Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of the death of my best friend Jamie. My friend Jill, who grew up with Jamie and I, called me:

“Just wanted to talk to you to remember how, 5 years ago exactly, we experienced one of the worst days of our lives.”

Actually, she said “one of the top 3 worst days of my life.” I didn’t ask about the other two.

“Crazy to think that, 5 years ago today, we were told about the car crash that changed our lives forever. Strange, how a day doesn’t go by where I don’t think about her, and how, surprisingly, my life still goes on.”

It is strange: the bittersweet feeling of resilience. The regretful act of survival. Such perverse adaptability, that we can endure through something we thought unendurable. The capability of human beings is awe-inspiring.

Thinking of Jamie made me think of my brother, and how every time this date rolled around he would call me to say he loved me, how grateful he felt to have his sister.

With my brother’s recent passing, this year the anniversary of Jamie’s death was a double whammy. Loss compounded on top of loss.

And such is the way of grief — a chain reaction — never felt in isolation, but always an accumulation, a piling on of each subsequent loss to the first, a painful string strung through each, like trinket beads of sorrow. We wear this ‘necklace’ forever.

We also wear this necklace with gratitude — it reminds us of how much we are loved and would be missed if we were gone… but it also humbles us to remember that the world won’t stop when we leave it. Things continue. We learn this rhythm. Sorrow, our greatest teacher.

What cruel lessons for such sweet reward.

On this anniversary day, I am in Seattle visiting my best childhood friends. When they pull out two bottles of wine and are ready to celebrate, well — anything, everything, nothing — I can only feel the oncoming flood–
– Jesus Christ. I have to excuse myself for a moment, and sit outside. I can only think of Jamie and my brother, the loss of my grandma before that, then of a friend who died from a brain tumor, my grandfather, a favorite teacher, hell– out pours every loss, breakup, disappointment, failure, each one triggering the next, like synapses firing across the brain’s blue horizon– until I’m sobbing my eyes out over my bird Frosty that was eaten by my cat when I was 12–

–Jesus Christ.

In this moment, I am convinced (perhaps dramatically) that one more loss will be too much to bear– the next death will finally be the last straw– one more ‘bead’ on this string of sorrows and I’m done for– I cannot endure another–

The next morning.
How… perverse… this act of survival. How strange our adaptability. How wonderful this resilience that, after nothing more than a little sleep, a sunrise, and a breakfast chocolate chip cookie, we can sit at the kitchen table, listening to music from a local Seattle station, a quiet cup of coffee in our hand, celebration in our heart.

§512 · August 31, 2008 · Unthinkable Loss · Tags: , , , , · [Print]

1 Comment to “Celebration”

  1. lynn says:

    Shannon, thank you for remembering – I know you always will, and I agree that can be a chain reaction, a piling on of the grief by adding into it until it is overwhelming, but yet a profound release once it’s over. We are so happy that Jamie had you in her life, and we still do.
    hugs, lynn

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