Yesterday marked the second anniversary of Jake’s passing. Last year on this day, I wrote a long post about the first year, and what lessons I learned. I don’t have much new to report this year.
My cousin is here from Phoenix with her children, she knew Jake from birth, was his first baby sitter. We all went downtown for dim sum in honor of Jake. So much remained unspoken as we munched on our dumplings and remembered. Later, we dined at our favorite Himalayan restaurant and I had a dish of yak chili, something he would order. So appropriate that our remembrances of Jake involve food. We had some of our best times together as a family traveling and eating. No memorial, no trip to the cemetery; I haven’t been there since last year’s unveiling. Jake isn’t there anyway. He is everywhere we are, everywhere his friends are, everywhere someone who remembers him is. A handful of friends remembered the day, we got a few emails and phone calls from those closest to us, but not nearly as many as last year. Only a few of Jake’s friends remembered, they are all busy with their own lives; I know I was so busy when I was 26. Much less so 35 years later. In all fairness, I just found out that many of his friends talked to each other yesterday, remembering Jake. Of course they did.
This past year has been mostly flat and grey. There have been splashes of brightness here and there, but it has been very difficult for me to motivate myself to accomplish anything other than the day-to-day routine. The cookie business has been a welcome distraction. T had some health challenges this year so it was on hold for much of the time, but she has recovered and we had a very busy holiday. She sent out more than 200 dozen in December. We are now exploring ways to grow the business, and I am sure next year will be even better. I have been to a few networking events, have had to force myself out of the house once or twice, but they have been productive, mostly, and I will have to do more of it in the coming months.
I still teach black and white darkroom photography two days a week at Venice Arts, but even that has lost some of the luster I felt last year. It is still satisfying, still gratifying to see the lightbulb go on in these kids, to see the wonderful work they are doing, but it is more of a chore some days than it should be. I still think about Jake whenever I am there, still try to imbue my students with the spark of his passion and skill, but I don’t always know if I am getting through to them. The new semester starts in a few weeks and hopefully some of what I am trying to teach them, beyond how to make a good print, will sink in. While we did collaborate on a couple of photographic projects, I never got a chance to work with Jake in the darkroom, and I am sorry for that. We refurbished my dad’s darkroom when Jake was in high school, the darkroom I learned in, and I regret not spending time with him there. So many regrets.
As for the lessons of the year, I can think of only one – the world keeps turning no matter what. If you can keep breathing, you will keep living in spite of a shattered heart. Emotional pain is crippling, but it isn’t fatal. It changed me irrevocably, but it didn’t kill me. I am working on a piece about my “new normal”, a phrase that I have come to loathe. There was nothing normal about our life “before” and certainly nothing normal about the life “after”. Yes there are trappings of normalcy, but the emotional underpinnings of my new life are still strange and disorienting. I am still in the WTF stage and will probably always be.
A mutual friend introduced me to someone who recently lost his 22-year-old son. We have corresponded once or twice by messaging on Facebook, I received a long message today. I can see myself of two years ago in his words. The confusion, the depth of despair, the supreme unfairness of it all, and surprisingly don’t really know what to tell him. I will have to read it a few more times, will write back to share some of what I have learned along this lost highway. But in truth, I can only offer my unconditional support and let him know that I understand. That is all any grieving parent asks for, support and understanding. Unless you have also lost a child, you can’t truly understand, but you can be there. The internet is awash with articles on what to say or not to say, what you should or shouldn’t do for a grieving parent. I have shared some of them on this blog. Most of these essays conclude that the most important and best thing one can do is to be there. To listen with an empathetic ear. To share a memory or a story about the departed. We help keep our beautiful children’s spirits and memories alive by bringing them into the world whenever we speak of them, think of them. This is what we can do for each other.
We can’t bring our precious treasures back to life, but we can keep them alive in our hearts. It’s all we can do.