March 19, 2011

Two Years Ago Today

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:07 am by jlp412

Two years ago today, Trisha was taken. Away. Abruptly. I’ve been living in DC for nearly four years, been out of college just as long. Trisha’s been gone for half of my post-college life. She wasn’t here when I switched jobs, took my first trip out of the country, stumbled into amusing would-be romances and made new friends as a 20-something quasi professional. And none of us were there to see her get her MPH, find her own footing as a 20-something scholar, world-shaker and public servant. She was simply taken too soon.

I remember so many vivid snapshots from the day Trisha died, but one that sticks with me the most was what a colleague said to me, innocently, without malicious intent, when I returned to work in a haze from Trisha’s funeral in Atlanta, trying to resume some semblance of normal at the office. “Is this your first?” “First what?” “First friend who died.” “Um…yes.” “The first one is really hard.” As if Trisha was a statistic, the first in a future line of losses yet unseen, unfelt. As if this happened to other people – like my former colleague – all the time. As if swallowing down this initial loss would help mute my palette for future losses. As if losing Trisha, the whole of her, all of her, was just the beginning. I remember being so struck by that, the dehumanization of her, unable to imagine experiencing the too-soon loss of anyone else ever again.

Trisha was one of the most alive people I’ve ever known. Present. Aware. In touch. She listened. She didn’t just smile – she radiated this kind of constant awe, amusement, spunk. Trisha could unwind even the most uptight ones of us, shake us out of our temporary stresses and convince us to just take a moment to be silly. To be young. To lie in bed in our sweatpants singing terrible pop songs. To walk down to the lakefill at NU in the middle of a snowstorm. To take a wild detour with one of the wackiest real estate agents in all of DC, ending the adventure with some french fries and a margarita. I miss that. I miss her.

Not that Trisha wasn’t smart. She propelled straight from college into an intense consulting job,  and straight from there into a Rotary scholarship and what would have been international graduate study and service. Somehow, even though most of my memories of her from college were doing anything but studying, she managed to do a lot of it, and thoughtfully. She just never got caught up in the frenzy of over-analysis like the rest of us, the pontifications about what would come next and what it would mean. She just lived, with her own light, her own purpose.

After she died, it became even more clear just how many people she touched, and how deeply she touched me. I was filled with this wave of regret – for not telling her enough how much she meant to me while she was here, for not spending longer with her in that Starbucks on M street, rushing instead to return to finish some stupid project I can’t even remember. For not getting the chance to continue growing our friendship with our age. For not thinking to call or text her one minute or one second before her car veered off the road and ended her life. For not doing enough to save her, somehow, from her fate.

She has a nephew now. A nephew who, from his photographs and from the gushing firsthand accounts of his grandparents and mother, seems to share Trisha’s spark. He has her light in his eyes, and I hope he keeps it there for good. He will never get to meet his aunt Trisha, but I have to believe that it’s not just my eyes seeing what they want to see, and that somewhere, buried deep inside his tiny being, a piece of Trisha’s heart is beating. That, I believe.

Two years ago today, a tragedy no amount of words can reconcile took Trisha away. So what now? How much more do I write until I come to some sort of resolution, some way of coping? I don’t want to give this day any power – it’s the day that took her, not the day that brought her into the world, or the day for which I have a specific Trisha memory to lighten my load when I buckle down with the weight of missing her. But yet, this day is here. And two years ago, it changed everything. For all of us. So.

Tomorrow, I’ll go for a run, and I’ll sit in a quiet place and I’ll remember her. Give thanks for knowing her. Let my mind linger for an extra minute on her smile, what her voice sounded like, how she used to say my name, what my favorite Trisha story is, and how it ended. Because it wasn’t supposed to end like this. With me sitting on a rock in some peaceful sculptural garden in DC, missing my friend who died before she turned 24.

So hers is now our tale to tell. Her story lives inside all of us. We may not know what our words will form until we spew them out in a moment of longing, but they will eventually weave a rich fabric of her life and of her legacy.

So today, two years after she left us, we give thanks for knowing her. And we remember.

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January 22, 2011

I Still Feel Trisha

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:51 pm by jlp412

I still do double-takes, on the subway or on an escalator in the mall or at a Caribou Coffee downtown, when I think I see Trisha in the form of an 8 year-old girl clutching her father’s hand or a college student wearing an oversized red hoodie or a young woman in a suit walking briskly across the street as the seconds count down and the orange hand flashes its warning.

But I have to think harder now, about her face, her smile, the sound of her voice, to really remember them. I know what she meant to me, but it washes over me in this mesh of feelings, and it gets confused sometimes with just missing her, or feeling like I should be missing her, when I’m mid-laugh or mid-sleep or mid-run and suddenly gasp as I realize that I was not thinking about Trisha during moments when maybe a year ago, I would have been. And then my mind races with even more tangled thoughts about the guilt of that, and of writing here less, and of feeling the need to actively affirm that I remember – not just what Trisha meant to me, but how her death changed me, the lessons it taught me, the people who matter more to me, the ways I’m different now, and the part she played in that transformation.

I struggle constantly with this need to find the tangible traces of Trisha against the reality of her nearly two-year absence from this earth, which is, simply, less tangible. But sometimes this seeming evasiveness can make her feel even more present, like when I took my first trip out of the country, to Israel, in December.

I had this amazing moment at the Western Wall, where I stood with the palms of my hands touching the white, uneven stones of a 6,000 year old wall that towered up toward the sky and brimmed over with the paper notes and prayers of so many people, some long gone by now, some with long lives still ahead, and I felt Trisha there, taking it all in with me. Did I have a specific moment where I saw some sort of sign that reminded me of her, or felt a breeze that seemed to be her spirit brushing by, or saw her face suddenly among the hundreds of women praying there beside me? No. But I felt her tapestry wrapped around my shoulders, as I stood in one of the holiest places in the world, the farthest I’ve ever been from home, and the closest I’ve ever felt to Trisha since she died.

So although I may not have as many moments as I did last year where flashes of her swoop through my thoughts’ path and jar me out of whatever I’m doing, and while I may have less nightmares of her accident or funeral or exaggerated, reinvented versions of both, although some days she may seem to drift farther and farther away at the rate that time propels us more and more forward, I still feel Trisha. I can’t describe it as vividly as I did nearly two years ago when she was freshly plucked away from us, but I think that’s okay. The way I feel Trisha today may be trickier to fit into words and may be harder to isolate into specific moments than it was when we first lost her, but I still feel her.

We ran our second half marathon in her honor last year, and we’ll run one again this year. She now has an adorable nephew who I can’t wait to meet, and he will grow up with part of Trisha’s heart beating in his tiny chest even though he will never meet her. I think often now of the risk Trisha took leaving her job in Chicago to go to Ghana, and I’m less scared to contemplate changes in my own life’s path that I would have brushed away as too risky two years ago.

Maybe the words aren’t pouring out of me at quite the same pace. Maybe the Team Trisha Facebook wall posts and 3 a.m. phone calls and group e-mails are less frequent now. Maybe the photos and scrapbooks and videos have all already been posted and compiled. Maybe the specific way her voice rose and fell with its Trisha cadence, or the way it felt to hug her, or the way we sounded as we clutched each other’s shoulders singing Journey on the dance floor, maybe those memories are all a bit hazier around the edges now.

I’m trying hard not to let that scare me. Because I know despite the slow fade of all of these parts of her, we still remember Trisha. She’s still changed us. And there will still be moments to come when she’ll weave her way into our lives and surprise us in ways we can’t yet anticipate.

Two more years or twenty more years from now, wherever we are and however many more words are written here, I know I’ll still feel Trisha. And I hope that much sooner than that, I’ll be content to just feel her in whatever way I do.

October 4, 2010

Letting Go

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:50 pm by jlp412

“I thought this was gonna get easier. This gettin’ over you… But love comes and goes and comes and goes as easy as the moon and sun will rise, and when I try to let you go, all I can hear my heart saying is ‘come on back inside.'” – Melissa Ferrick, “Getting Over You”

Letting yourself go means abandoning all concern for your appearance. Letting go of vengeance or anger means you remove a toxin from your psyche so you can breathe easier. Letting a stupid argument go means you’re moving on and making amends. Letting go of your inhibitions means you open yourself up to new emotions and experiences.

But what does it mean to let a person go, especially when she’s already gone and the only thing keeping her here is your grip on her? If I let Trisha go, I accept her fate. And what’s more, I accept that I live in a world that caused her fate, and I dwell there without protest. If I let go, even for a moment, maybe she’ll float away and become unreachable forever. Maybe, once I let go, I’ll forget what it felt like to touch her. Or, if I let go, I’ll also lose the parts of her that have settled inside myself this past year and a half – and I’ll be left with tiny punctured holes again, scrambling for substitutions to stop them back up.

Sometimes holding on to Trisha is harder than it would be to let her go – like when I’m at a wedding of a friend and think about what her wedding would have been like, and that she’ll never have one. Or when I’m tempted to slip into the easier, selfish orbit of my own world, by taking 2009 and sealing it up and stowing it away and convincing myself that 2010, and 2011, and 2042 will go on as if 2009 never happened, until I realize that the future is forever changed because Trisha will never be in it. Sometimes holding on to her makes me remember her more vividly, in a dream dotted with bright colors and clear sounds or a snapshot memory that floods in unexpectedly, triggered by an unexpected item on the shelf at the grocery store or familiar awning of a building in DC. Sometimes it makes me more acutely aware that she is dead. And other times, it tricks me into losing track of how long she’s been gone, and how long she’ll be gone. And who else will be gone in my lifetime, and whether I’ll have enough grip left to hold onto them, too.

When we let her go, where does she go to? If not with us, then where? We’ve already lost the life of her. We can’t lose the rest of her, too.

So no, I won’t let go of Trisha. I can’t. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to walk around untethered to her.

Moving on and letting go are two different things, I’ve realized. When I move on, I still hold on to Trisha. People always say, “You should try to move on,” but they don’t ever say where to move on to. It’s this constant journey, then – wherever I end up, she’s going with me. There’s comfort in that, in the trip we’re taking together. All of us, our hands each touch different parts of her – her hair, her ankle, her wrist, until we cover her completely. And we carry her above us as we move on, in whatever direction we take to get wherever it is we’re going. And somehow, we’ll figure out how to get there.

September 15, 2010

Trisha’s Torch

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:24 am by jlp412

This past Sunday was the second annual Team Trisha Chicago Half Marathon and 5k. This year felt different, as it should have – we’ve weathered one more year without Trisha, settled into the routine of commemorating her in this way rather than propelling ourselves so violently into a new sphere of mourning and tributing. The task of running 13 miles was not quite as daunting, the group of us running was not quite the same compilation of people, the photo-taking session at the end of the run was not quite as explosive and incredulous at what we’d achieved – we’d done this before.

This year just felt different.

We had new members of the Team, friends of friends who never met Trisha but ran for her anyway. We raised more money through a new fundraising site. We ran faster and smarter this year. We picked up former sideline poster-holders and added them to the crew of runners, and we found more poster-holders to replace the ones we lost. We ran alongside co-workers, mothers and sorority sisters, and we ran through the finish line to the loud cheers of Trisha’s parents. We wore our purple shirts and spoke of her to anyone who would listen.

As I hit mile 12, I played “Don’t Stop Believin'” on my iPod to push me through to the very end of the course, just like I did last year. I wore a band around my wrist of purple cloth cut from my 2009 Team Trisha shirt to remind myself that I had done this before and I could do it again.

But this year was still different.

On the plane ride back to DC after the race, this feeling kept nagging at me, a kind of frantic need to affirm something. That feeling shook me out of my temporary slumber and led my hand to write this to Trisha in my journal:

“Trisha – I promise that no matter how old I am, no matter what else I have happening in my day-to-day world, no matter how much easier it would be to tuck your life and your loss on a shelf and only pull it down when I feel like it, no matter how many days or years or layers of buffer pass between the day we lost you and the day I take my last breath, I promise to never forget you.

“I promise to always tell stories about you, to share your legacy with strangers, to widen your footprint on this earth. I promise to stay connected to your family. I promise to strive to do something remarkable each year for you. Because you were remarkable. Because you didn’t ask for this fate. Because nothing is quite so large as death, not even a light as bright as yours. Because without candleholders and torchbearers, you become just the dark that took you and not the light you left us with.”

We’ve passed the Year of Firsts now – the first anniversary of her death, the first half marathon, the first reunion when we gathered together without her. This year felt different because it was different – we were more sure of our footing, but also more removed from last year’s sense of awe in conquering such a daunting physical challenge. We were a larger team, but with a different dynamic. We still came together to plan dinners and poster-making and t-shirts and fundraising, and her parents once again continued to find ways to give and give of themselves, but we eased into these roles with a comfort based on routine.

It wasn’t until my plane ride home that I realized just how significant these differences were. Yes, the pieces and people that formed this half marathon had changed, but the core was the same: We ran, once again, for Trisha. And as we did, we continued to carry her torch.

July 20, 2010

25

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:34 pm by jlp412

Dear Trisha,

July 10 would have been your 25th birthday. Some of us gathered at your family’s home in Atlanta, celebrating, missing and remembering you. You would have loved it – the crescendos of the voices of  a blended family getting to know each other as we watched childhood videos of you bounding (and at times, tantruming) through Disneyland, gracing the stage at Exeter with beautiful dance routines, goofing off with your high school girlfriends in the cafeteria. We sang happy birthday to you, which felt strange, and which concluded with a verse sung softly by your mother under her breath, “Come back to us now, come back to us now…” until she trailed off and finished slicing your favorite kind of birthday cake. We took a moment of silence to remember you as we stood in a staggered semi-circle to stare at your photo atop your parents’ piano, in a quiet so full and so large that we became lost in it.

I wish I had an unflappable hold on my faith, so I knew with certainty that you are watching over me, or giving me signs of some sort to help guide me, or resting contentedly in the peaceful, calm place of After. I wish I wasn’t so afraid of death so I could try to dissect it, pick it apart into a pieces small enough to hold between my hands, to sprinkle on the ground behind me so I know where I’ve already been, to measure into a glass jar so I can see how many pieces I have left. I wish I could shake death from my thoughts, so I won’t think about what it feels like not to be anymore, so I won’t wonder what you feel like not being anymore. I wish I had a clear vision of heaven, where you’re having tea with relatives you’ve lost, playing cards with relatives I’ve lost, peeking down at the rest of us and shaking your head and laughing at how much we care about things that don’t matter.

I wish I could make up my mind about how to miss you and tribute you at the same time – how to reconcile this warring set of emotions that still screams of injustice at the senseless stupid series of tiny, timed events that led you to leave us, while at the same time causing me to throw my hands toward the sky in gratitude for the new people I’ve let seep under my skin and the new passions I’ve let steer me toward something bold and the new ideas I’ve let slip into my head about how to live a better life because you left.

But then your sister shares a vivid dream she had, a flash forward sort of dream, in which you were in Ghana pursuing your fellowship, when a civil war broke out in the street between two groups of armed men. A mother and child, not realizing what was happening, were wandering toward the conflict and into the line of fire. In your sister’s dream, you ran after them, to shield them, to warn them, to save them, and you were fatally shot by one of the men involved in the fighting. You died in your sister’s arms, and the two warring parties saw your death as a reason to stop fighting and restore peace. This dream in turn brought your sister a sort of peace in the inevitability of your death; had you not lost your life on a highway in Kentucky, then perhaps you would have been taken in a street fight in Ghana.

And then I find three pennies arranged in a perfect triangle on my porch, the day after a good friend told me a story about how she kept finding pennies everywhere she went after she lost a loved one.

And then, when I wonder what writing here can possibly do to make anything any better, I get an out-of-the-blue email from someone I knew at Northwestern and haven’t spoken to in nearly five years about this blog and how he learned more about who you were and what a difference you made from reading it.

July 10 would have been your 25th birthday, Trisha. I hope that wherever you are, you have patience with me as I try to extract meaning from a meaningless act of tragedy. I hope you’ll understand how I could laugh at the antics of your colorful cousins and sob at your photo on the piano within the same hour. I hope you’re still weaving a thin thread to connect all of us to each other, that you’re still the artist behind the tapestry we’re walking on and sleeping under and clinging to when we don’t know how we’re supposed to be without you.

Happy birthday, Trisha, my tapestry weaver, my candle holder, my reason for writing. I miss you.

My love to you wherever you are,

Jamie

June 1, 2010

How Can It Be

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:09 pm by jlp412

Every morning, I open my eyes to a world without Trisha. I see the empty spaces she left behind for us to fill as clearly as if they were people: I slide in next to the space she left in her friendships when I pose for group photos at our yearly reunions. I reach for the hand of the space she left in her future as we navigate the career shifts, graduate school callings and relationship rollercoasters of our twenties. I curl up next to the space she left in her family when I go to sleep at night, I cling to the space she left in the people she would have continued to touch with her giving spirit, and I inhale the space she left in me every morning when I open my eyes and breathe in a world without her.

I search for Trisha in strange places – on the metro, in the neighborhood where she lived for the summer when she interned in DC, at the restaurants she took me to as she introduced me to my new east coast home. And I see her in strange people – a tiny toddler in a stroller being pushed by hurried parents through the airport, a twenty-something woman in a Starbucks wearing an Exeter sweatshirt, a young girl bounding arm in arm with an older sister across the National Mall. I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned my head to see if it was really her, trapped in time with me in the form of someone else. And even still now, more than a year after she left us, a part of me believes she may appear, out of the blue, just as she was.

How can it be that I live in this world, where I see with equal clarity the spaces Trisha left and her face in place of a stranger’s?  How can it be that I can still laugh and travel and grow and work and sleep and run and explore this world, this place that catapulted Trisha out of it so fast we didn’t have a chance to grab her feet and pull her back down to us before she went away forever? How can the same world that gives us all this silent, pulsing energy that connects us across oceans, zip codes and phone lines be the same one that took away the source of it?

I still have some level of trust in expectation – that the sidewalk won’t fold away under my feet when I walk down 13th street to work each day, that my parents will survive into old age, that my friend’s international work travel will bring her safely back across the ocean. But the deepest core of myself isn’t so sure I won’t wake up tomorrow to everything and everyone I know piled into a messy, broken heap on the floor.

So many parts of myself and my life remain unchanged since Trisha left – I still serve as a therapist to my friends, am an irritatingly light sleeper, eat too much frozen yogurt, am on a quest to find my purpose, and ride the metro or a bus when I should just suck it up and pay for a cab. But I also demand different qualities out of my relationships, try to push down the double-headed monster of Fear and Joy when it flares up before I go to bed, go for long runs outside, write these words.

The world I see now is both emptier and richer than it’s ever been. Trisha is gone, but I see her everywhere. I lost a friend, but I found an untouched part of myself. I can still laugh until I cry, but I feel like I walk around every day with a secret that only the survivors of Trisha know, and sometimes, it makes me want to scream to the parents rushing their toddler in the stroller through the airport: “Stop running! It doesn’t matter if you miss your flight! You have a daughter and even though you worked very hard to bring her into this world, in ten seconds she can be ripped out of it.”

Every morning, I open my eyes to a world without Trisha. How can it be?

May 3, 2010

Filling the Space

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:41 pm by jlp412

I’m trying to fill up the space you left, Trisha. More than one year after we gently tossed petals over your body, we all still lean on each other, swallow down parts of each other that may have caused us to distance ourselves from each other before, as we remember you. The days are easier now, not because we’re accustomed to your absence, but because we’ve gotten better at finding ways to fill up our days where you used to be.

“Don’t stop believin'” comes on at nearly every bar we frequent on Saturday nights, and every time, from wherever we’re all scattered in various cities on various dancefloors across the country, we think of you. Sometimes it makes us cry or withdraw when we don’t want to, and other times it makes us laugh harder and belt out the lyrics louder than before, because that’s what we did with you when you were here.

There have been so many moments in the last year, Trisha, when we’ve all reached for our phones to call you, to ask your advice, to hear you laugh or commiserate with you about a bad day or just to have you listen, like you always used to do, without judgment, with your widened perspective and a sense of what was worth losing sleep over and what wasn’t. We’ve turned to find you during one of our reunions, to share a laugh or a piece of dessert or a picture, and when we go to reach for you, we remember you. We wonder what you would have said to us in these moments when we need your friendship, and we call on each other, this battered group of those who understand what it’s like to keep losing you again and again, moment by moment, when we turn to you and you’re not there, when we try to substitute our own words for yours, and when we fail. But we try. And when we do, we fill up a little more of the space you left.

I write less frequently now, but it’s not because I have less to say – it’s because I am growing less and less sure of how to say it. It’s confusing without you now, Trisha, in a way that it wasn’t before. Last year, we were training for a half marathon (as we are again this year), throwing our grief into a physical challenge that most of us, myself included, never imagined doing on our own, unprompted by a motivation of you. We made a scrapbook, we raised money for your memorial fund, and we turned toward the year anniversary of life without you with a strange mingling of dread and longing, wanting at once to move beyond March 19, 2009, and also to catapult ourselves back to that date, just to feel the immediacy of your loss again, to be reminded of what it felt like when you were first ripped away, rather than the slowly deflating sense of emptiness we feel now without you.

It’s been more than a year. You’re still gone. What now, Trisha? What are we supposed to do now?

We can keep running half marathons, keep raising money, and keep telling stories about you to each other and to strangers to keep your name floating through the space around us, but what are we supposed to do to fill the rest of the space you left us with when those things stop being enough?

Your name is still in my phone. I am still connected to you online through different websites. I found an envelope just last month with your handwriting on it. But when I go to look for the owner of the phone, the person behind the online photos, the author of the card you sent me, I just find the space we’re left to fill with as much of you as we can.

My thoughts still turn to you every day, Trisha. I thought somehow after a year without you came and went that this would all make more sense, that the space would start to fill up on its own with memories and tributes and new friendships. That missing you somehow would become routine, like brushing my teeth and making my morning coffee. But instead, I’m still shocked by your loss, I’m still incredulous that you aren’t around to share the moments we’re all sharing, I’m still searching for you on the dancefloor when I sing a stupid Journey song, and I still expect that one time, maybe I’ll see you there, your fist pumping toward the sky as you jump around and shout the lyrics with me.

But all I see is the space around me where you should be, and it keeps growing. So we keep trying to find bigger things to fill it up. But what I’m starting to realize is that as much as we can morph you into different forms – a half marathon, a long-needed job change, a re-connection with an old friend – nothing will ever quite fill up the space you left, because nothing will ever come close to taking the place of you.

April 4, 2010

Envelope

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:56 pm by jlp412

Last Sunday night, I was organizing the contents of a wicker basket that I have filled with various cards – some blank, some bought with specific recipients in mind, some stockpiled for undetermined future use for out-of-the-blue note-sending. Interspersed within these purchased cards are return addresses torn hastily from envelopes of cards sent to me from family and friends – my makeshift way of retaining written confirmation of where people dear to me live these days. I also save a few cards I am sent, time-frozen keepsakes of handwritten correspondences with people I love. Last week, when searching for the perfect card to send to a good friend who had recently gotten engaged, I decided to organize the basket, purge what I no longer needed and better sort what I did.

I realized quickly that it had been quite some time since I’d really dug deep into the basket. I was surprised to find cards sent to me back when I first moved to DC almost three years ago, return addresses that were three or four 20-something apartments out of date, blank cards I had forgotten I’d purchased and could have used a few birthdays ago. As I was sifting through the hodge-podge of paper at the bottom of the basket, I came across an envelope that made my heart stop. It was red, with pink polka dots along the triangle of the envelope fold. The writing varied between all caps and lowercase, a cursivy, yet legible script. Trisha’s handwriting.

The envelope was from a card she had sent me back in 2007, which of course, now, I am kicking myself for discarding. I have developed a practice of only saving cards long-term whose hand-written messages are unique to that moment and person in time, whose words I will want to revisit in a year or five or ten and re-read. It’s a habit I adapted when in need of a clutter-free living space, having moved apartments three times in two and a half years. A habit that now, I regret taking up in the first place.

I pulled the envelope out and tried to rack my brain as to why Trisha would have sent me the card once contained inside of it. It wasn’t postmarked near my birthday or close to any major discernible holiday, so it must have been just a saying-hi, thinking-of-you kind of card. Her handwriting was scrawled across the envelope, her former Chicago address pinning her in a place of time almost three years ago, when she was still alive, still figuring out her next step, still one of my friends sending me a card just because, and since she was still with us and life was still unfolding in the way I had come to expect it to, I had not thought to save the card, could not have possibly predicted this moment nearly three years later when it would be one of the few tattered, tangible pieces left of the friend who sent it. I then found myself fumbling for my phone, scrolling to her name, which I still have not found the courage to delete from my address book, to call her, to tell her I was thinking about her and to check in on how she was doing. I made it halfway through the T’s before I stopped myself.

It’s been more than a year now since we lost Trisha, but it’s stupid, random moments like staring at her handwriting on an envelope that grab me by the shoulders and shake me back into the reality that Trisha is, in fact gone. Even though her handwriting is not. Even though pictures and videos of her are not. Even though the rest of us, for no other reason than happenstance good fortune, are not.

Trisha is trapped in time. We still move through it.

And sometimes the injustice, the confusion, of these dual journeys stopped and sustained, seems to freeze time altogether, seems to confuse time so much that I find myself practically calling a friend on the phone whose death does not for one day leave my thoughts’ undercurrent. And so I scramble to make sense of time by keeping Trisha with me in it somehow, by adding more thread to her tapestry until I continue to sew in new fabrics more than a year after she surrendered the needle and thread to the rest of us.

So, defying all logic, I try to piece Trisha back together with every bit of her I have left – even if it’s just handwriting on an envelope.

March 19, 2010

One Year Ago Today

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:55 pm by jlp412

I delayed writing this entry as long as I could in the hopes that putting it off would somehow make today just another day, that it would matter less, that Trisha has not been gone a whole year. I don’t want to focus on today as the way I remember her, because a year ago today was the hardest, darkest day, a day when the world stopped making sense and everything came crashing to a screeching halt and we all grew up too fast with one midnight phone call. One year ago today, Trisha was ripped away from us as we stood by helplessly reaching for her, grabbing onto each other, trying to make sense of why she left and how we could still be standing here even though she did.

This week, I finished the scrapbook that preserves the parts of her we can capture in photos and in writing, sticking random quotes and pieces of colorful paper onto pages of warm pinks and greens and golds, including testimonies from total strangers who were inspired enough to run the half marathon last year even though they had only heard of her impact, adding in portraits that chronicled her childhood and her college years and her brief ascent into adulthood, laying out her legacy in the foundation set up forever in her honor, freezing her in time and gluing pieces of her into the scrapbook’s pages to try to keep her here in another form. The caption under the cover picture, which came included on the scrapbook itself, says simply, “Beautiful life.” And compiling all of the contents for the book over the last year made me realize just how beautiful it was.

This week, I filled every millisecond with activity, distractions, dinners and drinks and jam-packed work days, as if the more hours I filled up each day with, the further this one would be pushed away until it fell right off the calendar.  This week, a few of us had dinner with her gentle-souled father and renewed our commitment to run the half marathon again next fall in Chicago. In him, we were reminded of Trisha’s kindness, her gusto for all life had to offer, her patience with all of us as we navigated clumsily in the search of who we were and where we were going.

Tonight, her sister and a few other friends got together in DC for a home-cooked meal, memory-sharing, new story-telling, laughter and just plain companionship. We didn’t need to talk about this day last year, we didn’t need to walk ourselves through the mess of tangled insides we all felt then, how we scrambled to find flights to Atlanta for the funeral, how we stared blankly into the air in front of us, at the floor, anywhere but at each other’s faces, for fear of seeing the loss of Trisha splashed all over ourselves.

Instead, tonight, we laughed. We strengthened our own connections to each other and remembered her and said silent gratitude for having this network of what has become a new blended family of those of us who were touched by her and then had her taken from us. I see Trisha’s smile when her sister smiles and hear her laugh when her sister laughs at one of our stupid silly stories that Trisha would have found hilarious. I remember her more and more as we share new and old stories again and again, and I give thanks for the friendship she still weaves through all of us now, all of us, who, this time last year, were more strangers than friends. We are forever connected now. Pushed together by Trisha’s hands.

This entry does not have more meaning than any of the others. It does not package up the journey we’ve all been on this past year and outline a hopeful path toward progress. It does not have an answer for why Trisha left or where she went or how we’ve all managed to stand upright again.

But it does have hope.

Tonight, one year to the day after Trisha left, we’re all still here. Between occasional moments of single silence where one of us slips off to think about her, to miss her, to feel guilty for being here without her, there is new laughter, there is less fear and more eagerness to talk about her, there is more desire to know more parts of her from pieces of her life the rest of us weren’t there to see.

I made the scrapbook and I write this blog to preserve her, to remember her, to make sure that every single day I’m here that she’s not, she matters. That she changes something and makes it better. That she touches us. That she helps us heal. And even through the dark days that threaten to and often succeed at slashing through my optimism with the tragedy of losing Trisha, even through the moments when it hits me anew what happened and it’s like a punch to the gut, even through the times I look across the table at a friend as we drink our coffee and my heart races with the fear that I will never see that friend again, Trisha matters. Her life, her spirit, the friends and family she’s reached inside the rib cages of to give our hearts an extra squeeze, it all matters, because of what she did and who she was in the short time we had her here with us.

One year ago today, we lost a truly beautiful life. But one year later, the lives of the ones she touched aren’t looking too shabby, either.

March 6, 2010

Reaching

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:28 pm by jlp412

It’s been almost one full week of March, the beginning of the month of the year anniversary of Trisha’s death. I saw her this week at this time last year, at Front Page for a group dinner with the girls and then the following day at Starbucks for a hurried final coffee one on one. I wrote “safe travels” on her Facebook wall. I said goodbye.

Now, nearly a year later, I see advertisements for movies coming out on March 19th, I listen to co-workers casually mention the date in reference to work deadlines or conference calls, I “x” through another sleep-wake cycle of going through the motions of life without Trisha on my big monthly desk calendar in my office, wondering whether I can skip over the 19th with my pen and somehow stop this date from happening ever again, from happening in the first place. This time last year, Trisha was alive, packing for Ghana, visiting friends and family one last time before going on her way. This time last year, I hadn’t yet felt the fingernails of tragedy scraping across my insides. This time last year, we hadn’t yet lost her.

I still have Trisha’s number in my phone. Every once in a while, I’ll visit her Facebook page expecting new photos to be posted, new exchanges on her wall from friends who’d just seen her the night before, updates from her of her travels abroad. I often look through photos on my computer, I search through old e-mails to find the notes she wrote when she was still here. These stupid things I do even though I know she won’t answer if I call and even though I know the only posts on her Facebook wall these days are from us, when we miss her, even though most of my e-mails are with her family and other friends who are trying to preserve pieces of her through swapped stories.

A few nights ago, I had one of the most vivid dreams of Trisha I’ve had in a long time – I remember so much of it because it was still happening when my alarm went off in the morning. Trisha and two other friends (both named Katie) were with me at a cabin-type house, similar to my friend Katie’s lake house where we all go every fourth of July, where we all went with Trisha the summer of 2008. Trisha’s parents were there, grocery shopping of all things, and her father at one point asked me to help carry the strawberries inside. They looked bright red and ripe and delicious sitting in their green crate, peeking out of the grocery bag as I carried it up the steps and handed it to Mr. Apte to put away in the refrigerator.

The Katies, Trisha and I were then sitting at a picnic table, eating, laughing, talking. And as almost always happens when I dream of Trisha, I knew she had died, but she didn’t. She was talking to us, popping pieces of something that looked like popcorn into her mouth, laughing, wearing the gold necklace with the three circle stones that she always wore every day. Suddenly, I was struck with an urgent need to tell her, for some reason I had to tell her, that she had died. In my dream, when I told her, “Trisha, you died. Last year. You’re dead, Trisha,” her eyes widened and she shook her head and she looked at the Katies for reassurance that it wasn’t true. But we all just stared at her with pity-eyes and nodded that it was. And in my dream, I hated myself for making her look that way, for ruining our time together, for telling her the truth, for making it real.

And suddenly, Trisha’s gold circle necklace broke right in half, which was apparently some sort of sign that she had to leave us, that she was finishing the fate I had just delivered. As soon as the necklace broke, she grasped at her neck and then started to float upwards and away from us, her feet aimed toward the sky, her head and arms outstretched, reaching down for us to anchor her where we were. I grabbed up to reach her hands, I jumped up on the picnic bench and physically felt my hands grasp hers, pulling her toward me as she floated there, her legs flailing wildly behind and above her, her eyes full of fear, crying, screaming that she didn’t want to go, that she didn’t understand. I pleaded with her, “I’ve got you Trisha, just hold on.” When my alarm went off, I woke up reaching for her, my arms extended into the air above my bed. And I realized that no, I didn’t have her. That even though I had felt her hands in mine, I let go. I didn’t have the strength to hold her here. I tried hitting “snooze” to drift back into the dream, to feel my hands grabbing her wrists again, but instead, I re-entered the dream to Katie looking frantically for Trisha in the cabin, and saw Katie’s face peer out from a doorframe near the fridge where we had put the strawberries earlier. Her face was red from crying, and she just shook her head. Trisha was gone.

I keep reaching for Trisha, and in the act of trying to find her, I grab onto the hands of the rest of us who try to anchor her to us in our dreams and who go through the motions of our days settling for substitutes for her in each other. Each day since she left us, we’ve all reached for Trisha in different ways – by telling strangers about her, by going to dinner gatherings where we share stories of her we haven’t heard before, by dreaming of reaching for her even though we wake up grasping only at empty air. But we keep reaching anyway. Some days, it seems futile and stupid to stretch out our hands in a search for someone we know won’t be there. But most of the time, I’m glad I still have enough hope left to believe that maybe one day, for a split second, I’ll feel contact.

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