364 Days (April 24, 2010)

Jesika

I am not in a good place emotionally. Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the tragic passing of my great friend and comrade, Jesika Brooke Thompson. It was one year ago that I packed my bags to return home from a glorious trip to Israel, only to endure the most awful flight of my life, having been told via Skype right before heading to Ben Gurion airport that Jesika’s brief battle with ovarian cancer had ended.

I am a terrible person. Why? Because the continuous running question in my head this week has been to wonder whether I would have been maid of honor at Jesika’s never to be wedding to Kevin. I have considered this a number of times in the last twelve months, but in the last few days, the question has bordered on obssession, almost like this is the one piece of information that would provide me with the necessary closure and resolution. Why does the human mind work in such delirious ways?

I almost broke down while working out with my trainer on Thursday and Jesika’s name didn’t even come up. I was hit with the most acute loneliness, one that I couldn’t name or prepare for. But I knew that emptiness came from deep down, from going almost 365 days without talking to the woman who was a major part of my life for 16 years.

So I could wallow this weekend. There is much to feel sad about. It is hard not to project all the fabulous things that Jesika, with her educated mind and brilliant sense of humor, would have accomplished. It is difficult not to mourn the loss of being able to watch Kevin and Jesika complete their journey together. I am sorry to report that two months ago Kevin suffered a major stroke that he is still working to recover from, though through the miracle of medicne, it seems he is well on the path to healthy living. Lives have been changed in many unexpected ways by Jesika’s short struggle with cancer.

But I am trying, for Jesika’s sake, to make this weekend a celebration of her life and all the joy she brought to so many. I owe it to her because that’s what she would have wanted. Jesika was the epitome of anti-drama and would have had a complete distaste for all this wallowing on her behalf. I wish she would show up personally to tell me to snap out of it, but life is not an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

Instead I am trying to channel this depleting energy into a positive focus on next Saturday’s 13th Annual NOCC Illinois Chapter Walk for Ovarian Cancer. I have three miles to keep my head down and strut it out, funneling my anger toward the disease that took my friend (and my grandmother in 1991). The money our team has raised, and the pavement we will tread might one day lead to a cure. I have to settle for that positivity since I can’t bring Jesika back.

In our teens, Jesika and I were a couple of bad wannabe juvenile delinquents: smoking cigarettes, stealing hood ornaments, drinking stolen Bacardi on the tennis courts of Lincoln Park high school. Toward the end of her life, we settled for drinking a couple cosmos and talking trash. Such a wide range of memories. There will never be another like her.

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