I’m not going to lie, the last few days have been hard. For as grateful as I am that Jenny is no longer suffering, I still can’t get over the shock of it – the shock of knowing that she doesn’t physically exist anymore. I remember thinking this when my cat, Lily, died a year and a half ago, but it’s so very different when it’s a person, a friend, your age (or in my case, almost 5 years younger than me) dies.
I woke up in Kansas City in the dark hotel room and thought, “where am I?” I then remembered, “oh yeah, Jenny died.” I’ve had the same confusion every morning, but it’s lessened each morning and is becoming something that just is in my life. It’s weird.
The first night home, I dreamt of Jenny all night. I woke up to use the bathroom and went right back into a dream about her. I got up with Bryson at 5:10 the next morning and rocked him in his room, falling asleep in the chair, and I dreamt about her immediately. They weren’t good dreams. I was glad to finally be up on Monday morning.
People have been posting photos of Jenny on her Facebook page, reminiscing and sharing good memories. I’ve found peace in those posts and have, for two nights, gotten totally sucked in reading them. It’s felt like if I was reading about her, that she was still here. The photos have been so fun to see, but they aren’t my memories of her, which has been causing me a serious problem.
When I close my eyes at night, I think of her dead in that hospice bed. I can’t see her as she was all those years that we spent, literally, every weekend together. All I can see is her colorless face, closed eyes, dry teeth, and still chest. If I’m not working out or doing something very involved with the boys, I am thinking of her… in that bed. I’ve mentioned that I’ve never seen someone so soon after dying, before being made up by the funeral home. I don’t know why I expected her to have more color and life in her when we walked in, but I did. I know how this works, I’ve read, “The Embalming of Mr. Jones” (required reading in my high school death and dying class – it still haunts me) – I know that the body turns cold and blue and pale very quickly, but I just didn’t think it would happen to her.
Sort of like I didn’t think the cancer would kill her.
Imagine, every moment that your mind can wander off task, thinking of your dead friend lying in a hospice bed. It has been exhausting, and upsetting. Hottie and I talked last night about it and it’s not just me having this problem – he’s having the same challenge. We have years and countless memories of the “funnest” times of our lives with Jenny and her husband, but we can’t shake that image of her in that damn hospice bed.
I’ve read that when you grieve, you tend to remember the person as you last saw them – usually sick and dying or dead in a casket – for quite a while before that image starts to fade. I have wondered so many times over the last three days when that image will fade. When will I remember her as she was when she was alive and full of life?
After looking at everyone else’s photos of Jenny of FB, I decided today to find ours. We back up our photos to a server and also online, so finding pictures is not easy – we don’t do a good job of organizing them. I was looking for some in particular and never did find them, but I found a folder that brought me some hope. I’d planned a pretty special 30th birthday party for Hottie back in 2009, which was when we started our friendship with Jenny and her husband. I remembered that we’d invited them, despite just having met them (we knew they were special and that we’d be lifelong friends if the opportunity allowed), and I furiously scoured the photos for a picture I knew we had of her.
I found it. And I found another one too.
In the photos, she is wearing the coat she was wearing when we met her. In the photos, she is the Jenny we met and fell in love with almost instantly. In the photos, she is alive.
My memory of her in that hospice bed is fading. I replaced my lock screen photo with one of the four of us, and that’s helping me a great deal. When I think of her, I am seeing her bright eyes and shiny blonde hair. I’m no longer grasping onto others’ memories, hoping they’ll help me cope. I have my own memories for that… and now I have a picture.