I met Jackie for the first time in 2010.
I had heard stories about her from Heather, and she had read and commented here in the months before I knew her. We first met in person when she came down to Southern California for the March of Dimes that April. I had a colossal headache that night and she was one of the few people who understood how awful it was. Though I could never fully understand her pain, she got mine, and though I hated it, it was so nice to have someone who knew what I meant when I said that things were really bad.
I was struck by how immediately warm she was to me and everyone else at the party. After an hour of chatting in the Heather’s kitchen, I felt like I had known Jackie my whole life. I was sad to leave that night, sad for her to return to northern California, but so happy she had come down and so looking forward to seeing her again.
I was blessed to see Jackie several times after that despite all that was happening with her health and how far away she lived. I saw her again April of 2011, after the same walk that we had attended together the year before. Only this year, she found me as the walk began and for 3.2 miles we walked side by side and talked about our brains. That afternoon we hung out at Heather’s parents house where she was staying and that night we went on a grocery shopping adventure and had dinner around a table with friends. It was the last time I would ever see her.
We tried to meet up this April for the walk but I was impossibly pregnant and she wasn’t feeling well. It just wasn’t meant to be.
I feel somewhat awkward claiming Jackie as my friend because I didn’t know her for very long, especially in comparison to many of you. But I think that’s the thing about friendship. It’s not determined by the length of time you’ve known and loved someone, it’s something deeper, something less quantifiable.
Jackie was my friend.
And she passed away very early yesterday morning.
When I heard that her battle was coming to a close, I went on Facebook to look at a message she had sent me, because I couldn’t remember what it was about. Before I could get to searching for it I was astounded at how many pictures of her were being posted. In the next few days, hundreds of pictures showed up, at different stages in her life, always surrounded by friends. Because that’s how Jackie lived her life.
When I found the message I realized she had sent it last June, just after I met with my new neurologist. She wanted me to know that she understood feeling conflicted about “good” news because what seemed good to everyone else, didn’t always feel good to her as a patient.
She concluded the message with:
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that you’re on my mind. I don’t know whether I should root for surgery or not. But, I’m happy that there is more discussion and ideas about how to heal you. If nothing else, I really hope that your new doctor leads you down the right path that gives you relief.
Sending you hugs,
Jackie, who was deep in a fight with brain cancer, sent me a message to let me know I was on her mind. Because that’s who she was. She was kind and caring. Funny and thoughtful. I only knew her for 2 years, but I knew all that about her in the first 10 minutes. And in the past 2 weeks, I have sat by and watched as hundreds of pictures of her with friends old and new, have popped up on Facebook. She loved and was loved in return.
Words fail me now because I keep getting lost in a cycle of feeling that this is so unfair (for her, for her family) and so wrong and I can’t find an articulate way to say that I miss her.
I miss her. I haven’t seen her in a year and I won’t ever again. It feels so impossible to me.
I can’t process the fact that next April she won’t get to meet Eli. That next April I won’t get to walk those 3.2 miles with her in downtown Los Angeles. I don’t know how to process losing someone I love. Losing a friend.
The day I heard that Jackie didn’t have much time left, a song came on my radio and a few lines caught my attention (the rest of it, not so much). They played over and over in my mind that night and they’ve replayed every time I think about her.
The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now.
My universe will never be the same
I’m glad you came.
I’m glad you came.
Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for supporting me even when it was you who needed the support. My life was enriched by your presence in it, by your friendship. And I am a better person for having known you, even for such a short time.
I’m glad you came.