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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.