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.

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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.