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.