Monday, April 28, 2008

Non Requiem

Sometimes I get stuck. The words for this post have been tumbling around inside my mind for some time. Every time I begin to string them together in an attempt to form sentences I stop. Re-read. Erase. Because it isn't right. It isn't perfect. For some reason I feel that it should be. Perfect. Even though I am not. Even though I have never been. And then I realize that my inability to create perfection is a necessary exercise in order for me to learn the lesson. Again.

I need to start at the beginning. I have a dear friend whom I have known for about ten years. I am typing the words "ten" and "years" strung together and I am shocked. I stop. Re-trace the path. Counting on my fingers. Ten. It is accurate. For the past ten years my dear friend and I have been all of the following: co-workers, acquaintances, friends, roommates, co-workers again, angry, estranged, re-acquainting, friends again. This is not meant to be an inclusive list, but I believe it is fairly accurate representation.

Not long ago I learned that her younger sister, Jenn, was diagnosed with cancer. As further testament to the irony of life you should know that my dear friend works at BIG ASS UNNAMED CANCER CENTER. I followed my friend's posts carefully. Then I received the message. Jenn died after her valiant fight with the disease. She wasn't even thirty years old.

You should know that I am telling you that Jenn died rather than telling you that she passed on, because I too once worked at BIG ASS UNNAMED CANCER CENTER (BAUCC). Typical terminology at BAUCC is that a patient "expired" like milk, but not like UNNAMED PROCESSED CHEESE PRODUCT NOT REQUIRING REFRIGERATION. If you work at BAUCC long enough you are bound to become desensitized about things like death. It is the only way you can survive an occupation like that without feeling the need to throw yourself off a bridge on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why I can say that someone died so matter of factly. The other reason is that I experienced a great deal of death from a very young age. I developed a macabre sense of humor, much to the chagrin of those meeting me for the first time. However, I never became desensitized enough during my life or my employment at BAUCC which is why I don't use the term expired. It is also why I choose a new career.

Besides. Some people are lactose intolerant so comparing their death to dairy of any sort would seemingly be a slap in the face.

I have digressed, but you knew I would. It is important for me to say that this digression is meant with the utmost respect. You might not think so, but I ask you to humor me for a moment. Because I think it is important for us to explore language. What it means. Why we use it. How it impacts us. And because sometimes we need to laugh to prevent ourselves from drowning in our own tears.

With that said you should know that I didn't know Jenn well. Not as well as I would have liked to have known her. I do know that she was an amazing individual. I know that she touched many lives. I know that she will be missed.

It's easy to say nice things about someone when they are gone from this life. We want to sanctify the dead, because it feels good to do so. This isn't one of those situations. I am not merely pontificating for her eulogy. Jenn was amazing.

I first met Jenn under what was intended to be a delightful holiday brunch, but became a train wreck due to several intoxicated and/or obnoxious guests. Despite the unusual circumstances of the day she held her own like a compassionate warrior. I quickly learned that she had a vibrant personality. Every time I saw Jenn she would sparkle when she smiled and that doesn't come along very often. She was a kind and genuine soul with a passion for life. She made the world a better place. Really, she did. How many of us can honestly say that we have done that?

And so here I am going through the typical mundane-esque bits and pieces of life. As of late I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself for one reason or another. And then I stop and think of Jenn.

Perhaps it is egotistical of me to believe that people like Jenn are put on this earth to teach the rest of us how to live. Fully. Completely. Not merely the wake up, go to work, come home, feed the dog, take out the trash, go to bed, rinse, repeat kind of living. But living with joy every day. Honestly thrilled to be alive kind of living. Who doesn't want that?

I would like to believe that I am not being self absorbed for assuming that Jenn's purpose was to teach us (me) this lesson. Because the thought of this both inspires and comforts me. Sometimes I need to be reminded not to take myself so seriously. This is why I write these posts the way that I do. Strangely punctuated. Grammatically daring. Deliciously vague.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that life is happening with or without me. I need to be reminded to let go of my fear and worry. I need to be reminded to live. I feel as though I want to mark this moment. I want to do something special so I won't forget. Again. I am very good at forgetting just as I am very good at making resolutions. Unfortunately I am not very good at the follow through.

I do not have the answer today. I wanted to wrap this post up with a nice bow. Like a sitcom or dramatic television program where everything comes full circle within the hour. I cannot do it. I have no answer. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. But I can't promise. I can promise that I will continue to post what I know and what I haven't yet figured out.

Thank you Jenn. Thank you for living your beautiful life for all to see.