Today is November 7th. I had reserved this day unto myself to allow for remembrance and maybe some emotional connection to this date, one year ago. See, last year on the 7th of November, our dear Marjorie passed away in her home, surrounded by her family. Marjorie Leech (Peterson) was my mother’s double cousin, and she had become a very special connection to me, beyond just family. She hosted me in her home on numerous occasions over recent years as I would take my Mom and Dad to visit family in New Brunswick, and I needed a place to stay. So, as last year unfolded, and I wrote a tribute to Marjorie as I knew her, and then a follow-up after her emotional funeral and my return home, I wanted to remember.
But then, there was yesterday. Yesterday I learned of the passing of a long time, dear friend, Joellen Barry. This news hit me hard. I wrote some words that scratched the surface of how I immediately felt about Jo’s passing. Then as the day wore on, I heard from friends and colleagues from all over the country, I read comments and messages from more friends, and the news seemed to deliver a progressively more powerful blow.
Last night I found myself sitting in a parking lot in Dover, NH, before my son’s hockey game, and I was reading comments, fighting back tears, and thinking of my memories of Jo. I felt as though there was a powerful force pressing on my body, making the option of movement increasingly difficult.
See, I worked with Jo. I talked with her. I was her manager for several years. I was the jobs’ disciplinarian. I set goals with her. I listened to the things that were important enough for her to bring to the workplace. I promoted her when many questioned the move. I went to bat for Jo many times. She worked hard for our team. She gave what she could give and learned that she had more than she thought. She stretched her comfort zone to push for the better life she envisioned for herself. I was at Jo’s wedding. I had to look into her eyes and make sure she, her goals, her efforts, and I, were all on the same page at any given time when, a business measured too much by numbers, wasn’t adding up. I watched her work with others. I saw her improve and grow. I celebrated her achievements and saw the pride in her eyes when she reached goals she wasn’t sure she would reach. In so many countless moments when our livelihoods were on the line, and paces of retail business pushed us faster than we would have liked, pressures built, and in those moments, relationships are built and bonded stronger than steel regardless of time or distance that inevitably passes. Really, the best part though, was just getting to know Jo the person, the personality.
I don’t profess to have been her best friend, or to have known her better than anyone else. There are far more people who knew her better than I. It really bothers me a great deal that I am writing these lines in past tense. I still can’t believe it.
The longer I pondered the news and the memories of Jo, the more I felt the old manager in me coming out. Please know that this is not about me. It’s not about my management skills or even my knowledge of Jo and her life. This is about her, and it just happens to be from the only perspective I really know; my own. I did tell one friend and former colleague, that I wished I could just call an impromptu meeting in my office and have all of us there one more time, together, bringing all that each of us represents into that room, to see each other as we are, and enjoy some funny story, or laugh at ourselves as we often did. Oh, to look across that space and see the faces, the people, the efforts given for a common goal, and to know that we would see them all again. All of them again.
I am out of my league when it comes to knowing the best ways in dealing with loss, trauma, and grief. I am even less versed in the explanations of why and how these events unfold, causing the need for these feelings. I do know this though; there are a lot of us who loved Jo and cared for her very much. I also know that the prospect of running into her, or interacting with her in any forum, ceasing to exist is going to be very hard to cope with for a very long time.
So, here I sit on this Saturday, November 7th, 2015. My eyes are tired and they leak often, streams of this vision or that memory run down my face looking for a place to gather again and be one. This little world I know just isn’t as complete as it was just a few days ago. I feel the void, and I don’t like it.
I sat and read the things I had previously written about my Mom’s cousin Marjorie, and it makes me smile through the tears I shed. I do miss Marjorie. I miss her fresh perspective and her genuine love of life that spilled over and touched all that were fortunate enough to sit with her for an afternoon. I noticed her absence while I was in Canada earlier in the year. I am so glad I got to know her better, and I got to spend so much time with her in recent years. It was a blessing to me and my great pleasure to have that time. If you haven’t read the stories I shared in the links above, please do, as it will give perspective to this person, the relationship, and the meaning of today to me.
I also reread through the little bit I wrote yesterday, regarding losing Jo. I read through comments and messages again as well. And I know that as I go about my day today it will feel like I am carrying a little extra weight today, but that’s okay. I have been praying a lot, and I have asked for strength to help with this extra load, so I know I will be alright. I just wish I could turn back time and be the strength that someone else could have benefitted from. Truthfully, it’s my walk with God, and my faith in Him, that allows me to stare at these tough times, the harsh realities, the traumatizing news, and the saddest of stories without losing my wit. I know first hand that the words I write also do heal. They have done wonders for me. But it’s not because I write, or even because I think I can write (because honestly, I am just a guy with a computer who started a blog when I didn’t even know what a blog was), that has helped me. It’s more about the sense that I have to remember. I have to feel. I have to face. I bring unabashed truth from the depths that only I know. I let emotions, good, bad, difficult, or wonderful, just wash over me. I linger in mental spaces longer than I need to because I want to feel the depth of emotion so that I understand it fully and never forget it. History is a great teacher and remembering, although it might hurt to do so, will benefit somewhere somehow, in the future. I share the raw array of what I uncover whenever I write. And honestly, in times like these, I do hope it helps others. Maybe it’s a memory rekindled, or a phrase that connects to a different time, or just solace needed in a moment. Again, I am just a guy writing stories about the people we love and miss. It’s about them and how we hold them that matters the most. For that matter, if you know you feel these things for another, know also there are others who feel that same way for you. Powerful stuff, but only if we use that power when we need it most.
I suppose I need to get on with my day and do the things that lifestyle demands. Although, I think today, I choose to recognize this day as Sadder-Day, November 7, 2015. Today I know I will feel sadness, but I will also find strength in my Lord, as well as knowing there are also others who care so deeply for me. We are not alone. Never alone.
In loving memory of two women I was fortunate enough to know, Joellen Barry and Marjorie Leech (Peterson).
Marjorie with family, July 2014