September 25, 2009

Can You Hear Me?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:23 am by jlp412

Sometimes I feel like I write for all the wrong reasons.

I write so the words racing around my headspace get outside of myself and find ways to tribute Trisha instead of just seeping themselves in sadness, which they tend to prefer over strength when they are left to dwell inside of me.

I write with a childlike hope that when I do, Trisha’s ears will perk up from that place where she is, and she’ll smile and laugh and tell me to stop it already and just come and talk to her, enough with the sentimental stuff.

I write to forget – how her face looked without life pulsing color into her cheeks and upturning the corners of her mouth and lighting a fire of her future in her eyes – I write to forget what death did to Trisha.

I write to remember – how she spilled out words of excitement in eager anticipation of her journey to Ghana that night we had dinner in March, how she filled up every minute of her days with meaning, even before her heart led her to change her course – I write to remember the life Trisha lived.

I write because a nagging need inside of me keeps sleep from my eyes when they droop with exhaustion, and ekes words out from my fingertips that would otherwise poison my bloodstream with mourning only.

Sometimes, I think I write for all the wrong reasons.

I write because Trisha is gone.

I write because still six months later, every single day is filled with minutes of missing her.

I write because I’m angry to live in a world that seems to have just shifted slightly to adjust to its new weight without her here.

I write because if I don’t, I’m afraid I will scream or sob or worse, say nothing at all.

I write because Trisha rooted herself so strongly inside of me that I cannot pull her out.

And I write because I did not tell her, could not have known how to tell her, thank you, for forming the path I now follow with faith, for weaving the tapestry I now seek for shelter, for balancing my warring passions with a calm and steady hand, and for pushing me gently along on my way.

I write so that Trisha can hear me.

Trisha – can you hear me?

Thank you.

I’ll say it again in case you missed it – THANK YOU.

Thank you, Trisha.

Thank you.

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September 19, 2009

Six Months Ago Today

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:57 pm by jlp412

Wedding

Six months ago today, Trisha was torn from the fabric of this earth with careless hands who had little regard for the delicacy of the material surrounding her. When these hands grabbed her by the shoulders and ripped her out of this world, she left behind a shredded sky and an upturned earth, her ragged footprints freshly hollowed, two small oblong holes of gaping midnight black set in the bright green grass of the living.

The sky is puckered in places where she reached to grab onto something to anchor her here among us as she was yanked away by a force unknown; her fingerprints can be found on the tops of clouds and track marks of her fingernails scratching in protest can be seen streaked across the sky. The earth she left behind screams for her still; the people who inhabit it wander aimlessly in search of her, settling, with reluctance, for only each other.

Sometimes I marvel at how the ground I walk on still spins on its axis and how the clouds above my head still float listlessly across their light blue backdrop without Trisha’s face beaming up toward the sun and without the bottoms of Trisha’s feet trotting along on a path whose final destination fades over rolling hills in the distance of a far-off future.

Sometimes I can’t believe she’s really been gone for six months.

But even as the sky bleeds tears of mourning into the ocean, even as my own dirt path toward purpose thins out in confusion without her, even as the stars I used to dream of lithely hopping across to a higher place now hang in the sky like a precarious set of monkey bars, leaving me to dangle dangerously over the earth below as I try to follow them to Trisha, even as I endure all of these reminders of her absence, I dwell here still.

I endure. I breathe. I beat my own heart when it threatens to stop on me.

I try to lay my body into the silhouette she left torn into the earth to fill it up with life and color again. I try to transmit her touch to the people I reach out to with outstretched arms. I try to slit the sky with a knife and slide through into the world Trisha dwells in now.

But most of the time, my gaze shifts downward to the earth around me and the people who inhabit it, and I find tiny pieces of Trisha everywhere – I find her in the rocks that get stuck in the bottom of my shoe and in the eyes of those who knew her. I collect these pieces of Trisha and place them into the basket of my ribcage and I pile them up in a stack that teeters close to where my heart is. Maybe some day, six months or six years from now, I will have gathered all of them and glued them together and they will have formed a collage of Trisha herself.

Six months ago today, as the rest of us slept in sweet states of unknowing, two rugged hands ripped our Trisha away. Sometimes six months feels more like six lifetimes. Sometimes I forget what the earth and the sky ever looked like without Trisha’s gaping silhouette splashing the pink sky with an oil spill of black.

Six months ago today, those of us Trisha left behind became unwitting painters, smearing our brushes with the colors she robbed of the landscape we live in now, swirling the memory of her into a new palette that blankets everything we touch, everything we see, ourselves. We are artists now, of the life she was robbed of completing. It’s our job to make every day a masterpiece. We have six months’ worth of black to paint over.

September 14, 2009

And I Will Be There For All of This…

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:04 pm by jlp412

Power Hour 029

“And I will be there for all of this…”

Trisha spoke these words during the end of a speech she gave at her sister’s wedding a few years ago, the video of which was recently posted to her memorial Web site. I watch this video as if my eyes searing into the computer screen can bring her back to me, as if the intent of my gaze alone can extract her in tiny pixilations from a recorded video and transform her somehow into a physical person. This is the first video of Trisha that her family has shared with us, their generosity so thirst-quenching and limitless that I suspect I will be drinking it for the rest of my life.

This is the first time I have seen Trisha speak since she was alive. The video dangled death in front of me like one taunts a kitten with a ball of yarn only to watch it paw playfully and tug at it in senseless distraction: I kept fumbling to hold onto death as it hung midair just out of my grasp, I reached for it to cling to it because as much as I fear and loathe it, I know it to be true, and I wanted confirmation. After watching Trisha so alive, speaking and laughing and sharing the bond she had with her sister, I needed to know death was still there, that it still trumped the tricks my heart was playing on me. I needed its voice to be louder than Trisha’s, which seemed to scream, “I am alive!” even though I know she is not. I find I still paw dumbly at death, not entirely convinced that the friend I watch toasting to her sister’s happiness is not just a continent away living out her journey.

I watched the video upon returning from Chicago last night, much like an addict retreats to a drug he knows is the source of both temporary ecstasy and cyclical ruin: I knew watching it would be both comforting and painful, I knew it would be the first of hundreds of times I will turn to it for a quick fix of Trisha, but I also knew it would leave me constantly dissatisfied and tormented, twitching with longing for the real thing. I knew the high of hearing her voice and watching her move and speak and laugh would abandon me soon enough and leave me in withdrawal, aching desperately for the flesh and sound and touch of her.

Team Trisha pride

Watching her speech last night, fresh from the heels of the Chicago Half Marathon and a weekend of celebrating her life and legacy with some of her family and friends I had not seen in years and some I had never met before, I felt the gut-grasping twinge of loss creeping up through my toes and settling into the core of me, much like it did last March during the midnight call that placed a weight in my ribcage so heavy it pulled me in an instant straight to the ground, where I stayed for many weeks in mourning, where I find myself retreating sometimes still, where I dwell tonight as I write the words written here.

The words that stuck in my mind with the most persistence from Trisha’s speech are the ones I wrote at the top of this posting, “And I will be there for all of this…”

It’s ironic in a way, because throughout the entire weekend in Chicago, Trisha was there for all of it:

She hovered above us Friday night when we dragged our travel-logged selves out to a celebrate Gemma’s 24th birthday, the one Trisha never got to live to see, and she had a beer with us and caught up on the new jobs, graduations and boyfriends of the last couple of years since we’d last seen each other.

She was there when we ate eggs and bagels at Katie’s apartment in Lincoln Park, watching the Wildcats nearly surrender a winnable football game and prevail in their typical fashion during the last few seconds, and she cheered with us.

She was there when we all sat at dinner Saturday night and her parents reached somehow even deeper into themselves to distribute Team Trisha paraphernalia and honor those who raised money for her memorial fund and those who painted posters for first-time runners and those who gave their hearts and time and money in other ways these past six months, and she thanked them.

She was there when her friends from middle school in Hong Kong met her friends from high school at Exeter and ran with her friends from college at Northwestern, and she was there when her cousins and aunts and uncles and sister and parents took us into their family as their own, and she was proud.

IMG_1008

She was there when I fell down during the first two seconds of the run and scraped up my knees and laughed and ran on anyway, and she gave me a push forward.

She was there when some of us panted for breath and struggled to surmount injury and built up endurance to overcome mental barricades that we could not possibly finish this run, and she believed in us.

She was there when we cheered for one another with colorful posters along the course, and when we wore our purple shirts with the words, “Our lives are better because of her,” written along our backs, prompting strangers to ask who she was and why we are running for her, and she was humbled.

She was there when those of us who never would have put on a pair of running shoes in the first place ran 3 miles and 13 miles for her, and she was running with us in her bright pink shirt with her thumbs tucked into the sleeves, a smile on her face and an energy in her stride.

She was there as we vowed to do this again next year, and she will be there when we do.

She was there as we pumped our fists in the air for a group photo and she was there as we cried our way through the finish and as we surprised ourselves with the strength in our legs and the smiles on our faces.

Yesterday in Chicago, she was indeed, “there for all of this.”

Full Team Trisha after the Half

September 12, 2009

Tomorrow, We Run for Trisha

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:24 pm by jlp412

Tomorrow, we run for Trisha. After what feels like lifetimes of waiting, the moment has arrived for us to walk, run and cheer in the Chicago 5k & Half Marathon as part of Team Trisha.

Tomorrow, we run for her.

Tonight, her cousins and parents, her aunts and her sister, her boyfriend and his family, her friends from all parts of her life and friends and family of theirs, all gathered together for dinner to prepare for tomorrow’s run. This blended patchwork of people never would have known each other, much less reached our hands into the hearts of one another and held them for safekeeping, giving gentle squeezes when we needed to so we could keep the beats going strong, had it not been for Trisha.

Tomorrow, we run for her.

Our friend Mike Winograd sent me these words, and I could not have written them better myself.

See you at the finish line, Trisha.

160 miles… to my best estimate, that is how far I have run this summer. That is how far I have run for Trisha. Prior to this, the longest I’d ever run non-stop was 2 ½ miles. The longest run/walk I’d ever taken was just short of 6 miles. Now, I consider 5 miles easy. Before this summer, I’d always said to people I have no desire to be able to run for an hour or two straight. Now, it has become an obsession. Because of this, over the past four weeks, I’ve received a cortisone injection in my hip, taken pain killers, muscle relaxants, and endured nightly stretching and foam rolling sessions, all to allow myself to hopefully finish the half marathon. I’ll likely have a few weeks of recovery after the race is over, but to me, it’s worth it.

As important as it is personally for me to complete this race, what is more important to me is why. I’m doing it to remember Trisha, even though she would consider it absolutely ridiculous for anyone to endure any pain in her memory. In fact, she would find it ridiculous for anyone to simply consider running a half marathon in her honor. Maybe snapping hip syndrome, ankle cysts, plantar fasciitis, and whatever other ailments we have are signs from her that we’re being ridiculous. I think she’d much rather us go to Cozy with more than a bottle of wine per person, to sit on a rock on the lakefill, to sing “Don’t Stop Believing” and simply enjoy the company of those friends we have now. But that’s not what we’ve decided to do. We are running. We are running for Trisha. Each step we take, whether it is in the 5k or half marathon, is symbolic of the promise we made back in March to never let her memory fade.

I’m never going to forget that unfortunate night in March. I’m never going to forget how it felt or the thoughts and feelings that slowly crawled through my head in the days, weeks, and months after. I’m never going to forget the trip to Atlanta. I’m never going to forget the looks on the faces of my friends; images that are forever ingrained in to my mind’s eye, which when recalled are still hard to handle. However, while hard to forget, these are not the things I will remember. I will, instead, remember her smile, and her laugh, unwittingly captured for a fleeting second on an accidental video of a dog. I will remember her seemingly unwavering optimism whenever I talked to her. I will remember her selflessness and ambition, qualities which I will try to adopt more in my own life. I will remember how easy it was to like Trisha and how impossible it was to not have a good time in her company. I will remember trips to Kingston Mines and dinner parties. I will remember how she inspired so many people to come together to help do something to better the world through her scholarship. I will remember how through her vast reach I have since made new friendships and strengthened old ones. And after Sunday, I will remember how on a weekend in September, dozens of her friends and family gathered in Chicago again to cheer and run for Trisha. From now on, whenever I go running (laundry willing) I will wear my Team Trisha shirt. Hopefully some day someone will stop me and ask about the meaning behind it and I can tell them her story.

It will help me remember her.