Losing her Over and Over Again

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I sit at the traffic light watching the young girl in black stretch pants and sneakers cross the road with her mom. She has hair which almost reaches down to her waist. Some would call it blonde. To me it is light brown. Jesi’s hair was the same color and when she was ten. Her hair was long to her waist too. Only her hair was straight and this girl’s hair has a few loose curls at its ends. I like the way she holds her mama’s hand, her own small hand tucked into the folded grip of her mama’s palm. She walks, her stocky little body half a step behind her mama’s. But it is her bottom and thighs, perfect in the outline of her stretch black pants that grab my attention. I see Jesi’s young body in them, that same curve of the bottom, the same healthy strong thighs. I blink, my mind wandering back years and suddenly I see Jesi joking and running ahead of me to catch up to Kari as we walk down the street together. We are going to the ice cream shop on a summer afternoon after school and there is nothing in the world that could go wrong. Or so I imagine. We are not even far from where I now sit in my car, gripping tighter and tighter to the steering wheel until my knuckles turn white as my memory cascades me into an arena I am not ready to enter. Now I watch this “Jesi” walking away from me, this young girl who reminds me so strongly of my Jesi, her strong stocky body only a year or two before cancer sabotaged it. I have been catapulted back seven years in no more than a few seconds and there was no way I could either predict it or control it.

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The lights change and I move forward through the intersection. Perhaps if I accelerate I will escape back into the present.
But it isn’t that easy. I round the corner onto Gerry’s Landing Road and over the rise onto the bridge across the River Charles. I used to drive this route to take Jesi back and forth to treatment at the Jimmy Fund or to visit her in hospital, and now no matter how many hundreds of days that have passed since, although I was not thinking about it five minutes earlier, my mind has found its way back to the times Jesi and I drove this road together. A tear escapes from the corner of my eye; then another, and another and another. I wish myself to the animal rescue where I will work with dogs. One of the only ways I have found that totally absorbs me so that my mind doesn’t wander into the dangerous gloom of grief.

 

A woman I met last year in a grief group called me recently. We hadn’t spoken since the group fell away over the holiday season. “What are you doing to deal with your grief?” she asked me quite unexpectedly during our conversation, which had to that point been filled with talk of my new apartment, her recently completed degree, her up-coming vacation. I hesitated. Grief, I thought. Grief? I don’t even name it these days. In fact when she asked that question I had to think a moment, not even aware it still owned part of my life…it seeps so imperceptibly into me. “I don’t know,” I hesitated thinking how inept my response was, that I ought to have been able to reel off some sort of list of positive actions I took every day to fend it away. Then I continued, “I talk to Jesi a lot I guess. And I get sad sometimes. Sometimes I feel her around me. I always wish she was here like she used to be. Its like the ocean waves. You know, it ebbs and flows…” I felt strangely embarrassed to have been asked this question. Like I thought my friend was ‘better’ than I was at this thing called grieving to have known to ask me. My answer just wasn’t making the grade. Then she replied, “This will be the first Mother’s Day since my mother passed.”
I immediately understood why she had asked.

 

Two days later I was walking my dog in Lexington center. I looked ahead and realized that the back entrance to the high school Jesi attended for her last years of schooling loomed ahead of me, its stone steps and columns staring expressionless in the morning air. Suddenly I pictured all the times I drove up to those stone steps and waited for Jesi to appear so I could take her to physical therapy or doctors’ appointments. She should have been leaving the school from the front side of the building like most of the students did, boarding buses to go to their afternoon sports, not going to get her blood checked for white blood cells and platelets. It made me sad to look at that school. I could not see the stream of students wandering into the center of town on their breaks. All I could see was what had never been. Jesi growing to be a senior and graduating like she wanted to. She never returned after winter break of sophomore year. Large swellings had appeared in her neck over the Christmas period. Blood tests showed her blood was crammed so full of leukemia cells again they were blocking the growth of normal cells. The leukemia had come back.

I went back into the school many times during the year she relapsed. Jesi was, of course, only in hospital or at home and would be returning heself so Alan and I would meet with her teachers and talk about how to reintegrate her back into the classroom; what classes she would do and how she could stay current so she and Kari could still graduate together. Jesi was a phenomenal student and worked hard at her studies even whilst in hospital.
But after she passed away the halls suddenly haunted me with fantasies and half imagined memories of her smiling face. Or perhaps I saw her black and white checked hat bobbing on her head as she bustled with her uneasy gait down the corridors with a hundred other kids. Not to mention the stories Kari had told me about them passing each other, smiling and waving or texting to check in on how each of their days were going.

 

Now as the school year comes to a close, I walk into the main foyer, making my way down the corridor to the office there is an uneasy hush inside my head. I am meeting one of the admin assistants to collect Jesi’s Memorial Scholarship plaque in order to have it engraved with the name of the recipient of this year’s award. The admin assistant is waiting for me, standing in front of the open doors of glass cabinet where it hangs all year. She greets me and I watch speechless as she carefully lifts the plaque out of the cabinet and holds it in her hands. I watch her turn it toward her, holding it close to her heart, run her finger along the beveled edges, gently lifting a speck of dust off the bronze header plate. I want to scream at her as she turns it over and over in her hands as though it is some precious jewel, as though it is Jesi herself she is holding. I want to scream at her because I have seen myself do the same with Jesi’s possessions, as if they could be any substitute for Jesi. I register that I am suddenly furious that I do not have the power to bring Jesi back and that this silly plaque or Jesi’s clothes or jewelry or stuffed animals are all I have as tangible reminders of who Jesi was and what she loved.
Sometimes I am nothing more than a mother fractured into tiny pieces of past memories holding them in my hands.

At the award night I stand at the podium in the high school auditorium and speak about Jesi and what she loved. Her scholarship, awarded to a senior student who has shown dedication through work and care for animals “beyond simply owning a family pet” brings to light the variety of innovative ways in which students demonstrate their passionate love of animals. One applicant volunteers at a disabled equestrian school, reminding me of the weekly horseback riding lessons Jesi took while she was rehabilitating from the severe neuropathy caused by chemotherapy. Another volunteers at the Boston Aquarium caring for sea creatures and educating the public about the part we play in keeping their environment healthy. Another works to rekindle the failing SPCA club within the school. The young lady to whom we awarded the scholarship spends her weekends training and socializing service dogs for a disabled veteran organization.
When I read her application it burns into a memory inside me….I am touched in a way I cannot describe, seeing the image of this unknown young woman who each weekend spends her leisure time with ‘her dog’ whom she ultimately knows she will be giving up “because someone needs him more than I do“.
It is the picture in my mind of her sitting next to her dog Trooper at the lily pond near her house. It is the love and care she gave to Trooper, accompanying her to soccer games, rolling around on the grass with him, just as I know Jesi would do, snuggling and cuddling into his soft body, the two of them a mass of fur and hair and limbs, feet and paws flying. I know Jesi would have done just as our applicant had done, given Trooper all the love she had to give so he would be the best companion dog he could be, and then one day, just as our award recipient had done, hugged him goodbye and sent him into someone else’s arms. Someone whose needs were greater than hers.

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Now, with June in full brew I am deep in the middle of Walden Pond, gliding in the tranquil waters. But my mind is anything but tranquil. On the walk down the ramp to the water I have been telling my friend about my dear sweet little (and old) dog Mimi. She has lung disease, heart disease, is almost blind and probably deaf. “I get the impression the vet thinks she is living on borrowed time…..” I say. Our conversation moves on but I remember it while swimming, the water abnormally cold due to the erratic spring weather and abundance of rain. I remember the day Mimi came into my life. She came into Jesi’s the very same day when Jesi accompanied me to the animal rescue and we met her together. Later, after we took Mimi home, Jesi and I would joke about whose dog she was. “She’s mine! No, she’s mine! No, she’s mine…” and we would go on until I would give in with an impish grin. Now my only comfort is knowing that when Mimi leaves me Jesi will be there to scoop her up and love and care for her. But that is not what I think about in the middle of Walden Pond. Suddenly I am immersed in grief and it dawns on me that I will not be able to cope with losing Mimi. That I will “fall apart.” That it will be losing Jesi all over again…

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My body is no longer skimming along the surface of the water. I am struggling to maintain the rhythm that has propelled me across the center of the pond. My legs are sinking and I am gasping for each breath and each arm seems to have lost the memory of how to work with the other. I look ahead to see the faint outline of the beach house. It seems a million miles away. I know I cannot afford to think about these things, not now, not in the middle of Walden. So I do what I did the many many times I swam in Walden while Jesi was still with us, when I bought my worries to the pond during the time she was in transplant, fearing she would not make it, feeling the same feelings of anguish and desperation should she be taken from us. Not knowing then how I would ever go on. Crying inside my heart and head for her to be spared. Please, please God don’t take her from me… But she was taken. Her body had had enough. She had to go. And I had to go on. Just as I do now, in the middle of Walden. Just as I have a hundred times before.

Posted in Grief and Loss, Mother Grieving a Child, Teenager who died from Leukemia: Mother's Memories, Writing about Grief | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Twin, Alone on her Birthday…

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Imagine being eighteen and dreading your birthday.

The dread arrives weeks before your birthday does. It arrives on wings edging its way through your dorm room window, sliding in a crack open against the stuffy heat of the college heating system that buffers late winter’s cold. It lounges on the closed lid of your computer, sprawled like a cat waiting for you to open it and attempt to work on your music assignments.
It wedges on your shoulder as you sit at the piano in the practice rooms of the conservatory. Your oversized manuscript beside you, your pencil fingering the keys as you tempt ideas from your lessons on counterpoint, working on a multi movement chamber series on the stages of grief.
You are too young for this, a voice inside your head screams in objection. Your shoulders slump forward. Your head is bent. Is it concentration on the progression of chords singing on the keys as you play what the pencil scribbles onto the manuscript? Is it the empty feeling inside your gut?

Your twin is gone and it is the third year you will spend the birthday you shared without her.

You run from your dorm room to the practice room… immerse yourself in music. It is the only way you know the distance yourself from the feelings. The dread of that day. The remembering which you can never forget. You run from the practice rooms back to the dorm. It is late. The night is dark and only habit shows you the way. Sometimes in the dorm your friends are chatting together. Sometimes your roommate is working. Sometimes it is so late she is asleep. You fall asleep, exhausted.
Sometimes, when your own work does not consume too many hours, you run to concert halls and hear other students perform their works. At Oberlin there are first class classical and jazz concerts every night. There you can get carried away by the music. For you, the harmonies and instrumental combinations not only soothe, but your mind is charged by analyzing the technical genius of the composition…

Your birthday falls at the end of Spring break and although going home feels special, it can also feel more lonely. Jesi should be there. Your friends… your music… won’t be around you to cushion you from the loss. How will it be, you wonder?

Three years ago, that last birthday you spent together… Jesi was home from hospital between her initial chemotherapy treatment after the cancer returned, gaining strength before she was to return for a bone marrow transplant. Together you celebrated with a pizza party. A small group of school friends splashing ingredients onto the dough you rolled into odd shaped pizzas. Jesi was not well but she laughed it off.

“I guess no pizza for me tonight,” I remember her saying.

You stood next to her at the kitchen bench, your arm around her, a plate of cup cakes and an enormous bowl of fruit in its midst. I remember the happy birthday candle too. I found it in a bucket full of an odd assortment of stuff in an ethnic shop. A plastic flower when lit, the petals unfolded and rotated slowly, shooting silver sparkles out from the flame while it sung “Happy Birthday to You.”

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This year, I tried to make up for the absence…but how ever could I? Yet you did a wonderful job. You invited your closest friends over, just a handful, friends from college who happen to live near by. You bought party hats and paints and birdhouses to decorate. You ate vegan Thai food and we made vegan cake. We stood around the other side of the kitchen counter and sang to you. And your friends gave you some of the most lovingly handmade gifts ever!

And for all of this, Chris also came home from college to help celebrate your birthday.

Posted in birthdays and grieving, loss of one twin, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Turning Hallmark Traditions into something Special with Spirit…Lessons from the other side.

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I didn’t look up when I spoke. The words sort of tumbled out from I don’t know where. “Why don’t you make him one anyway,” I said. My voice was soft, sort of questioning.
“Where would I send it?” she replied.
“I don’t know. Don’t you have an altar. A memorial. Maybe a place where you keep his special things?” I asked.
Then I glanced at her, slightly lifting my head to the right, to where she was sitting next to me at the table, working on her cards. A litter of pink and silver hearts and stickers. Then I saw it. A single tear had formed at the corner of her eye. It was sitting on her eyelid, suspended. I quickly turned away.
“Maybe it’s not the right thing then,” I added. I turned back to my own work. What right had I, I thought. I hardly knew this woman. We had only met that afternoon. We had been chatting while we were making Valentines Cards and over lunch at a mutual friend’s house but I didn’t know her personally. I didn’t even know who the “he” was she had referred to, or who he was to her. I only knew he had passed on a day when the world had shifted politically and that day would ever have his imprint on it.

Like Jesi. Like 9/11 did for me. So I had blurted out what I did to cope with losing my sweet sixteen year old. But the woman sitting beside me didn’t know anything about that. And I didn’t say anything about it either. I just continued making my cards.

But when Valentines Day came around for the third time since Jesi left her body, her card sat on my altar and I know, although I didn’t have any special sense or message from her on the day itself, that she was aware of my love for her.

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Less than three weeks ago I felt her presence strongly in my room just near the altar. It was the first night I spent in my new apartment and I was in that place between wakefulness and sleep. I sensed her dance into the room, light and full of joy. She hovered above me in the space between my bed and her altar. I knew why she had come. She was telling me she was overjoyed for my moving into a place of my own, a small apartment in the woods.
I know not to expect Spirit to visit at my will. I am learning to trust in Jesi’s presence despite not always being able to control or sense it as I might like to. That is the task I have been given and I am embracing it.
Perhaps that has something to do with my blurting out what I did around the crafting table that afternoon…

Posted in remembering and memorials, Spiritual Beliefs, Writing about Loss of a daughter | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Holiday Traditions and Memories.

In the spirit world time does not exist. Everything happens simultaneously. The striking of midnight, signifying the changing of the years, is inconsequential.
So as I sit here thinking about how with each year passing I move further and further away from the time I spent with Jesi on this earth I know that in some respects, time is irrelevant. One day I will join with her again in the spirit world and it will be as if it were yesterday we last met.

Yet we develop rituals, traditions to mark time. And since Jesi has passed to a timeless dimension our family has adopted a number of new ways of ‘celebrating’ or remembering the time she spent with us on earth.
At first I chided myself for all the new and exciting events we planned.
…That first Christmas when we made that extra special attempt to be merry. We drove into Boston’s North End to eat Italian food at Strega before walking down to the harbor and Faneuil Hall and Quincy Markets to look at the Christmas tree and lights. We carried Jesi in our hearts and placed her prayer card on the table as we ate. We never forget she is absent. We are always aware she is present. Never quite enough. … Why didn’t we ever do this when Jesi was with us? I questioned. …There was one easy answer. Alan and I are divorced and divorced families don’t usually do that sort of thing. Even if they celebrate holidays together, they don’t go out to dine, to shows, on vacations.
But the real reason we were making that extra effort was because we were trying to fill the hole that Jesi left in our lives.

Since Jesi passed and even before, when she was ill, we started doing all sorts of those ‘don’t do’s’. I used to feel weird about them. But now I’ve stopped questioning all those things. I’ve also let go of some of the sadness that Jesi is not here to enjoy them with us physically. She is free in the spirit world. Her ‘life’ there is better than I could imagine. And sometimes when I am anxious or alone I remember that I have an angel, a special guardian on the other side watching over me. She watches over all of us. I know that. And that is a rare gift we have.

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Outside Strega, North End

Christmas 2016 we carried on our new found tradition with one addition. My sister and her family from Australia traveled to Boston to experience their first winter Christmas and joined us at Strega. Again we placed Jesi’s prayer card in the center of the table. The crescendo of voices and conversation rose above it. Four young adults joking, four older adults laughing. No one spoke of Jesi until after the meal when Kari approached me and confided she missed her. Jesi had been in my thoughts too. Sometimes in is difficult for company, with the passage of earth time, to remember. Not a day goes past that I don’t think of Jesi and I suspect I am not the only one in that boat though.
When we left to walk to Quincy Market I looked up into the dark starry sky and wondered…Was Jesi there too? Which star was she hiding behind? Did she know I was thinking about her? Did she know how much I still miss seeing her?
….Sometimes I really want to just see her again despite the fact I can still visualize her and imagine the way she walked, laughed and joked around. She possessed such powerful energy even her clothes carry the memory of her inside them.

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Jesi joined us for Christmas Dinner!

New Year 2017 we spent in Stowe Vermont. For many years TRAPP Family Lodge has been a tradition. I remember Jesi telling me the story of when she took her fifty-three inch teddy bear to TRAPP and the bell boy, taking the luggage to their room (this was in the years after Alan and I were divorced; before Jesi got leukemia and I was not part of the vacation) had to carry the enormous bear over his shoulder through the hallways, up to the Maria suite where they were staying. I always picture this scene and think of Jesi when I think about TRAPP.

We did not stay at TRAPP this year but we did visit the Lodge and walk through the hallways and lounges, looking at all the Sound of Music memorabilia hanging on the walls. I thought of the times I had been to TRAPP with Jesi. 2010 when Jesi had just been discharged from Rehab Hospital. We were at TRAPP and Chris and Alan had helped her practice walking up stairs. The neuropathy, a side effect of the chemotherapy she was having, had caused her to lose the strength in her arms and legs for nine months. I remembered our visit in 2012 when Jesi had been determined she would wear suede boots with tall thin heels. I visualized her struggling down the stairs to go to dinner in the restaurant one night. I felt sad as I walked up those same stairs this visit, though I did not share my thoughts with anyone. But Jesi had looked beautiful, dressed in an elegant crimson dress and those boots to match. And she had laughed and been happy regardless.

Jesi’s presence oozes out of all the places she has been. Sometime too much for me to bear.
But here I am, showing my Australian family the places she loved, memories of her percolating, unspoken inside me.


We gave our Aussie family other glimpses of our history too. Kari showed her cousin how to make a snow angel after the almost foot of snow fell over the space of a day and a night. We went cross country skiing (those younger of us) or snowshoeing from TRAPP Lodge, hiking up to Maria’s Chapel where last year I left a note to Jesi wedged between wooden beams supporting the roof. This visit I took my snowshoes off and rang the bell outside the chapel when we arrived. Then I stepped quietly into the small stone church. I placed one of Jesi’s prayer cards below the cross, having no idea how long it would remain there. Someone had cleared the altar of all other ornaments and only two pieces of bark remained. I stood for a moment in silent prayer before turning and glancing up toward the roof. A number of small white scraps of paper, neatly folded, were wedged between the wooden supports. I did not investigate whether mine was one of them before walking back out into the snow and latching the door behind me.

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Looking back into Maria’s Chapel

Jesi came to New Year’s Eve dinner with us too. Her prayer card sitting in the middle of the round table in the restaurant we ate in. She probably spent the night laughing with her siblings and cousins, darting from shoulder to shoulder, glass to glass I imagine. After dinner we all returned to the house we had rented and watched the fireworks at midnight. We have watched those same fireworks many times with Jesi from the balcony at TRAPP Lodge. They are lit from a field below the lodge for the guests who gather to celebrate the New Year.

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Finally, on our return trip to Boston, we stopped in to visit Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. I was hardly in the door before I began thinking about Jesi. She loved cows (not to mention ice cream!!!). As I followed the rest of the tour group up the stairs, the walls painted into green fields with cows grazing peacefully, I was grateful for the visit we had made when Jesi and Kari were toddlers. I imagined how excited Jesi had been then, almost visualizing her little girl self dancing and jumping about, her eyes glowing with delight. I wished she was with us now. She probably was, just that I couldn’t see her face shining with delight this time. She was probably jumping and dancing about all the same though.

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Jesi disguising herself as a cow … She amused herself while in hospital making art out of her photos !

 

Now, as January enters its second week, the Australian family has left for California, continuing their holiday on their way back home. Kari is in Oslo, studying music for three weeks and the house is quiet(er) again. Sometimes it feels lonely without the fullness of bodies and kids. (Chris is just back from an overnight with friends so there is the potential for friends to tumble in!) But I can always depend on Jesi. She may not be here in ‘body’ but she is in Spirit. And she is with my Australian family in California, and Kari in Norway. Watching over us all and keeping us safe.

Posted in Celebrating the Holidays after Loss of a Child, Divorced Family Celebrating Together, Love and Loss, Memories and Revisiting Places after Losing a Child, Mother's Healing Journey after Loss, Writing about Grief | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Christmas Memories, Jesi and the love of Mimi.

Five days before Christmas marked the fourth anniversary of Mimi’s arrival into our family. I still remember as if it was yesterday; the day we rescued her from the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

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Mimi in 2012 waiting to be adopted

Three weeks prior to signing her adoption papers and bringing her home Jesi and I had driven into the ARL so I could be assigned my volunteer working hours. After the assignment I remember sitting on the stone steps outside the Rescue and watching one of the adoption agents bring a scraggly looking shih tzu out to pee.
“What do you think of that little dog, Jesi?” I asked.

I had a history with shih tzu’s, having owned five; Mr Fu, Ming Ki, Douglas, Chili and Spunkee Monkee. We had lost our previous dog, a Pomeranian a “rescue” to a weird metabolic disorder six months earlier. We were ready to have a new four pawed member of the household.

“Hmm, I don’t know,” Jesi hesitated.
“Let’s go over and say hello,” I suggested.

Mimi was hesitant when I put my hand out in front of her nose. She was very subdued. She had just been surrendered by the second family who had owned her. She was said to be nine years old. She was thin and her coat was matted and oily, a sign of poor nutrition.

For the next three weeks when I volunteered at the rescue I spent a lot of time getting to know Mimi and I decided to adopt her. It was going to be a surprise for the kids.

 

On Thursday 20th December 2012 I pulled up outside the back entrance of Jesi’s high school at to pick her up. I was beaming. When Jesi hopped in the front seat I couldn’t contain myself.
“I have a surprise,” (I’m sure it was written all over my face.)
Jesi, her usual upbeat self, bounced around happily. I turned and nodded toward the back seat where Mimi was sitting impatiently. I reached over and picked her up and handed her to Jesi.
Jesi’s face lit up into one big 0 !!!!

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“IS SHE OURS? TO KEEP? …. FOREVER?” she exclaimed.

At that time I remember thinking “forever” was a funny choice of word. But since then, I guess I have learnt that forever is a relative term and maybe wasn’t so strange a choice.

 

When Mimi came to us Jesi was in remission from her first “bout” of leukemia. She was still going to PT and OT and having numerous check-ups in the Jimmy Fund, but for the most part she was well. Because she loved spending time at home when the other kids were out with friends (and maybe because she never had as much energy to go out as they did) she and Mimi became very close. Jesi was always the more animal focused of the kids too so she loved cuddling with her and taking her for walks when she could.

Sometimes Jesi and I would spar over Mimi.
“She’s my dog,” I would say, remembering how I spent those first days in at the Rescue getting to know her.
“No, she’s mine,” Jesi would reply impishly.
“She’s mine,” I’d respond stubbornly.
And it would go on… Neither one of us willing to let go.

Sometimes these days I feel really guilty about so stubbornly holding on to Mimi when I could have graciously allowed Jesi the joy of feeling more closely connected to her.

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Jesi on September 11 2013, a year before she passed, holding Mimi.

During the final week of Jesi’s hospital stay in the ICU in September 2014, when we knew she wasn’t going to get better we were given permission to have Mimi visit her in hospital. It was my therapist who undertook to drive back home and pick Mimi up, wrap her in a blanket and smuggle her past the security guards at the entrance to the hospital, up in the elevators and past the security at the entrance to the ICU. Although the ICU Nurse Manager had given permission for Mimi’s visit, her visit was not generally known in the unit itself. Mimi performed her role beautifully. She was quiet throughout the entire visit. I held her at the head of Jesi’s bed and spoke softly to Jesi.
“Mimi’s here Jesi. She misses you and wants to give you kisses.”
As Jesi was unconscious and on a ventilator with tubes and IV lines and drips hanging all around her it was difficult to get close enough to have Mimi’s soft hair touch her bare skin. I persevered, all the time feeling the sadness of the situation.
“Jesi, Mimi’s here,” I repeated.
Mimi, confused and apprehensive at the strange environment she had been bought into looked at me plaintively. I was torn between trying to comfort her, knowing she was confused and anxious herself, and wanting her to sniff and snuggle up to Jesi. But it was too difficult. After a while we decided it was time to take her home. I never knew whether Jesi understood Mimi had visited. But Mimi and the three cats did get the opportunity to see Jesi again. A week or so later we made the decision to take Jesi home where she passed away in her own bedroom.

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Now, over two years later Mimi is my dog. But I know it is not forever. Mimi is, as my vet tells me, “an ancient dog.” Probably more like sixteen years old, not the thirteen (nine years old plus four years since we bought her home). Mimi has a chronic fibrotic lung condition and tracheal collapse, and although she keeps toddling along in her sweet and self absorbed way (as older dogs slightly deaf and sight impaired do), I know that one day in the not too far off future, Mimi will go to Jesi.

And when that time comes Jesi will be there to receive her. Ands will take the best care of her that anyone ever would.

Posted in Losing a Child, Pets as therapy for sick children, Writing about Grief | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Trees and Angels and Believing

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The day I learnt the Magnificent Redwood Tree in Prouty Garden had been taken to with saws and axes in the first stages of the destruction of the healing space at Childrens Hospital Boston; the place where Jesi, conscious and laughing and chatting in her wheelchair inhaled her last breaths of fresh air, (August 2014) where she watched the squirrels play, felt the silky soft petals of roses and smelt the aroma of summer: On that same day, the last remaining lights of her Christmas tree which has stood in her bedroom through all the seasons of all the years since that first Christmas without her, extinguished completely, leaving her room that night in total darkness.
When I passed by the black empty space of her doorway and it occurred to me why there was no light shining from within, I was not surprised.

 

I cried when I heard about the tree in Prouty Garden. I imagine Jesi did too. If spirit children cry. Perhaps that is why it rained and snowed on Monday, the day they took to the tree with saws and axes, (I imagine, for I was told it was blocked from public view.) Perhaps that is why the sky that day sobbed, all those angels in heaven weeping for that tree which had given their-suffering-sick-child-bodies hope that they would, that they could reach for something beyond the illnesses that ravaged their bodies. That if a tree could grow so magnificent in the midst of city buildings and city streets with all the noise and commotion buzzing around it, they too could heal from pain and suffering. But the tree could not survive the illness either. This past week it lost its arms and legs. I wonder where those lost limbs lie now and who will grieve their passing.

Jesi has been close to me this week. She understands. When I arrived at Walden Pond to walk on Friday afternoon she blew in on a gust of cold wind, across the pond from the south west. I got this sudden sense of her completely unexpected. She knew that last week when I was there I was thinking about her and about Prouty Garden and the tree. {If you wish to read the blog post, or see a couple of photos of Jesi in the garden click here. She was letting me know she was with me again as I wandered amongst the trees this past Friday.

She was with me last Sunday when I went in search of a special ornament to hang on what would be a new Christmas tree in our house this year.
Knowing Jesi’s special tree was losing its light, Alan and I decided to buy something new for Christmas to honor Jesi’s presence within our family.
“I have no idea what I’m looking for” I told Alan as we drove to the local Christmas shop. “But I’ll know it when I see it.”

When I found it I had already spent about fifteen minutes scanning the hundreds of ornaments dangling from trees, sitting in baskets and displayed on tables as I navigated my way around the store. I was beginning to lose hope that there was anything that would feel right at all. Alan who had headed off in another direction appeared with a long candle holder decorated with birds.
For the table,” he announced.
It was pretty, but it wasn’t the Jesi ornament. We began talking and as we did I continued to scan a basket to my left, but I knew I was distracted. After he wandered off I thought about how mindless I had been looking at its contents. So I walked over and peered down at the gold and silver foil ornaments it held. Then I saw her.

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I picked her up and held her in my hands for a couple of minutes turning her over and lying her inside my palms. She was perfect. She had Jesi’s youthful energy and her lightness of spirit. I must have stood there holding her, looking down at her for a couple of minutes. The once busy store seemed to have emptied of people. Except for one person, a short dark haired woman who walked purposely past me toward the front of the store. As she passed me said
“That’s my favorite piece in the whole store.”
I looked up and replied. “Yes, I am sort of taken by it too.” But she had continued on her way. Then she disappeared.
When I found Alan I told him I had what I had come for and showed him my angel. We headed toward the cashier to purchase it and the other ornaments we had collected along the way.

It wasn’t until the following day that I was able to put the last piece of the puzzle about the angel together completely. During a meditation while I was contemplating fulfillment the image of Jesi’s face appeared as she had appeared to me many times in the past …. During many swims across Walden pond in the summer of 2014 while she lay in her hospital bed I would visualize her face as serene as the Buddha’s and next to the Buddha face itself. No, no I would cry into the waves and the water. Please don’t take her from me. For that was before she passed into spirit. Those were the times I would touch some knowing inside me that I could not bear to let myself know. Now, in my meditation her Buddha face appeared again. I had no fear of it now though, for when she did pass in September 2014 and I lay next to her lifeless body on her bed, hers became that same Buddha face. Serene and beautiful with pale soft skin and only hair like peach fuzz framing her face. But this time, next to her Buddha face the young angel girl skipped and danced and sparkled merrily. And I heard Jesi whispering. I’m here mama. I’m still here. I’m with you.

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And I knew that was what Jesi had come back to tell me.

Posted in angels, Mother's Healing Journey after Loss, Prouty Garden Childrens Hospital Boston, Spiritual Beliefs, Writing about Grief | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Family Weekend for Kari … How Jesi makes her presence felt!

Online registration for Family Weekend at Oberlin College is frustrating. Even the woman on the other end of the phone, an Oberlin employee who I have called for assistance keeps reminding me so, although the knot in the base of my skull is reminder enough. It is the second time I have run through the series of “next” buttons to move through the pages, filling in the required pieces of information. I am back to entering the names of the family members who will be attending the President’s Breakfast on Sunday morning. This time there is a gitch in the system. “It’s never happened before” she reports as she walks me through each step. As Family weekend is only two days away and we are a late registration I assume my contact has been through this a number of times. “Oh, quite a number,” she assures me, with a certain rattled disquiet in her voice.

I enter myself first, then Alan and then Chris, who is flying from Philli to meet us to spend Saturday afternoon and Sunday visiting Kari at her new college “home.” I do not have to add Kari, yet I sit poised on the edge of the keyboard at the next empty box, my tongue at the tip of my mouth. I am about to say, “Then there’s Jesi. She doesn’t need a seat, but she’ll be there,” before I stop myself.

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When Alan and I drive into Oberlin on Friday afternoon the sun illuminates the square in the middle of the college campus casting a blaze of orange and golden light through the autumnal trees and throwing long shadows over the grass and walkways between them. A handful of students meander along paths or relax on the grass, in the pavilion or lean against sculptures scattered throughout the lawn. There is a gentle, almost inaudible murmur rising from the square above which the sound of cars passing on the road can be heard. Alan and I wait outside Kari’s dorm for her to appear. I remember how anxious I felt leaving her here only two months ago. How would she like it? Would she be homesick? When she appears I realize how different I feel as I sense her commanding her environment, casually greeting the other students we pass in a relaxed friendly manner. She offers to show us around. We head for the town to buy lunch and then to the rooftop garden of the Conservatory to eat.

Once on the rooftop Kari shows Alan and I her newest tattoo. A couple of weeks ago she had two inverted hands, and the word “beloved” written below them, etched into the skin of her left forearm. I did not have to ask what it signified when Kari first told me about it. I had my own memories of hands.

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They say time heals. Perhaps even with death, there is an element of truth in this. Or perhaps time blunts the memory and it is this which allows one to revisit the cavern of despair without despairing completely. So on the rooftop garden of the conservatory on the sunny Friday afternoon I told Alan and Kari the story of how, on the evening I said good bye to Jesi, the evening before she lapsed into unconsciousness, her hands and my hands connected in a most unspeakable manner; communicating SIMPLY EVERYTHING through touch. I go back into that place now and I know what love is. Her hands touching mine. Her skin gently brushing my skin along my inner forearm, around my wrist. My fingers around hers, hers around mine. Running circles, stroking up and down, cupping her hands, placing my hands in her hands. On and on it went. Magnetizing. Rooting me to the place I was standing next to her bed, unable to leave her side. Unable to tear myself away. Unknowing of what lay in store. That this was the final goodbye. That the next time I would be with her, her brain would be locked inside an unresponsive body. That this would be the end of understanding, until we meet on the other side. Time had blunted that memory. Until I chose to open the door to it again, and share it with Alan and Kari on the rooftop of Oberlin Conservatory.

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The following afternoon we drive to the airport to pick up Chris. As we are driving away from the airport Kari announces “Now we are all here together again. It’s been ages since we’ve all been together. And Jesi’s here too.” I don’t say anything. Kari and I instinctively thinking the same thing.

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Back at the Conservatory Kari makes a bee line for the Timara Lab to show us where she has been learning to synthesize electronic music. Whereas I am feeling lost in a sea of black boxes and shiny silver knobs, Chris immediately understands what all the equipment is and does. Alan notices Kari has a file of her work on the computer.

“Can we hear some of your work?” he asks.

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A month or so ago Kari told me she was working on a piece for her Timara (Technology in Music and Related Arts) class using Jesi’s laughter, Jesi and her talking, Jesi coughing and the ventilator to construct a piece. I remember feeling both protective of her and that she was incredibly courageous to use such raw material to both work with and present in front of her classmates, especially when she said, “I feel like an outsider in this creative community mum. I’m just so different from the other composers and sometimes I feel really challenged because of it.” Then about a week later she called again, really upset. The peer critique of her work had been negative and hurtful.
She got a 100 % grade on the work.
“You sure you want to hear it,” Kari replied to Alan’s request. “It’s hard to listen to. It might make you sad.”
“I want to,” I replied. “What about you Alan?” Alan nodded. “Chris?” Chris nodded also.

Kari’s piece is striking in that it is initially lighthearted and gay, with laughter and talking and bird-like song which she produces by playing the Theramin (an instrument played, without touch, by manipulating sound waves) only to end with the deep somber sounds of the ventilator, drowning out all other “voices.” She does this to indicate how every action carries so much weight with it, and that things inevitably change through time. She uses repetition to build tension. She also develops themes, for instance, occasional coughing evolves into gasping for air and the repetitive narrative “Kari you’re going to kill me” (Jesi says this as Kari is making her laugh so much, yet the sound of her laughter also could be construed as crying), and the eventual plunge into the dark sound made by the ventilator. The narrative ends; consumed by the sound of birds going awry (the Theramin) and the ventilator, initially in the background becoming louder and louder until it overtakes all other sound, drowning out the entire sound set until the piece plummets into an eerie darkness. Kari is showing us that joy and pain (like love and hate) are in reality closely linked to each other.

I am stunned… I think of how must have been for Kari to be down in the Timara lab late at night recording that work until she got it the way she wanted it. And then walking back to her dorm and trying to go to sleep before she had to get up for 8.30 am lectures the following morning.

Stunning.

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Sunday morning; before Chris and Alan and I pack up and return to Philli and Boston respectively, Kari takes us on one of her favorite nature walks to the Arboretum. It is another warm and sunny morning, just the sort of lazy Sunday when walking on a dirt track around a pond, watching the changing perspective of colored leaves reflected in the water (itself the color of the sky) reminds me that despite everything happening in the world, there is good and we are in the midst of it.

Chris also reminds me of this when we come upon a piece of fishing line with both sinker and hooks attached. It has been carelessly thrown aside on the earth. “Some poor creature might get caught up in that,” he announces, before he scales a nearby tree and lodges the hook firmly in its trunk with the line wrapped so tightly to it so nothing can get caught up in it.
We continue on our walk in single file along the narrow path. I walk last, content to meander and listen to the birds and gentle buzzing sounds from the grasses, and gaze into the pond watching the water insects flit along the surface, (and of course, take photos.)
Since our walk on September 11 at World’s End where we spent Jesi’s second anniversary walking in the woods, I feel that even without words there is some special connection happening as we wander and stop to gaze at the pond, Kari pointing out her favorite spots, the rope swing where she swims, the place where the dogs gather and plunge in, her running track… And although there are no words spoken about the missing member of our family, I know we all share thoughts of Jesi and she is there too. I can feel that something special in the air. Something that makes the morning whole and fulfilling.


Then we get back in the car we set out on a long drive through the Ohio countryside. We have our lunch with Kari and one of her friends, visit the local museum and the cat rescue to cuddle some kittens before we head to the airport to fly home.

Posted in College Freshman after Loss of Twin Sister to Cancer, Divorced Family coping with Loss of a Teenager, Spiritual Beliefs, Using Music as an Agent for Healing after Losing a Twin, Writing | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Tuning into Jesi

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I am lying on a yoga mat listening to the instructor’s voice. She is telling me to breathe into my belly, to feel it expand. I rest my right hand on my chest and feel the swell of it under my palm as my breath pushes upward and my ribs expand. I feel my belly and ribs fall again as the breath leaves my body.
My left hand is lying flat across the mid line my chest. I am completely in the moment of this rise and falling motion, lying on a yoga mat in the movement studio at OMEGA, holistic educational center in Rhinebeck NY. It is my first evening here. I have come to attend a five day workshop with James Van Praagh which is to begin the following day. But for now I am moving into the stillness of the evening not thinking about the workshop, or what might happen this year: remembering that last year, James, a world renowned spiritual medium bought Jesi through to me and told me how joyful and happy she was in her spirit existence, caring for the horses that had recently passed from this world into the next dimension.

I am not thinking about any of this, but just rejoicing in the peace I am feeling, the steady rising and falling of my chest. Until suddenly I am jolted by a sensation I had not expected. The breath is leaving my body. My hand is on my chest. All the breath has been expelled from it and there is an instant of complete stillness. And in that instant there is a searing sensation, a knowing beyond all doubt. Whether it is a feeling in my body or a knowing in my mind I cannot distinguish. But I absolutely know what it is. It is the moment of Jesi’s passing and it is happening in my chest and under my hand where my heart and her heart are suddenly one. I am sensing the moment her heart came to a standstill. I am jolted into this awareness yet simultaneously I understand that this is not her heart, but my heart, that this is not her death, but my life.

This is a message from her that she is present with me, and she will be with me this week.

I breathe in deeply feeling my chest and heart expand beneath my hand. And as with all the sudden appearances of Jesi’s spirit, I want that moment to come again. And again. But it doesn’t, so I relive it in my mind while the instructor’s voice recedes into the background.

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Three days later I walk into the group to begin the morning session of the workshop. I am not wearing my usual black jeans and layering of tee shirts and sweaters. I am wearing a long brown skirt and a green shirt with swirls of brown and gold sparkles and I have thrown a flowing green scarf with silver threads woven through it over my shoulders that reaches down past my waist. When I enter James looks up and I sense he notices the change in me. Today I have vowed I will share my experience of Jesi’s visit and her presence with the group. During the morning discussion of experiences from the previous day (or days) I raise my hand asking for the microphone. I find it difficult to speak in front of groups. (The times I have, such as after Jesi passed away and I spoke in front of hundreds of people at the Light the Night walk for Leukemia, I knew I was the only the conduit for some light greater than myself to speak through me. The words that came out of my mouth flowed effortlessly and spontaneously. I still have no idea how or what happened that night under the stars and in front of all those lights. But I’m sure Jesi’s spirit was somehow responsible.) Surely, I think, Jesi is with me now. I nervously roll the mic between one palm and the other while waiting for the previous speaker to finish, desperately trying to focus on what they are saying and on the ensuing conversation, not on my own partly rehearsed script. When it comes to my turn, I put the mic to my lips and begin by telling of my experience in the relaxation class on the evening I arrived at OMEGA. And how I knew beyond a doubt that it was Jesi.

“I was both startled, felt a pang of the loss of her, but mostly I knew that she sending me the message that she was with me this week,” I told the group.
Then I continued, “Last year at this workshop, you did a reading of my daughter, James. You showed me how light and free and happy she is in the spirit world. I went home from the week feeling so much better than when I arrived. Like my spirit had been lifted in knowing Jesi’s spirit was happy….
Yesterday in one of our partner exercises Jesi came through again, and my partner who sensed her also felt her light and joyful spirit. She described her as impish and playful. A perfect description of Jesi. I’ve been in the doldrums this past summer. Going through a real period of grieving Jesi as her twin sister prepared and left for college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to get out of coming here this year. I came without any expectations. All I knew was that I needed a kick start to get me back on track. I had forgotten that Jesi is light and energy and full of joy in her real home in the spirit world, I have been so wrapped up in my own loss. Being reminded not only that Jesi is full of light and free from pain but that she is really here with me… only not physically… is just what I needed to be reminded of. I can be sad at my loss of her physical presence but happy at her being free from pain.”
Then I handed the microphone back for the next person to speak.

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Later that morning, at the break one of the other members of the group came up to me and thanked me for sharing my story. She told me how she could sense my light as well as my grief, and how she appreciated that. I remember thinking Wow, I never realized I would be giving others a gift by speaking up. My partner from the previous day’s reading who had bought Jesi through also thanked me for sharing the story and validating her experience too.

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On the final morning of the workshop I also received a wonderful gift.
We were working in groups of five doing speed mediumship readings. I was sitting on the end of a row, this time a “client” being read by each of five “mediums” sitting across from me. James was circling the room checking with us as we worked. He came over to me and my partner and knelt beside us.
“How are you going?” he asked.
“Good,” I replied. My partner was bringing through my father.
“You’ve lost a child,” James said nodding at me. “A boy?”
“No, a daughter” I replied.
“She’s here.”
Then he turned to my partner, the medium and said. “Her energy is strong. Very loving. See if you can pick up the love.”
At that point my heart started to open up. It was as if it were a pair of lips that having an allergic. I could feel it swelling up inside me.
“I can,” I replied.
“You got it?” James was asking my partner. “That’s you’re way in. Just let yourself feel her love.”
My partner then was able to pick up on Jesi and give me a message from her. So like Jesi too, to remind me to take care of myself, to trust my instincts and believe in myself!

Then James stood up and walked off to another group. And as he did, I looked up. He gave me a nod and smiled ever so slightly. He put his hand to his mouth and pointed one finger upward to the sky. I couldn’t quite read what it meant. But it was an affirmation. And it was about Jesi.
And it sent me over the moon and into the heavens to her.

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Posted in Dealing with Loss, James Van Praagh, Mother's Healing Journey after Loss, Photographs, Spirituality and Beliefs, Writing, Writing about Loss of a daughter | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Walking in the Light

Six years ago we sat in the lounge room at Alan’s house, the floor scattered with inflated balloons. We were all there; Kari, Chris, Jesi, Alan, the dog sleeping among the debris of paper and streamers and marker pens. Even the cats were prowling around, suspiciously  eyeing the odd shaped balls, light enough for them to push with their tails, transparent enough for them to see through. There were others gathered in the lounge room too, school friends and soccer friends. And a crescendo of excited chatter and laughter.

Yet I did not feel festive. I was worried. Jesi was sitting in the middle of the room  in her wheelchair, sick with a heavy head cold. It was windy and cool outside. And the air had a crisp bite to it, a reminder that is was Fall. It was mid afternoon and the sun and the blue sky promised some warmth, yet the early arrival of darkness would squelch that soon enough.

Alan and I were discussing whether it was safe for Jesi to do the three mile route around Lake Quannapowitt in her wheelchair.

This was the first year of Teamjesi at the Wakefield Light the Night walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

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Jesi was adamant she would do it, so we compromised. It was so tough to deprive her of the joys of being a kid, when only three months earlier she had been on the soccer field with these same friends, kicking balls and running laps up and down its length. But now, bundled in blankets so high she could hardly see, wrapped in so many rounds of scarfs she could hardly breathe, with a beanie on her bald head, gloves masking her emaciated and weakened hands, and layered in socks over her boney feet and wearing thick baggy sweats, we pushed  her into the van to drive her to Wakefield.

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Today, those same friends have grown six years older. Perhaps some of them have joined freshman soccer teams at college. All of them have left town for colleges in different towns, in different states. They have scattered across the country, perhaps some even across the world. Only Alan and I and the prowling cats remain to pace the floors, while the dog sleeps her fifteen years away on the lounge. And at Wakefield tonight, only a handful of adult friends carry the banner for Teamjesi in the LLS walk.

What is important tonight, though, is not numbers (though Teamjesi has raised over $3000 this year) but what we represent. Not only Jesi’s spirit, she, who happily wanted for others what she couldn’t have for herself, health and the chance to live a full life, but the spirit of the team itself.
Teamjesi came into being six years ago when Jesi’s soccer friend Talia Ruxin created the team. When she left for college in Connecticut last September Talia was concerned how Teamjesi would survive her departure, but as soon as she heard Alan and I were interested in walking she (and her mom) set about registering the team again this year.

There are other Light the Night walks throughout the States where Jesi will also be remembered. A few weeks ago I received FB message from another of Jesi’s old soccer friends. Lucy told me she had signed up to do the walk in Madison Wisconsin. It seems that rather than Jesi’s light diminishing, her spirit is being spread even further afield.

So whatever the weather, however many feet tread the familiar path around the lake tonight or around however many other lakes or paths in the coming weeks, Jesi’s spirit and that of her team will live beyond us all, warming us and keeping us striving for the light.

 

If you would like to donate to TEAMJESI 2016, visit

http://pages.lightthenight.org/ma/Wakefld16/TeamJesi

Posted in In Memory of a Teenager who died of Cancer, Leukemia and Lymphoma society Light the Night Walk, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Jesi Memorial on 9/11

 

For the days leading up to this, the second anniversary of Jesi’s passing, I have felt a wash of emotions. Sitting in yogic pose on the edge of the pond three days ago, I remember the unthinking comment of a friend some weeks back. “I suppose you’ve moved on.” She said this as we spoke of the opening comments of the Senior Class Captain of Lexington High School’s speech at the graduation ceremony last May. “Someone should be here with us today. One of us is missing from our group.” Moved on? My jaw dropped.

I have wondered about that phrase a hundred times since that afternoon. How does one? How could one … move on? Would one ever really want to? And yet one has to. When the friend said those words to me, I have to admit, I was so taken aback, all I could think to say was… “You have to keep living.”

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Today, on the second anniversary of Jesi’s passing, I return to the pond. This time with Alan and Kari and Chris. We are on a mission. I have been frantic to get us there. All three weather apps on my phone predict thunder around 11 am.
We will each scatter some ashes. Alan and Chris and Kari from the shore and I have taped a plastic bag to my belly and slipped a small silver box down the front of my swimsuit. I want to swim into the middle of the pond, to somewhere near the deepest part and let go of them. For days, since this idea came to me I have been thinking how best to make sure I can safely transport them. What tape would be strong enough? Where on my body would they be protected? I wake this morning still pondering this question. It was that day after I finished my stretches and was swimming that I asked Jesi how she wanted us to rememberer her. “What do you want us to do on your anniversary this year Jesi?” Then, almost asleep the idea came to me. Jesi must have wanted it. Sprinkle ashes in the pond. Then she would be always be here swimming with me.

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As we arrive at the beach, the light cloud cover swells a deep blue stain before turning a menacing grey. It brings with it a stampede of water which tramples the pond like thunderous hooves, galloping from the cove in the east to the boat ramp in the west. The wind whips the water back towards us so that it is almost impossible to face it. We stand huddled together under a cluster of trees, mesmerized by the force of the wind and the rain.

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“I feel like this weather happening now is some sort of a message,” Kari is the first to speak. I nod my agreement, deliberating whether the lightning, now only 12 miles away (shown on one of my phone apps) is going to cause us to abort the planned swimming aspect of our ceremony.
But as fast as the hooves have galloped across the pond they seem to have taken with them the dark stain that covered the world, and the winds ferocious gusts quiet. A second weather app suggests I have 23 minutes until the thunderstorm will arrive.
“Do you think you can get to that point in 23 minutes?” Chris asks.

It seems like a ‘now or never’ situation and I think of the planning that I have put into this, not to mention the desire to carry through on wanting this to happen today, on the second anniversary of Jesi’s passing, with Chris and Kari are both back from college, and the fact that we don’t have time to wait around until the storm passes. They both have to return this afternoon.
“Let’s do it then,” I reply.

I grab by swim cap, ear plugs and nose clip. Alan offers to carry my bag. We plan to meet at the other end of the pond, somewhere short of the cove. They will keep me in sight and if the sky looks ominous will wave their arms to attract my attention. I will keep an eye out for them and stay close to the shore.
I plunge in. The water is surprisingly warm. Because the wind is whipping it up in swirls all around me it is not possible to lie flat along the surface. I feel like a surf life saver, torso angled up with my head pointed forward like the bow of a boat. I come up for a breath and forget to submerge my head and find myself face to face with a wall of water. For a split second I panic, but I do not have time to lose control. I have to keep swimming. All the time I am watching the sky. It seems to be clearing. I start thinking about why I am here, which in my near panic I had almost forgotten. I begin to talk to Jesi. I tell her what I want to do. That I want to her to be in the pond with me always. I thank her for telling me she wanted this too. I make a slight curve so I am heading toward the center of the pond. The sky is clearing. The wind is dropping and the water is calming. I am finding a rhythm in my stroke. I feel rested and peaceful. I remember the plastic bag taped to my belly and the small box which I feel slide under my bathing suit. I continue until I am in the middle of the pond where I stop and tread water. I look across to the shore, just short of the cove and see two figures. I think it is Kari and Chris. Later I learn it is Alan who is with Kari. Chris has walked a little further on.

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First I reach into my suit and find the small box. I had not thought how I would do this. I guess I had imagined I would just drop it. But when I pull it out, something very different happens. I turn to face Kari. I hold it up. Then I imagine the sun, which is now glinting through a hole in the clouded sky, will catch the light and reflect it. I wave it back and forth a couple of times as high as I can. I am laughing. I fling it up into the air. And I watch it, as it rises up, stops for a split second and then falls, down through the air and through the surface of the water with a splash. I tread water and watch it fall, feeling exhilarated and finding some sort of joy which I had not anticipated.

When I turn around and look at the sky. The sun has emerged. The sky over the boat ramp is a pale powder blue. White puffs of cloud drift across it. Now I am sure there is something larger than me orchestrating this event.

Next I reach into my swim suit and start tearing at the tape. I wonder why I was so worried about the tape not holding. I feel like I am pulling my skin off as I attempt to pull the plastic bag off. Eventually though, I get it free. Then I pry it open and reach into it. Little by little, as I float on my back kicking, I disperse ashes into the water. I hold them between my fingers and thumbs. I feel their softness even as they are sodden with water. I rub my fingers together after I have let them go. I think of Jesi’s young soft skin. I take some in my left hand. Then some in my right. I feel the same joy. I FEEL THE SAME JOY. Suddenly I remember over a year ago, in Birdwood Gully, Springwood Australia, sprinkling Jesi’s ashes when our family took her back to the place she had visited in her physical body two year before that. I felt joy then too. WHY IS IT THAT THIS BRINGS SUCH JOY, I wonder. But I do not wonder long. I look up at the sky and it is darkening again. This time over the cove where Kari and Chris and Alan are walking. So I quickly disperse the last of the ashes, replace the empty plastic bag under my swimsuit and turn back on my belly and swim over to the shore to join them.

Posted in Anniversary of Death of Child, Divorced Family coping with Loss of a Teenager, Grief and Loss, Memorials and Remembering, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments