Jules is the newest writer for Bleed With Me. She is also my Aunt and one of my most favorite people in the entire world. To read more about her CLICK HERE -m
Jennifer was my best friend for 30 years. Never did I even contemplate the idea that she might leave this plane first, never. The pain and grief I experienced during her illness and following her departure was the blackest, darkest, most horrible pain I have ever endured. I THOUGHT I was prepared for her death. Turns out I thought like Ned in the first reader. I had no idea, no clue, what real grief was. It’s a good thing most don’t before it hits them.
I decided to start facing what this journey had been like with the eulogy; I don’t know why except to say that this was the hardest thing I have ever done in whole life. To get up in front of all those people and speak from my heart and soul without dissolving into a blubbering mess of snot and tears in a fetal position seemed impossible to accomplish. But I wanted to do it. I wanted to be the one who said the last words for her. Because she would have done it for me.
There will be more pain and grief and my attempts to deal with it and learn to live with it coming down the road. But I feel this is the place to start. I hope you will bear with me as I move through this black horrific tunnel, and hopefully come out the other side. I hope that you may get one word or phrase that might help you in your pain. I wish you peace, and I beg your tolerance as I try to show what this journey has been like. For it’s by far the hardest and most painful thing I have experienced in my whole life.
I had told her I wanted to write her eulogy for her, but there was no way I could deliver it during her funeral. In her ‘can do’ attitude way she cheerfully told me “You won’t have to read it Jules, Jerry’ll read it!” (Jerry Beam, married to Bob’s sister Sally, and the pastor who would officiate over the service.)
I thought about 5 seconds and said “Well hell yeah, if Jerry reads it, I have no problem with it; I can write you the best!” We laughed, as we laughed at everything, and it took away any doubts or second thoughts that might have entered my head. Jerry could do it, no problem, he was a Rock. “Done deal” I told her, now, let’s have a toast to that”. And we did. Then we did what we did best: We laughed and laughed and made jokes about the terrible things I would say.
So over the next few months I worked at it, it seemed easy and flowed from my fingers like invisible energy. Places in it were sad, but places were funny too, and I knew exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. Take away my emotions about it and it was cake and pie.
In July we had a get together at their house with the whole extended family. Jerry Beam was there with Sally and their family. Passing by him once in the food tent, he said that Bob had shown him the eulogy and told him that I had written it, was that correct?
And I said yes, but you’re gonna read it, right? He said “I will, but I think it would be better coming from you”.
Horrified, I looked at him and told him no, no, there was no way would I ever be able to get through it. His voice was steady as a rock and calm as a 0.5 mg Xanax as he replied “Yes you can.” I shook my head from side to side and said, nope, uh-uh, no way. He replied calmly again “Yes you can, you can do it for Jennifer”. I again assured him he was so wrong, that I couldn’t do it, never in a million years. He kept insisting I could, until I finally resorted to the shrill spoiled petulant voice Jennifer and I were so good at using when we need it “But I don’t wanna! Jennifer said I didn’t HAVE to, she said YOU would read it!”
Jerry looked at me with the patience of Job and the understanding of all mankind in his eyes for several seconds, and when I finally looked down with tears in my eyes he said softly “Julie, you can do this for Jennifer. You practice reading it, and when the time comes, if you really think you can’t do it, then I will. But I think you can.”
Minutes later I saw Bob, and went up to him and said in our shrill spoiled voice “Bob, Jennifer said Jerry would read the eulogy and I didn’t have to, but Jerry said I should do it!” I fully expected Bob to reassure me that I didn’t have to do this all, not to worry, he’d handle changing it. After all, he had been in on this from almost the start and knew my objections well. Instead, he flung me under the bus when he quietly said “I think Jerry’s right”. Stunned, I was glad for the diversion that drew his attention from me and walked away.
There I spied David, Big; the undisputed and revered alpha male dog of the entire Sterling-Sayle-Brown Pack. In fact, he had given the eulogy for Jennifer’s mother just a few short months ago, and we all saw him struggle at times to get through it. I knew my rescue was within sight, surely no one would understand more than David. Out came our shrill spoiled petulant voice that always worked for us without fail: “David, Jennifer said I didn’t have to read the eulogy, that Jerry would do it. But Jerry said I could do it. So I asked Bob, and Bob said the same thing! I can’t do it David, I’ll never get through it, and Jennifer said I didn’t have to!” David looked down at me with all the sorrow in the world and said quietly “I agree with Jerry and Bob. You can do it”.
Defeated, I stumbled off, in shock and fear. How could they not see there was no way to get through what I had written, to say these things about my best friend in the world that I could not even think about being without? How could I do this and not blow it so badly people would speak of it in hushed tones for years? How could I do it and not let Jennifer down? I was so torn and afraid and the person I would go to for this trauma was her. I couldn’t do that to her, let her know how afraid I was of messing it up, because she would have changed the plans and gotten me out of it. I know she would. She always had my back. Always. How could I not have hers this one final time?
Finally, the day before the funeral Bert told me “If you just can’t go on, if you just can’t do it, you just say ‘Bert’ and I’ll come up and finish it for you”. My sweet beloved shy Bert, who hated nothing more than being the center of attention, promised me he would have my back. And I knew that no matter how hard it would be for him, that he would keep his word. This gave me the courage to attempt it.
So I did.
February 14, 2016
Jennifer was The Best. She was the best wife, the best mother, the best sister, the best aunt. But I’m here today to tell you about my Best Friend. She was the best friend in the whole world. She was there for me always, no matter what, no matter who, no matter why.
She was the best person I know. I wish everyone could have a friend like Jennifer. The kind of friend that people dream of having; she’s a constant, a rock when she needs to be and a hammer when she needs to be. Those that knew her know exactly what I’m talking about.
She came into my life over 30 years ago, and I can hardly remember what it was like before her. I can’t bear to think of what it will be like without her. I miss her with such a physical pain it consumes everything except that pain.
When we talked or were together we were free to be as silly as we wanted; we created fun out of nothing . . . we could make anything fun, even the most ordinary things we did turned into nothing but fun and laughter and good. We always said that we worked hard to have a good time.
We love each other without exception or reservation. We have an absolute loyalty and allegiance to each other and knew all of this without ever speaking of it – we just felt it, it was a part of us and who we were when we were together, or when we were apart.
We could just look at each other and start to laugh, great rolling laughter that comes from within and enveloped us and left us breathless and tired and giggly – only to look at each other and collapse in laughter all over again. Never have I experienced such unrestricted and unrestrained joyful laughter as we had. I don’t image ever having that again.
Bert once described Bob as “the rock, the anchor, in the sea of chaos created when Jennifer and Jules are together” and that is such a great description, because it’s so true. Bob always was there, just watching us with a loving and bemused expression on his face, just calmly carrying on and letting us be. Letting us be US. Just be US. And oh, how we loved being US.
And the years passed by and we grew older and although we had to be grownups in our everyday lives, when we were together it is just so much FUN – happy, joyous, uninhibited FUN. We called ourselves Lucy and Ethel. We took turns being Lucy and would argue over who had to be Ethel. I told her she couldn’t always be Lucy just because she was thin.
For 30 years we never had a fight – never were mad at each other – over 30 years of friendship, marriages, divorces, graduations, birthdays, deaths, births, tragedies and all the things that make up everyday life. Life made so much richer somehow by this fragile thing named friendship. A sense of belonging and understanding and loyalty without question, and acceptance – absolute acceptance of each other’s flaws and faults and funny little quirks without judgment or criticism. It’s unconditional. How very lucky I was to have such a soul as hers love me.
Jennifer was tough, and yet gentle and kind at the same time. She was the kind of person who couldn’t pass by an abandoned puppy on the side of the road. She stopped and picked them up and took them home. When she had to give them away, she gave them away to good homes. But first she interviewed the family to make sure it was a good home. Once she rode by a house that had taken a puppy and when she didn’t like what she saw – the puppy tied up on the porch, no food or water, and she stopped that car and went up to the door and told the family they had until the next day to rectify the situation or she was coming to take the puppy back. And she meant it.
She cared. She cared about everything and every living soul, human or animal.
When she was diagnosed with this terrible disease I felt my world crumbling, and I didn’t know how to stop it. I struggled with it and ranted and raved about the unfairness of it for days and was filled with such a feeling of profound loss and sadness I could barely breathe. It wasn’t long before my phone dinged with a text message, and it was from Jennifer. It said simply, “Now Jules, we are not going to be sad about this. We are going to treat this in the same sick twisted way we do everything. We are going to laugh.”
And I laughed for the first time in days.
She taught me so much – all by example. She taught me patience, tolerance, and kindness. She taught me unconditional love and acceptance.
She went through some really bad, tough times with chemo and she went through them with a steely strength and determination that was awesome to behold. My respect and admiration for her grew even stronger than before; she was tough as nails. She told me that when people would ask her how she felt, she would tell them she felt OK because when she told them how bad she really felt that it made them feel bad. And she didn’t want them to feel bad. She was my Hero.
Even through all of that, we found the laughter. Sometimes it was strained, and sometimes it was twisted, sometimes it was plain silliness and sometimes it was sad, but we found it.
She made me a better person when I was with her. She brought something better inside of me. I cherish her friendship and her memory and will carry it with me all the days of my life.
I say today to Bob Brown: She loved you more than anything or anyone in this world. She couldn’t be away from you long before she would “need to see my Bob Brown”. Carry that love with you in your heart, for it is a pure and unconditional love. When we talked about her illness and how it would end, the only thing that made her cry was thinking of leaving this world before you. Thank you for the loving way you took care of her – you were so all about Jennifer and what she wanted these last years.
To Sterling and Betsy: You were her priority ALL.YOUR.LIVES. She will always be a part of you. She will always be with you. She’s in the gentle breeze that blows in the spring, in the soft morning light of a summer day, in the eyes of a puppy, in the notes of her wind chimes, and the echo of her laughter. She was so proud of you both.
One day we will laugh again, and we will talk about her and tell stories about her and the air will shimmer with our memories and we will feel her gentle presence.
Matthew 5:4 tells us Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
I wonder if there is another who will be mourned as much as this little woman made of steel and soft flowers.
I hope she’s dancing in the sky. I hope she’s singing in the Angel’s Choir.
Good night my sweet beloved Lucy. I’ll see you when I get there.