1 year. Seems like an eternity and like yesterday. There are so many ways to grieve. The emotions are raw, heightened and real. They hit you when you least expect it. The one thing I think we all feel the same is: We miss Jen. We miss her smile, her laughter, her twinkly eyes, her stubborn self, her sassy self, her love of lime green, her little touches of Jen where ever she went. We miss her.
I had lunch with Patti last weekend. We chatted about life and Jen. We talked about how the upcoming week was going to be rough and how the anniversary day was going to be especially hard. And then we talked about something that I have been feeling for a long time. How many good things have come out of this. So many good things! While Jen's memory will always be near, more importantly, she left an amazing legacy. She touched people's lives in ways that are immeasurable. When I think about my life and how it has changed so much in the last year, I see Jen in so much of it. Not always directly, but somehow, an extension of her.
She connected people in the most unlikely of ways. Countless friendships have been made all over the country. People have changed the way they live because of Jen. She was so real and raw and showed us what it was like to truly live and fight for your life. Her strength and weakness showed us that having the support of family and friends is invaluable. We learned what it was like to become a community, to come together, set aside our differences and pettiness and focus on what matters right now. Loving. Living. Just Being.
While it's easy to be sad, Jen would never want people to be sad when they think about her. She wanted happy. She liked bright colors, and fun. There are so many good things. What are the good things in your life that are an extension of Jen? Write them down, those are the memories that you have of her that you see everyday. Those are the things that Jen would be so excited for! Honor her memory by continuing to be the very best person you can be. Living your life with intention and meaning. Being a legacy that people will always remember. Jen was and is an example of that. And for her I am ever so Thankful.
::The Lord will fight for you, you need only BE STILL::
Pardon the dust 'round here. I know it's been quite some time. The thing is…
I have oh so much to say and far too little organizational tools in my headspace right now to put anything down that feels jointed. So, while I fly through my day (and that's just about exactly what it feels like) I come across huge thoughts and bits of introspect that often times stop me right in my tracks, but while I ponder and brood over it … I'm off and brooding over sumpin' else. Then two weeks fly by. Or 4. Then I'm here — 'splainin' where I've been.
I'll be honest too. I've had some rough weeks. I've soaked a few bits of tissue in both the good and the not so good. But I love that the good trumps the bad. The good carries weight. I can FEEL it's sway. God has been hard at work on me. It's like He has His big index finger, dipped in my chest, swirling and twirling and whirling it around in a slow rotation that becomes more and more visible the longer He does it, like a plume of water in a vortex.
Pleading. Begging. God, use me, show me, make me an implementer, an instrument. Bring good here. Show light here where it's dark. Use this tiny little story of mine and make it seriously significant………………
(and He is.)
When we are immersed in the worst of something, we resolve ourselves to being inadequate of repairing … well, anything. (We get wilty and weak.)
But show up and stand tall to the good in something, and we move towards the best in … everything. I'm ready to move towards the best in everything. I just am.
One of my favorites ::
Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
Oh, divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive-
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The last few weeks have been FULL. There have been birthdays and celebrations and long drives and 3 hour dinners, late night talks and amazing time with family. I've wrapped my arms around all of my incredible (local) friends and really put solid energy into spending quality time with them. I've encountered some of the most stouthearted people. Warriors in Christ. New friends that have truly become underpinnings and reinforcements when I've literally felt like my legs had fallen out from under me. I've been devoted to creating tribute to these people. MEMORIES. Chances to eat and laugh and contemplate and muse on. I let myself dream with them, beyond cancer deadlines and looming diagnosis. Outside of fear and worry and things that are not mine to control. God has chosen soldiers for me in this season. Do you know what a soldier is? It's someone who fights FOR you.
My gosh, I'm thankful. I am LEARNING. And my heart is FULL.
I spend a lot of time now thinking of when I've been my most happiest. Do you know when yours was? I reflect back on snipits that really stand out to me. I think this is probably a normal phase for someone in my place right now. I let myself go backwards here, even though I am facing forward with all my might. I know that I believe that God is good (abundantly good!) and has purpose. I know I've asked a thousand times in the last year, why He would allow turmoil or induct a season that has no worth or contribution to my future. That's just it, He doesn't. The Hebrews felt that the future was not whole without the past. I'm in the same boat. It all leads here. Now… live intentionally.
For me, I'm cataloging. I'm allowing myself valid nostalgia. I think about peanut butter and banana sandwiches in the back yard when I was little. Of hanging on the fence hollaring out to my friends who lived on the other side. Of my yellow banana seat bike that I rode for hundreds of miles. I think about my childhood dog, Sam, and how she trompled behind my brother and I throughout the neighborhood, wherever our tireless feet would take us. I think about swimming with my dad as he tirelessly dropped quarters for us to race and find at the bottom of the pool. I think about what a treat it was to stop at 31 flavors for rainbow sherbet. I remember tapping morse code messages on the wall in my bedroom at night to my brother on the other side. I think about Camp Tadmor and my summers spent giggling over boys and Wet N Wild shimmer lip gloss. I remember bike rides to the Pole Pedal Paddle and fireworks off the butte … spending warm twilights at the softball fields collecting pop cans to buy Pixie Stix and licorice ropes. I remember spending every July at Trinity Lake, where I would crush on a different boy each year, drink my first beer and worry about nothing but my tan and my hair.
Mmmmmm, isn't the good, GOOD? What are YOURS?
Go on you peeps of awesomeness…
continue being remarkable.
be present… here… now.
Oh, Jen. I have know you for a long time now. We once had parallel lives. Both passionate photographers. Both once married to firefighters. Both with two boys of the same ages. Both lovers of art, design, travel, and so much more. We vacationed together, we worked together and we laughed together. Our kids played together.
And then it happened. Just a year ago, I watched the direction of our lives fork. Yours went the way of doctors, specialists, hospitals, chemo, pills, shots, tests and more emotional and physical pain than anyone should ever endure. From far away, I watched a community rally around you and I watched you fight with more strength and determination than I could ever imagine. You are loved by so many. Your story touches me and thousands of others and we pray for you and hope and dream for your future, with the two things we all want….health and happiness.
Jen, spending this weekend with you was a gift. I so wanted to take care of you, and make your pain go away…even for just a little while. I marveled at how you administer your own shots every hour and take so many meds…a non-stop routine with no end in sight, ever. I wanted to feed you, to hydrate you, to let you rest in a place where you would not have do do anything but get stronger. I begged you to eat and to drink, and you did a little of both for me, and then it all came back up again. I felt horrible. And powerless. I watched you sleep for most of the day, checking on you every half hour and wondering how you can go on with this pain and exhaustion. You told me you have no choice, you HAVE to fight, for your boys. I get that.
But, I still have so much trouble understanding how this could all happen to you. It is so wrong. So unfair. We talked about that this weekend a bit and I was happy to see that you had not lost your faith, or your inner strength, even though I am still not so sure I haven’t lost mine. On the outside, you still look beautiful and healthy. I do like how you have managed to stay gorgeous, mama. Maybe it’s a sign of more good things to come. I am counting on it.
Please keep fighting, Jen. We are all fighting along with you. We love you.
And, to the rest of the photo community and the world: please keep supporting Jen…with your thoughts, your words, or a donation of any amount. The cost of fighting cancer is just staggering.
Your notes of love and support give her so much strength. Email Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen Burgess Thompson is no longer in pain. She went to be with our Lord at 5:20 (EDT) on 10-12-2012. She passed away peacefully while holding our hands. We want to thank all her many friends and supporters for your uplifting thoughts, prayers, meals fundraisers, Shots 4 Jen and so much more. Each of you meant so much to her, to all of us. Our love to all of you! -Bill and Patti Burgess and family.
….figuratively, literally… I’m in so many ways, feeling cluttered, spinny and a bit overwhelmed with decisions that need to be made, projects that need a restart, home-life that needs a system again, time that needs to be assigned, relationships that need to evaluated… yada, yada, yada.
I had a birthday this week. Better yet, I GOT another birthday this week. How sweet is THAT? I made it to 37. Seven months ago, we weren’t entirely sure. Heck, 6 weeks ago, we weren’t entirely sure. (see my dad’s reminder below)
Even yet, thirty-seven years later, I’m still working on becoming fully ME. Isn’t it easy to slip and slide on that? How many smokescreens do we create on a daily basis that dilute who we really are? I know I’ve done it. Don’t we continue to work endlessly hard at BECOMING something? Anything? Living up to what others want us to be, need us to be, expect us to be and less of what He wants us to be? (*raising hand* ) What’s even harder is doing that while not hurting anyone or disappointing anyone AND while still not sacrificing anything truly genuine. Eeeesh, that’s some hard math. I don’t think it happens all at once… I think it happens daily, when we wake up and choose it. Killing, slice by slice, the forgeries and the reproductions long enough to realize that the only one who REALLY sees, is Him anyway. That doesn’t mean we stop trying it just means we adjust where our priorities are. I used to REALLY be a people pleaser. I’ve recently let go of that (sorta) and made it a daily focus to let others’ know what I need, because before, I just morphed myself into what others’ needed ME to be.
So, for the rest of my little tiny life, on this little tiny planet … whatever amount of time that may be, I’m desperately trying to be a better person. I can’t have a redo. But I get to have a restart. Everyday is a restart, but I deeply hope I don’t need a daily restart. I kinda hope I take a few things with me each day from the day before it. With that choice, I get to be selective. Not in a non-inclusion, secret club, “what’s the password”, kinda way … but in a “hey, I only have so many days left, what am I going to do with them and who am I going to do them with?” kinda way. I think everyone who goes through some sort of smack in the face with mortality asks themselves what they want to cram in. Mine is coming on now. Slowly… and not in a non-realistic way, but more of a pragmatic, literal and straight-forward kind of way.
1.) WHAT DO I WANT TO DO ?
2.) WHO DO I WANT NEXT TO ME WHILE I DO IT?
I ask myself that a million times a day now and while God is certainly not an amateur at this whole, love unconditionally deal, I certainly am. With that in mind, I try not to limit things, experiences or people but it’s becoming necessary. I simply have to pour myself into those who need and want me to; into the things that are important, that will last, that will be remembered. What are my treasures? WHO are they? But also, what are my pangs? If my way is hurting people, I absolutely need to change and in the same breath, if my way is hurting me … I need to change.
I am tearing things down…. lots of them. Taking all things apart, so that I am able to see over the top of the dust cloud, and rebuild. Isn’t that what a remodel is? I’m being remodeled.. built UP…whether I have 3000 or 3 days left. THAT my friends, is the beauty of changing seasons.
And here, what is more than likely to become my next round of ink… maybe aside the scar that reminds me daily, two of my favorite verses, written together… Exodus 14:14 and Psalm 46:10
difficult… but not impossible.