and stones
From here to the horizon. What are you
Going to miss? The calendar
Is our only program.

Next week or next year
Is soon enough to consider
Those brief occasions you might rather
Not have lost- the strange ones
You might go so far
As to say you could die for:
Love, for example, or all
The other inflammations of the cerebral
Cortex, the astounding, irreversible
Moments you kept promising yourself
To honor, which are as far away
Now as they ever were.

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  1. We don’t know each other, but I have to let you know that this post is very beautiful. I’m a friend of Jen’s (though it’s weird for me to think of her as Jen), though I can only wish I’d known her as long as you did. I love that shrine box you made and the poem is so perfect.

    “You’ve noticed you don’t die
    All at once. Some people, like me,
    Still offer you our songs
    Because we don’t know any better
    And because you might believe
    At last whatever we sing
    About you, since no one else is dreaming”

    Yes, exactly. I was lucky enough to be able to visit within the last couple months, but I didn’t actually think it was going to be good-bye.

  2. May her memory be a blessing, and may you find solace in her memory.

  3. May you and she be at peace.

  4. She kept that little shrine by her bed. If you would like it back I can send it to you. -John

    • That’s lovely to know, John, thank you for sharing that with me. If giving it back wouldn’t be a loss to you, I’d be happy to have it back. I can always collect it from you in May.


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