I went to see Monica on the Tuesday after I returned from Gayle’s wedding in Vegas. It was to be my last grief counseling appointment, I would be heading to New Jersey the following week.
I was a mess.
The week prior I’d been so positive, hopeful and happy; but this week I was a hot mess. I wore a plain black dress, no make up and no wig. I cried the entire time, just as I had on the first time we met. “Grief is like a wave..” She reminded me.
Then she gave me three stones to take with me. The first was a jagged rock that was to remind me of the way I was when I came, Raw. I forgot what the other two stones symbolized. I was focused on the raw one. I still felt that way. She urged me to be gentle with myself. “It’s still fresh, it hasn’t even been three full months..”
“I feel so overwhelmed,” I told her. My move back to New Jersey was only one week away, but I had so much to do before I left. I had to organize all of my clothes and pack. And the Links executive council was coming to town for a leadership summit. And my new step mother was having a post-wedding bridal shower; I was expected at that also.
And not only that, but I had all of these commitments that I would be expected to uphold when I returned to New Jersey. I held an office in my sorority, and I had commitments to other social clubs and community service organizations. And my church. And I was starting a PhD program…
The thought of it all was so overwhelming; it was too much. All I wanted to do was be still.
“Right now you only have a certain amount of energy,” Monica told me. “You can’t do everything, so I suggest that you prioritize. Give your energy to people and situations that are giving energy back to you.”
She was right. I was over-extending myself; and in many cases, those relationships were not reciprocal. I would have to decide what to keep and what to give up. I couldn’t do it all, I only had a certain amount of energy.
I decided in that moment that I would not go to my step mother’s post-wedding bridal shower. That decision had to do with my father. I had only seen him three times since I’d been in Cleveland, grieving. And one of those times was his wedding. He hadn’t even called to check on me. And then there was this one morning when I called him and asked if I could visit. He was at IHOP picking up breakfast for he and his wife. “Pick up something for me, I’ll stop by and join you,” I said. “No, now’s not a good time…”
I decided that going to the shower was not in my best interest. That was a situation that wasn’t giving back to me. I would save my energy for my mom. My mom had been so present with me, I would be present with her for the Links summit.
Having made that simple decision, I felt so much lighter. Monica had done it again. I hated to leave her. Our weekly appointments had helped me so much.
Before I left, she told me she liked my haircut. She was the first person to say that..
That afternoon I decided to take a drive out to the country. I ended up driving to my old high school, The Hawken School.
I hadn’t been there in years.
The sprawling green campus was breathtaking to me; it was more beautiful than I ever remembered. I was filled with nostalgia from days of old. I felt so lucky to have gone to that school. It was so rigorous, and outside-of-the-box; the exposure was incredible.
When other high schoolers were taking basic english, we were taking classes like “The Life and Times of Buddha and Jesus,” and “Bio-medical Ethics.” I was so thankful for the great sacrifice that my parents made; sending me to this incredible school. Our motto was : “That Each Generation Introduce it’s Successor to a Higher Plain of Living.” My mom loved that motto. That became the motto of our household as well..
Going to Hawken that afternoon was a great idea! It lifted my spirit. The campus was empty, but the main school building was open. I went in and ran around, remembering. I ran in and out of classrooms, I peeped in teacher’s offices; I went in and out of the bathrooms, to the library and the auditorium. I ran across the field to the dining hall, “The White House” is what we used to call it. Then I ran back and stared at a wall of photographs of teachers that I once knew; many of whom had retired.
And then I sat on the bench where I always sat in high school, and I looked up at a copper hawk mounted on a stone slab. I thought about Kesner; he’d been sending me hawks all summer long.
And now, here I was at my alma matter and I was staring at a sculpture of a hawk. It was our mascot. How fitting. Yes coming to Hawken was a great idea. It lifted my spirit.
I was alone, but I wasn’t. As I sat there on my bench I felt a presence so strong and so certain. But, this time it wasn’t Kesner. It was..
Jaimie – My friend. My high school friend who died suddenly six days before my 30th birthday. I hadn’t grieved her death, the guilt of it all had been too much….
Jaimie and I had been friends since we were eleven and we remained so into adulthood. She was smart, and funny, and beautiful. But she was sad a lot of the time. She worked in the Cleveland public school system with poor children who were mentally and emotionally challenged. We kept in touch through the years. When we got together we mostly spent time catching up on the Hawken rumor mill: who’d gotten married; who’d had babies…
The last I saw Jaimie was Christmas time 2009. We had coffee at Starbucks. I had my camera but I didn’t take a picture, it was too awkward to ask a stranger to take a photo of the two of us…
Two months later she died. Suddenly.
“I’m sorry to hear about Jaimie,” was the text I received at midnight two days after her death. It was from Damon, another Hawken friend. “Huh? What happened to Jaimie?” I responded. He called.
Then I checked my voicemail. Amanda had been trying to reach me also. Then I checked facebook and it was all over the place; condolences for Jaimie.
I venture to say that, among our Hawken friends, I had remained the closest to Jaimie through the years. And when she died, I was the last to know. I found out through the Hawken rumor mill; the irony.
By the time I found out, the funeral had already happened. The family was sitting Shivah in Cleveland, and I was in New Jersey; I couldn’t get there in time. And what made it worse was that I had a voicemail from Jaimie from the Thursday, prior.
“Hey it’s Jaimie, give me a call when you can….”
I hadn’t gotten around to calling her back. I was so damn busy. She died suddenly on the following Saturday. The guilt of it all was incredible.
So that afternoon, on my visit to The Hawken School, I sat with my friend on our bench. We shared a peaceful moment and I felt her say “I forgive you for not calling me back,” and “I’m better now.” I cried healing tears. This time, for Jaimie.
And I promised to be different. I promised to live on a higher plain: To be present in my relationships. To give energy to people and situations that give energy to me. And to say no to some things; to have boundaries.
Right then and there, in the place of my youth, I vowed to change me.
© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2012