August 30, 2009

Traces of Trisha

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:43 pm by jlp412

Last Wednesday, we had a fundraising event in DC at Bar Louie to raise money for Trisha’s memorial fund. I don’t know why the strength of the bonds she formed still surprises me, why I still marvel at the reach of her impact even now, but I do. I can’t help it. She has proven to be the glue that stuck a whole lot of people together indefinitely, and I am awestruck by it.

Traces of Trisha were found in the unlikely assortment of people gathered to commemorate her. Our friend Elizabeth lives in New Orleans, and three of her friends from a teaching program she recently completed came to the bar night, without ever having known Trisha, without Elizabeth there to introduce them, without actually knowing a single person at the event. A good friend and colleague of mine, whose birthday was the night of the fundraiser, postponed her birthday plans and came to Bar Louie along with a merry band of other DC friends and colleagues who never knew Trisha but knew how much she meant to me. A new friend who had just completed a 70 mile bike ride with me a few days before for the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s Ride for a Cure, who also never knew Trisha and had only recently gotten to know me, came by himself to honor her life. Mothers of friends of Trisha, friends of mothers of friends of Trisha, strangers and boyfriends and high school and college friends and family all blended together into an eclectic homage to this person who managed in just 23 years of life to mean so much to so many.

As I looked around the room that night, the traces of her I found there were not enough. I ached for Trisha to be there, to see it for herself. I had the same thought I’ve had before, which resurfaced again last week with the death of Ted Kennedy: why do we wait until people leave this world to honor them? I want to reclaim Trisha’s life, even to just take one day out of the last five months she’s been gone to show her all of these people who are raising money in her honor and running for the first time ever in a tribute to her and forming new connections across the country because of her friendship. It seems unfair that Trisha, as the weaver and creator of the tapestry that knits us all together, doesn’t get to appreciate her craft the way we do. And even as the fabric grows to accommodate more and more patchwork, it is still no substitute for Trisha herself.

Because Trisha is gone, I am running a half marathon. Because Trisha is gone, we raised more than $1,400 in one night to help fund scholarships for Northwestern students wishing to study the same issues in women and children’s health that Trisha was preparing to pursue. Because Trisha is gone, I am meeting her friends from high school, I am growing close to members of her family, I am rooting myself in deeper relationships with my friends who knew her because we cling to each other now desperately, for fear another one of us could go tomorrow.

It seems unfair that these blessings, these strengthened bonds and tiny acts of greatness are transpiring because Trisha is gone. And yet, Trisha’s reach extends beyond her time on earth. From that far-off place where she is, she moves us around toward each other, toward the next step in the journeys we struggle to make without her, toward the meaning we try to find in living in a world that howls with longing for her footprints on its surface.

I find my days are a constant balance of gratitude and guilt; I thank Trisha for forming new friendships that have helped to cover up the holes of her death, but even as I explore these friendships further, I feel wrong invading a space she once occupied. I am here and she is not and there is no reason to explain why.

Every day since March 19, 2009, I wake up with traces of Trisha inside of me. But the traces aren’t always enough.

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August 19, 2009

Five Months Ago Today

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:47 pm by jlp412

Me and Trisha at 1800 first night back

Five months ago today, Trisha left this world, and took with her a bit of my fearlessness, my unwavering trust in divine design, and tiny slivers of my once whole soul. Just over five months ago, I possessed all of those things, and my heart was not patchwork at all but pumping in tact, and I believed tomorrow would be there for me to mend the broken bonds that crumbled apart today. Five months ago today, Trisha’s lungs deflated and her heart stopped twitching with its steady thump and her eyes stopped opening and her voice fell forever silent.

Five months ago today, I stopped trusting in tomorrow.

As the rawness of one month became the denial of two to morph into the shock still of three to the strange scattered mourning of four to the now settled sadness of five months without Trisha, I find she is an inextricable part of me now; cutting her out of me would be impossible, because she is no longer bound to just one place, she is no longer just gaping holes of mourning or torn corners of a tattered soul or rambling words written senselessly, frantically, in vain, in their search for her.

After five months of turning her death and her life over and over again on their sides and upside down and inside out to try to make sense of them both together, after five months of my memories of her alive and five months of the day-to-day gut-punch of her no longer alive, I have trouble separating her life from her death. She has blurred into an unlikely pairing of warmth from a friendship still so fresh I can touch it with the tips of my fingers and a coldness so haunting it rattles my ribs and freezes my breath before it escapes my lips.

This hybrid of Trisha here and gone rips through the lyrics of songs, the photos with and without her in them, the banal stresses of day-to-day living and the new, extraordinary moments of awakening from years of numbness. The blend of Trisha alive and dead has become the steady pulse that forms my thoughts to ask “why” more often, shoves me into bottomless pits of new friendships, and guides me into directions and places that dangle fear in front of me with temptation instead of paralysis.

Five months ago today, Trisha’s death shook the earth with a force so strong it knocked the lot of us down to our knees, our feet no longer able to stand steady on a ground quaking furiously without the weight of her. Today, we crawl forward, pawing and batting the air around us for direction, too scared to stand but too strong to lie still. Five months of stumbling and sleeping and screaming and searching have led us to try to move in this world Trisha has left us with. Maybe five months from now, we’ll have started to walk.

August 17, 2009

Things Undone

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:21 pm by jlp412

Idly flipping through emails on my phone on the way to work last week, I found an old chain we’d started in college of places our group of friends wanted to go and things we wanted to do before the end of our senior year at Northwestern, from books to read to sights to see to events to attend. In perusing the list two years later, each person’s entries were telling – Gemma, the now sociology PhD candidate, vied for free Thursdays at the Art Institute, I proclaimed my desire to see Oprah and take an architecture boat tour of Chicago, Semmer rallied for us to attend a women’s lacrosse match, Corrie proclaimed her love of Russian lit…the list goes on to reveal snippets of ourselves in our suggested activities.

Trisha’s contribution was just as revealing: “Potluck dinner with all of us…everyone makes their favorite dish from home and then we all feast.”

I’ve found that death somehow gives new meaning to the previously innocuous – this post, once a contribution that would have made me smile and continue reading, now gives me pause. It is so Trisha.

Without immediately making the connection, I had Trisha’s boyfriend/now a good friend of mine over for dinner with some other friends from NU last night. Before I ever read her email, Joe and I had been planning to start a monthly potluck dinner with the merry band of us here in DC scrambling to find the meaning, the answer, the next step. And last night, we had wine and chicken and pasta and potatoes and swapped stories and remembered Trisha and talked about our half marathon training and remembered Trisha and laughed about the night before’s antics and remembered Trisha.

Trisha is a tapestry, threading together the mix of us even though our colors sometimes clash. She is gone, and now we’re doing one of the things she left undone: we’re adding another patch to the tapestry, her tapestry, that now drapes over us and dips and billows around us and protects us and shelters us and covers us.

We are doing one of the things she left undone. We are adding to Trisha’s tapestry.

August 6, 2009

The Bridge

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:39 pm by jlp412

Tonight, I dig into the innermost  folds of myself.

I  slice open my chest and I stick my hand in and reach down and down and down until I pull out the fibrous strings that form me from the inside out. As they stretch out of my chest and twine around in the outside air, blue and red and exposed, slowly snaking around my feet like vines, I notice something. There are tiny letters scribbled on the surface of the fibers somehow, and these letters form words that string together to write the story of my life.

At times the words run together without punctuation through the dramatic, nonsensical rush of adolescence, and sometimes there aren’t any words written at all, for the moments when there is nothing to say, like when my grandfather was wheeled out of our home covered in a white sheet on a stretcher, the cancer sucking the last breath out of him as he lay dying in our living room.

Some words tell a tale unlived, unseen, some far-away dot in my future, written in a language I can’t understand, with defiant, bold strokes that mark a purpose I have yet to find. Some words write in iambic pentameter and some write in song and others are just jumbled letters. I frantically pull out more and more rope from inside myself to find my future stories and to re-read my past ones, and the rope of me starts to coil around my feet, my legs, my core, as time swirls nonsensically around me in a tangled mess of words.

My first memory of snow in my pink puffy coat flashes by on a vine near my ankle, and when I bend down to read it another fiber shoots up over its story, writing of the time I kissed my first high school boyfriend outside a movie theater, giggling with nerves. And the more words that pour out of me on these strings of entrails, the lighter I become, and soon I find myself being carried up and away by the words, floating on top of the fibers that form them until my feet aren’t on the ground anymore and my head brushes up against a cloud.

And  then, suddenly, as I sit suspended in mid-air, tangled among my words, the fibers stop sprouting out of my chest. I find, somehow, a pen in my right hand and a blank surface of a fiber resting on my lap, waiting. As I stare out into the night sky on top of the trail my insides and the stories written on them have seemed to form behind me, I look down and I realize that these stories written on parts of me have formed a fibrous bridge that has carried me from the bottom of the earth to the top of it, a red and blue spaghetti-like braided bridge between the world I know and the one I don’t.

I am perched at a precipice between my world and Trisha’s.

I stare at stars so close to me I could touch them, I feel the navy blue sky around me and dip my finger in it and find it fluffy and sticky like cotton candy, and I sit on top of my stories with my pen and my blank slate and I know what I need to write.

To finish the bridge between my world and Trisha’s, I need to inscribe her stories on the surface of my insides, so that when the bridge shrinks away and the fibers with their words slink back into my chest and I seal the hole up so tight that you can hardly see the scar, so when I wake up tomorrow with my feet stuck in this world and my head reaching for the other, I will have Trisha’s stories inside of me. I will have her words mingled with mine, and the future words that never made it onto the surface of her fibers will instead be scrawled on mine.

Tonight, I dig into the innermost folds of myself. And I write.

August 2, 2009

Where

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:10 pm by jlp412

trisha baby

Sometimes I wish I was little again – the trust in the irrational, the blind belief in the impossible and the unbridled imagination that invents whatever it wants to and holds it as real – these faiths of youth seem to rust beneath the shiny logic of age and its so-called wisdom.

Death confuses the difference between being a child and believing in a fantasy  that you actually hold as a truth – there is a Santa Claus, your stuffed animals do talk to you sometimes when no one else is around, you can grow up to be an astronaut or President of the United States – and being an adult who believes in a fantasy that you know is impossible but you cling to anyway – the woman who caused me do a double-take on the metro really was Trisha walking back among us, the words I write here really do float up and reach her somehow, she isn’t really gone.

Where is Trisha?

Where do any of us go when we die? Are we aware it’s happening, do we have a say? Do we reinvent ourselves as other people, traveling through time generation after generation with parts of our souls festering inside the bodies of newly born strangers?

Where is Trisha?

Is she woven through the words written here? Does a little piece of her float down and hover over us at our reunions and keep us close? Is she running through the veins of her parents and her sister?

Where is Trisha?

What if this life is all we have? What if when we stop breathing we stop being? What if Trisha is gone and our lofty talks of her watching us and reaching us and guiding us are mere words to make ourselves feel better?

Where is Trisha?

To answer this question, maybe I can channel the child within me who believed so much and loved so hard that I really did go to sleep at night dreaming anything was possible, searching for signs of my loved ones long gone and finding them in what may have been tiny coincidences, but finding them all the same. Maybe I believe because I have to, because the thought of Trisha being confined to her ashes alone keeps me up at night and rattles my insides with fists of injustice. Or maybe I believe because the truth behind the science of death, the same truth that tries to stupefy religion and make a mockery of faith, isn’t enough for me anymore.

Where is Trisha?

Trisha’s death was so senseless, so wrong, so the opposite of her life and her spirit. So I believe that while she is nowhere here in person – nowhere will I hug her or talk to her or travel with her – she is everywhere else – she lays a film over my eyes that changes what I see, she zaps an energy in my fingertips that types the words I write here, she carves new notches in the tree of my relationships.

Where is Trisha?

She is nowhere and yet she is everywhere. The physical Trisha is stuck as a was, and I will ache for her still years to come, but the rest of her continues on as an is. And while I may have to shake off my adult coat of reason every once in a while to shiver in the skin of a child to believe this is true, for now, that is my answer.

Trisha is nowhere and yet she is everywhere. That is where she is.