June 17, 2016

Dear Frannie Friday--My Thoughts on Jessica's Passing

Last November, I shared the news on my blog that my former sister-in-law (well . . . close enough) had been diagnosed with Stage 5 breast cancer.  Two weeks ago, on June 3, 2016, she passed away.  She was 33.  And she leaves behind her 12 year old daughter.

Jessica and I started as friends working at Subway together as teenagers.  We graduated high school together.  She introduced me to her younger brother who, despite all of the bullshit relationship stuff we went through with each other, gave me two of my most cherished gifts--my son Conner and my daughter Brielle.

Jessica's passing away hit me much, much harder than I expected.  When I first heard of her diagnosis, I was in total denial.  Then, her family set up a Go Fund Me page and it started to get more real.  Then my kids would come home from their dad's house and tell me of Jessica's status, which only got bleaker through the months.  But all the while, I was still in disbelief.  Right, wrong or indifferent, this was a woman I had seen overcome so many obstacles in her life--most notably caring for her daughter completely on her own from the start of her pregnancy.  I still believed that she would come out of it.  But that did not happen.

Our pasts were full of so much . . . stuff.  We were friends.  We were really, really good friends.  We were the kind of friends that shared really intimate moments and secrets with each other.  We were family when I was with her brother--she as my sister in law and my kids' aunt.  And then, her brother and I broke up.  And she was still someone that I called on to talk or when I needed something.  Then . . . there was That Day.  And I didn't talk to her again.  Until I donated to her Go Fund Me page and got a Facebook message from her.  We went back and forth a bit--nothing substantial.  But then, she was gone.

I wasn't prepared to feel for any member of that family.  I had completely shut them and any compassion for them out.  But this, obviously, changed that.  And when I was invited unexpectedly to her funeral and reunited with all of the people I had not come into contact with for many, many years, it was bittersweet.  It was closure.  It was raw.  It was acceptance.  It was a truce.

There have been many, many horrible and horrific instances as of late, in my own life and in national news, that have only reaffirmed to me this: LOVE IS THE ANSWER.  Not a day is promised.  Never miss a kiss.  Never take a single moment for granted.  Love. 

On Facebook, I wrote this:

When I met Jessica when we were 16 slinging sandwiches at a Subway restaurant, I had no idea that she would become an eternal part of my life.

There was a time in the last several years that I have wished nothing but malicious intent, grief, sadness and horrifying consequences for that family. And I had every reason to. To this day, when I remember the look on my son’s face as tears of confusion, terror and rejection streamed down his face without effort or yield, there is still a part of my heart that rages for him. I don’t forget the days following that incident and there are many pieces of that day that will live in Kaden and I forever. For many years after the day that my son was tossed aside by half of the only people he knew to be nothing but family, I wished that one day they could feel the pain that had been cast on the heart of such a young, innocent child.

But time heals. It changes. It softens.

Ever since I learned of Jessica’s diagnosis in October, my hard stance on them changed. I remembered. And not just That Day. I had spent the last several years thinking only of That Day when I thought about them. But when I heard about Jessica’s diagnosis, I remembered other things that I had since buried in my heart. I remembered hiding from my abusive ex-boyfriend in a farmhouse Jessica lived in out in the country of Loveland where she helped me to strategize ways to safely get Kaden and I away from him. I remembered a cold March evening when I got a text from Jessica needing to talk and her showing up at my Fort Collins apartment with news that she was pregnant and asking for my advice on how to tell her parents and, well, how to survive as a single mother. I remembered her laugh. I remembered her love of nature and boating and books and learning. I remembered Kaylana and watching her grow and play with my kids, her cousins. I remember boating at Lake McConaughy. I remember her passion for politics. I remember sitting on the trunks of our cars in the Subway parking lot goofing off with all of the old Subway crew–you know who you are. I remembered all of that, almost in an instant.

To lose a daughter–I cannot imagine. To lose a mother before you are a teenager–I cannot imagine. To lose a sister with whom you have a nearly inseparable bond–I cannot imagine. Although her pain is gone, her family’s pain is rawer than ever. And even though there was a time in my life that I felt nothing but utter aloof disdain for this family, I feel a part of that pain. I feel it for my kids losing their aunt and for Kaylana for losing her mother. I feel it for Julie for losing her daughter and I even feel it for my kids’ father for losing his sister.

Jessica fought the hardest battle anyone could ever fight and she did so with grace and optimism. I know that a lot of my friends and family on here will not agree with my stance. I know that a lot of them who are also friends with Jessica will wonder why I am coming out to say these things–“how could I after what she did to Kaden?” or how dare I say anything–I haven’t talked to Jessica since That Day eight years ago. And that is ok. I sometimes wonder why I am affected too. But I cannot help these feelings. Because today, I mourn the loss of an old friend, a mother, a daughter, an aunt, a sister.

Today I remember. I remember Jessica and her family. And I remember compassion, sympathy and most of all love. And if there is any lesson that I have learned in this life, it is this–there can NEVER be too much love and compassion. Time is so precious and sometimes we are only given a handful of it. And through this most horrific of events, it has taught me even more about the need for more love and compassion.

So hug your friends and your family. Enjoy the sunshine. Listen to Bob Marley and John Fogerty. Listen the running water of a river. Plant a flower. Pet your dog. Because although Jessica and I ended up estranged as friends, I knew her. I remember her. And I know that she would want those things.

When her family set up her GoFundMe page and I donated the smallest, most insignificant amount, Jessica reached out to me with a message on Facebook. She signed the message with “sending big hugs and lots of love.” Back at you, Jess. RIP.

The Go Fund Me page is still live and all proceeds will be given to Kaylana, Jessica's now 12 year old daughter, whom my ex and his wife are adopting and will now be an integral part of Conner and Brielle's lives.  If you care to help donate, I know they would be grateful. 

RIP Jessica Clark (I cut myself and my family out of as much of this video as possible)

Skinny Blue Jeans-Old Navy
Peasant Top-Old Navy
Woven Tote-Fossil, thrifted
Platform Sandals-soooooo old
Necklace-Blue Nile, c/o 
Watch-gifted and thrifted

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