This is my beautiful friend, Jes. To know her is to love her. She always brought an infectious energy to the room. Her laugh was unforgettable and her smile was as radiant as her spirit. She taught me so much in life over the last 25 years of friendship. (Jes even gave me the name for this blog many years ago in a conversation we had wherein she was commiserating with me about being the Mom of all boys.)
Unfortunately, she has taught me a lot about death and loss, as well. Jes passed away on August 4, 2017 from metastatic breast cancer. She fought ridiculously hard to hold on for all who loved her - her friends, family, and mostly for her husband and three young boys. But God wanted her home.
In the weeks that have followed I have found myself thinking of her constantly - even more than usual. I often find myself wishing she were here to ask a question of, give advice, or just hang out with a cup of coffee and a lesson on her latest craft. What I've learned (the hard way) is that life is too damn short. I know people say that all the time, but I guess I'm slow and stubborn and it took losing someone (my age!) who was (until recently) ALWAYS there when I needed her, to learn this lesson first hand.
The problem is/was that I let life get in the way too often. Looking back over emails, text messages or G-chats Jes and I would send back and forth, there was a resonating repetition in our messages. "Let's get together when the weather gets better" or "the next couple weeks are crazy so let's try after the holidays" or "I miss you, when can I see you?" (with no response from one or the other of us for WEEKS or MONTHS to set up a date). There was no conscious realization that we'd NOT have a chance to reschedule or NOT have a chance in the future to set something up LATER. The unfortunate result of this was that I found myself saying, "I really thought we'd have more time", A LOT at her bedside in Hospice and ultimately at her funeral.
Well, time ran out. And now I'm kicking myself for not making better use of the time we had.
Rewind a few years...
When Jes called me to tell me the devastating news she had just received, I remember getting off the phone and calling my mother - My Aunt had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer so I wanted to know how my Mom was helping her. Through tears I asked my Mom, "What can I do!?!" and "How can I help?". With the confident wisdom that only a mother can impart, she said the best thing to do was to let Jes know she wasn't alone and that I was here and thinking of her. My mom did that for my Aunt by sending her cards to keep in touch.
So I went out and bought a bunch of cards. Thinking of you. Miss you. Friendship. Get well soon. You name it, I picked them up everywhere I went. I stocked up on them in droves so I'd have just the card needed for just the right time. At first I was good at sending them. I'd drop Jes a card or a note or a text to tell her she was in my thoughts. I'd let her know I was here if she needed anything. But as time went on and as she seemed to be handling everything with the strength and ease I honestly expected from her anyway, I got lazy (?), complacent (?), COMFORTABLE with the idea that she was strong and would kick cancer's butt and be just FINE. Meanwhile, LIFE got busy, my check-ins were met with a confident and positive Jes telling me things were good and scans were showing positive news. Life continued to get in the way and before long it would be weeks or even months between my contact. Like I said before, I really felt like TIME was on our side. Boy was I was wrong.
So, as I walked around my house after Jes passed away I found myself staring at this stockpile of cards I had bought to send to her and wondered, "Now what?". I totally screwed that up. Now I had this visual reminder of what a crappy friend I had been and how short life really is. I was remembering on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis how easily opportunities can slip away from you and how we DON'T always have MORE TIME.
So, I decided to take that lesson and make sure I never took my friends and loved ones for granted again. If I was thinking of them, I wanted them to know. If they had done something I was grateful for, I was going to tell them. As silly as it is, I didn't want anyone else to die without knowing exactly what they meant to me.
I started sending those cards I had stockpiled to friends and family (far and wide). I sent them to friends I see often and those I haven't seen or talked to in ages. A few at a time, every week or so I'd have the names of people that had crept into my thoughts throughout the week. (My list is longer now than my stamp budget, but I'll get to everyone. I promise.)
Then I got a few texts or messages from friends saying they had received my card(s) and that it made them smile. A couple friends mentioned that they had been having a bad day or a hellish week and that my card was just what they needed. One friend even said that it meant a lot to know that she "mattered if in some small way" and that it was a "much needed pick me up...in this chaotic adult life that can be boring, routine, complicated and so very harsh". THIS is exactly what I needed and just what I wanted to spread. I want to make sure the people in my life who have made me who I am never question the impact they have on the world.
So I decided to make this my mission (?) or project of sorts. It's a work in progress but it makes me happy to spread smiles, I guess. So I asked my sister to come up with a logo for my project. I call it my "Jes2cu:)" (Just to see you smile) project.
The "Jes" in the logo is Jes's actual signature which makes me happy every time I see it.
And so I will spread love and smiles whenever I can, in honor of my beloved Jes. It sucks that I had to learn this lesson by losing her. But I hope to never make the mistake of letting a moment go by without letting the people I care most about know they are important and loved. Every time I stick a stamp on a card being sent to someone special, I can almost see her beautiful smile!
|Bundles of note cards I put together to give to friends so they, too, can spread the love to people THEY care about.|