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

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