In loving memory

It’s been two and a half months.

Christmas has come and gone, and it was especially hard this year because you’re not here anymore. Because I didn’t get to see you like we said we would in August. I always looked forward to seeing you and T during the holidays for as long as I could remember.

Your passing has been completely unfamiliar terrain for me. I’ve never lost a loved one in this way. I’ve never dealt with grief in this way. Most of my friends didn’t really know how to comfort me or talk to me about this, and I didn’t blame them. But there are a few who have gone through losses of their own that I have been able to lean on and take comfort in.

I want you to know that been doing pretty well for the most part. I’ve done my best to keep moving forward with my life. Good things have been happening in my life the last 2 months; I think you’d be proud of me. But sometimes when I feel happy, I feel guilty that I’m not sad.

As if somehow, my being happy is disrespectful to your memory and to our loss.

I wanted to tell you all about my life this Christmas. I wanted to tell you about all the new and exciting changes. I wanted to give you updates on everything we talked about in August. I wanted to hear all about your semester, and how exams were tough but you nailed them all, and how much fun you were having with your friends in your cohort.

Sometimes when I absentmindedly scroll through social media, I *swear* I see your handle in the list of names, and I have to do a double take to ensure that it isn’t you who’s liked or viewed something I posted. As if there had been some grave mistake and you were somehow still with us. Impossible scenario to wish for, but the type that never really goes away.

And because you are the sister I never had, sometimes I just want to shout, how could you do this?! You’re such a damn perfectionist, J. In another life, you would’ve seen that even though you felt overwhelmed, there isn’t a mountain that you can’t conquer. That nothing in life is perfect. That disarray is part of the process. But I know you fought the hardest battle that you could fight. You were and are a source of strength and quiet determination.

Since you passed, I have been wanting to donate to the crisis centre & hotline in BC. I wanted to use this tragic story to raise awareness about depression and mental health, especially given the context in which our shared community exists. But I put it off again and again because it was laced with finality and facing the truth of what happened.

And last night, upon reflecting on the holiday season and how not seeing you this Christmas was all the finality I needed, I finally did it. It’s time to enter the new year on a clean page, a fresh start, closing the chapter on one fucking rollercoaster of a year.

I’m never going to forget you, J. You’ll always be my sister, even if in spirit.

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2009

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October 29

Dear J,

Today was the day of your memorial service. It was a really rough day for me. I am so emotionally exhausted and my gas tank is empty. I felt like I was healing a week out from the news, but today just ripped up all the stitches I created.

It felt wrong stepping into church without you around. I always looked forward to seeing you on Sundays when we were kids. It just feels so different without you there. If it weren’t for all the visual reminders of why we were there, it would have felt like a normal Sunday morning 10 years ago.

I thought I was going to be fine, but I cried when they showed all the old photos of you. All the photos from our childhood together. I cried when I went to greet your sister, and I told her that in August when we met, you had told me that she was moving home from Boston, and that you were happy to have her back, and that I’m so sorry that this happened. We both cried and hugged each other.

I cried when I went to greet your mom, and it was even worse than seeing your sister. I held onto her, tears streaming down my face, and told her about how you told me how much you enjoyed Edmonton, and wanted to stay there after graduating. And how happy you were. And how sorry I was. And how positive our friendship was. She ended up asking ME if I was okay, which was baffling to me – how could she still be mothering me when she is in so much more pain than me?

I’m still at a loss and I don’t think it’s actually sunken in that you’re not here anymore. I see those photos of your smiling face, doing all the activities you love – running, track and field, hiking, rowing – and my mind can’t quite grasp the fact that we will never see each other again.

Despite this, I think you would be proud to know that I’m doing my best to press on. I went home, weary and tired, and forced myself to get off the couch and cook an actual dinner/meal prep when all I wanted to do was bake a frozen pizza and go to bed. Sometimes self-care looks like eating junk food on the couch, but other times it looks like nourishing your body and taking care of your health.

I’m here now, at my desk, catching up on some work and life so tomorrow doesn’t absolutely overwhelm me. In my sadness, it’s a huge effort for me to try and care about all these now seemingly insignificant things, but I’m doing what’s best for me, even if it’s the last thing I want to do right now.

You don’t have to worry about me, J. I have an amazing support system, and people to confide in. I am a strong person. I know that you never really “get over” the loss of a loved one – you just learn how to live with it, and accept it as reality. What’s helped me so much is remembering all the good memories we’ve shared together, all the hilarious moments that make me laugh at the worst possible times, and how uplifting our friendship was.

Oh, and I want you to know that you were nominated for a post humous Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy.  You made it, my friend. The very thing you worked so hard for, you achieved it. I am so proud of you.

I miss you so much. I hope you are the happiest wherever you are now.

x

 

3:35pm

Last seen Wednesday at 3:35pm.

Dear J,

One week ago at this time, you were still alive. The world has only lost you for a week, and nothing has felt the same since.

Last week at 3:35pm, I was back in the office after being in San Francisco for work, exhausted and probably on coffee number 4 of the day. I was happily eating chocolate fondue because it was marketing treat trolley day, and I had. no. idea. what was about to happen.

If I knew, what would I have done instead?

Would I have rerouted my plane ticket to Edmonton instead and came knocking on your door?

Would I have poured out my heart to you – all the things that make you such a wonderful, beloved person to so many?

Or would I have simply reached out to you, at 3:35pm, just to say hi and ‘I’m thinking of you’? 

It has been extremely difficult to reconcile my feelings on this. How am I even supposed to start?

But J, I want you to know that even though you’re no longer with us, you’re still teaching me things every day. You have helped me put things into perspective as I go through my own challenges in life, and how in the grand scheme of things, 90% of the things I stress out about don’t actually matter. You have made me seriously reconsider my priorities. In this short time, it’s been a rude awakening for me to be kinder to myself, to take care of myself, to truly surrender and let go of what I do not have control over.

I also know that you would want me to keep going. And that’s exactly what I’m trying my very best to do – live my life as normally as possible. Put one foot in front of the other. Go to work. Go home. Go to yoga. Do mundane chores. Let my friends support me and hold me up. Allow myself to laugh at stupid shit I would normally laugh at – and do my best not to feel guilty about it.

Allow myself to cry if I need. Allow myself to reminisce about our long friendship. Allow myself the space to do whatever I need to do to work through this.

It’s not life or death. Until it is.

I miss you every day.

 

Grief and being human.

Dear J,

I can’t believe you’re gone. I can barely wrap my head around the fact that I will never receive another WhatsApp update about your life again, or that I won’t be seeing you this Christmas like we said, or that you’ll never post another photo of your Albertan adventures on Instagram.

My head is spinning and the shock probably won’t wear off for a while.

The last words you said to me haunt me. The last words you said to that group chat haunt me. I see your shadows in my apartment, that last time I saw you in August when you came over for dinner and I made my favourite salad recipe, and we talked until the late hours of the night on the bar stools on my island.

You were and are my oldest friend – being acquainted pretty much from the moment I was born. I have always loved you like a sister. You were one of the most tenacious, intelligent people I knew. You had big dreams, an immense drive and discipline. But most importantly, you were one of the kindest and most patient people I had the privilege of knowing. Being around you made me want to be a better person.

It breaks my heart that you won’t get to realize your full potential. You would have made amazing contributions to our society as a physiotherapist and as an overall great human being. You told me the last time we met that you were enjoying Edmonton and could see yourself creating a life there after graduation. Upon visiting my place, you were also excited to finish school so that you could one day have your own space and design it as a reflection of yourself.

I hope you know how missed you are. I hope you know how loved you are. I hope you know how many hearts are broken and tears have been shed over this great loss. I hope you know that I will always, always remember you and hold you in my heart. I know you’re up there somewhere, watching over me with a smile on your face.

I will never forget all the memories we’ve shared over our 25 years together – laughing over silly crushes while sharing a bed at summer camp at Manning Park, Sunday school, being roomies during camp at TW (and you set your alarm for 6am so you could run, much to my chagrin). When I would see you at cross-district track meets and it would feel very exciting that our elementary school lives were converging. All our post-church brunches. When we went to see all the Hunger Games movies together as they came out. When you first came over to my empty, unfurnished place that didn’t even have a couch. All the annual holiday parties – including one time when I made us take the most unflattering selfie with T in the 10th grade. All the ups and downs we experienced and shared with one another.

I have barely been able to process this – but I am so glad to have others to lean on, other people who had the privilege of knowing you, and grieve together.

I love you so much, J. You will always be with me in spirit.

Love, companionship & other musings

I think I’m going through an interesting time in my life.

This year alone, I’ve seen a record high number of breakups of long term relationships among my friends (I’m talking 5+ years), as well as engagements on my news feed. In fact, one of my best friends got married this year, and he’s the first in my circle to do so.

Some girlfriends and I went on a trip this weekend, and we reminisced about how different things were this time last year. The theme was consistent – whether you’re in a partnership or single, it feels like everything is shouting at you that you MUST be in a relationship. From fifteenth wheeling at parties, to being the “last single friend” of a group, to all your neighbours asking when “you guys” moved in – it can make you seriously question your self-worth.

It would be so easy.

So easy to settle, so easy to say yes to the guy asking you out on a 3rd date, but you’re just not vibing with. So easy to text that boy back who you know you don’t have feelings for, but would drop everything if you showed interest in him.

So easy to couple up and settle down because you don’t want to be alone.

But the truth is, not wanting to be alone, or feeling like your life is incomplete, is the worst reason for wanting a partner. You have to be complete on your own. There is no “missing puzzle piece” – a good partner should complement and elevate you in ways that you can’t achieve alone. But you should already be and feel whole as an individual.

I implore you: don’t just look for a warm body to sleep next to at night, or companionship for the sake of it. Hold out for the real deal – that irresistible pull towards somebody else, that connection with another soul. The one that keeps you up at night, grinning ear to ear.

The one that rarely comes, but when it does, stays with you for a long time.

You smile politely at your date, and wonder if that connection and depth will ever happen again. You worry that it won’t.

But deep down you know it will, because it has happened before, and it will happen again.

In a world that is built for twos, that screams something must be wrong with you if you’re not coupled up – staying single takes courage. It takes independence. It takes humility. It means being okay with being by yourself. It means trusting the process, and knowing that your time will come and with the right person. And you’ll know it when you see it.

The real love story that we should be cultivating is the one we have with ourselves, for it is us we spend the most time with. Others come and go, marriage cannot seal our fates; whether it’s falling out of love or death, all we get is a temporary companion in the turbulent climate of life.

Being happy with yourself is the first and most fundamental step.

And I like the company that I’m keeping.

-J

I am stupidly happy

Because in this very moment, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

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I don’t need much to be happy. I am a lady who enjoys the simple pleasures in life. Like this current moment: wrapped up in multiple blankets on my couch, throwback tunes playing in the background, tea and macbook in hand, talking and laughing with friends in our group chats.

Everything is as it should be at this point in my life. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t reached the goals that I set for my future self – we’re not there yet. I’ll get there in my own timing.

I am stupidly happy because I have an amazing circle of friends, people I truly love the crap out of and the strongest support system. I am happy because my home really feels like a home to me, and I can live independently on my own terms. I am happy because I earn my own living and use it (carefully) however I desire. I am happy because I feel myself strengthening inside & out. I am happy because I know I am contributing positively to this world.

My life is far from perfect, but none of it matters. I’m happy not despite the imperfections, but because of them. I know I will never stop learning and growing, and the world is at my fingertips. I can do whatever I want.

For the first time in my life, I’m not scared of this happy bubble bursting. Usually when I get “too happy” – I wait for the other shoe to drop. What’s going to mess this up? But I don’t have that fear this time. Life will never be a continual high, but as long as I keep a good head on my shoulders, I can get through anything.

– J