I went to sleep late on Monday night. I lay awake in bed at 1:45 a.m. with the reading light on overhead. I still think of it as Ted's reading light... on his side of the bed. As I readied myself for sleep, I noticed the light was acting up. It was dimming lighter and darker, lighter and darker. When I would stop and look, the light seemed to stop. And when I looked away, it would dim again. Freaked out, I called Kevin to come look at it. While we both thought it was strange, we passed it off as a electrical glitch and turned off the light. I went to sleep.
Late in the Summer of 2014, I was making coffee in the kitchen when I got a call from my mother. I sensed heaviness in her voice immediately, or maybe she had sent me a cryptic text so I expected bad news before even answering the phone, I can't remember the details but I knew it was bad. She informed me that our dear friend, essentially family, Jennifer Rockwood had been terminally diagnosed with cancer with maybe just months to live. This news was sudden and shocking. I had been blessed with living a mostly grief-free life up until that year. First my grandmother in the Spring of 2014, and now this news. I was devastated.
Jennifer was without a doubt the most "alive" woman I knew. How could she be dying? I cried. Ted held me. And then, just a couple months later, Ted died. I went home to Toledo for the holidays, cloaked in grief and confusion. And Jennifer held me.
Jennifer and her husband John have been two of my parents closest friends since sometime in the 1970s. My mom, Jenny, and Rayna were all pregnant at the same time, two or three times in a row. Decades of family potlucks, vacations, swim meets, school plays, and summer camps ensued. Between the three families, there were 7 boys... and me. Long before Jennys' sons Ian and Julian married beautiful women and Jenny finally had daughter-in-laws, she claimed that I was her 'adoptive' daughter. I remember her telling me that when I was very young. Jenny was the coolest, so obviously I was beyond honored that she wanted ME as the 'daughter' she'd never had. Ever since then, I felt a kindred spirit with Jenny – like we had a secret. I continued to always admire her unabashed glamour, her robust personality, her dramatic presence, her rockstar edginess, and her automatic role as the life-of-the-party. I sought to be like her as I grew up.
When I went home to Toledo last winter after Teddy passed, much of me resisted going, yet a huge pull towards home was that I needed to see Jenny. On my first night back, despite my own spirals, I met Jenny for dinner. You could hardly tell she was sick, her thinness was the only sign. As usual, she was vivacious and full of spirit (and spirits)! During dinner that night, while watching her throw back vodkas and hearing her belly-laughs echoing through the dark room, I remember feeling an ounce of nostaligic happiness. You see, I didn't feel happiness back then; so when I felt the emotion creep up, it was painfully hard to ignore.
Also that night, Jenny told me me that she did not believe in life after death. She did not believe in energy continuing on. She believed that death was the end of it all. So, she would live big until her end. Jenny's perspective was hard for me. My whole life had just been crumbled and I was rebuilding it on the faith in something bigger. I needed that faith. And, in my opinion, so did she. I bought Jenny a book to change her mind. I don't know if she ever read it. But in truth, as I look back, it was my own fear that felt the need to make her believe. I didn't want to hear her doubting, because what if I doubted?
Despite the difference of opinions, I asked Jenny a huge favor.
I asked that if she was wrong, and that when she passed she learned that indeed there was something after this realm, to let me know. I asked her to find Ted over there, wherever 'there' was, and to send me a sign. She agreed; although I knew it was just to be nice, because she didn't believe.
I woke up Tuesday morning with the news that around 1:45 a.m., the same time that my lights had been flickering, Jenny had passed away. I called my mom. Our conversation was brief because a call came in. My phone acted weird and I missed the call. I set my phone on the counter and before I could turn away the screen started to move. Buttons were pressed as if someone was operating the screen, but nobody was. The search page pulled up and letters were typed in as I stared, "W. A. L..." Then, the imaginary hand scrolled the cursor down, clicked on something and iTunes popped up. I don't use iTunes, and have almost no music synced to it, but somehow a song appeared that I didn't own, "Walking Far From Home" by Iron & Wine started to play. I stood and listened. I felt tears on my cheeks. I felt a knowingness. I felt a shiver of energy. I felt like I was getting a hug.
In the early days, weeks, and months after Ted passed many strange things happened – lights flickering, TVs turning on, electronics acting up, songs playing, animals appearing at opportune moments, weird things showing up in photos... the amount of occurrences was so large that I simply could not overlook them as coincidence or happenstance. Also, I didn't want to. It is often discovered that after a loved one passes on, they hang around for a while. They show their presence in different ways. I remember being scared by the way the energy appeared sometimes, like when I would feel it while lying alone in bed. I remember deciding that Ted didn't really know how to control his new state and that his ways of communicating were awkward or creepy. But I was still thankful that he was communicating.
As time has apparently continued (though my perception of 'time' is a whole other subject in itself) I have become less aware of these energetic happenings. Maybe Ted's place in the realm he is in now is more settled. He no longer has as much of a pull towards tinkering with where I am. Also, perhaps I am less open to noticing his paranormal tickles. I'm hardened. And my sadness has progressed to a constant numbness, versus a frantic hysteria. I now live with sorrow, instead of for sorrow.
Time creeps towards the anniversary of Ted's death, now just a few weeks away. I don't care what calendars and clocks and scientists say, this year was without-a-doubt shorter than all of my thirty other years. On Monday night, when the lights began to dim, and the next morning, when my phone played that song, I again felt that familiar bittersweet nostalgia. I again felt that rush of lively, effervescent, unseen energy. I was reconnected to my own faith in the deeper web between us and the others. Jenny, in her playful exit from this place and her stubborn realization that perhaps she was wrong and there was more, reopened a door that I had turned my back to. She sent me the sign I had asked her for, and she reminded me of the beautiful magic that coincides with devastating loss.
The house feels particularly energized now. It's as though if I touch something, I'm more likely to get a static shock. A year ago, it felt eerie. But now, it feels comforting.
While I am heartbroken by Jenny's passing and particularly for those who now feel consuming loneliness without her, I also find comfort in knowing that the cosmic web just got a whole lot more charged. When a big life leaves here, that energy is consumed by what see as 'empty space' – but what is actually a plenum of the exact opposite.
So now, as I continue my countdown towards the sad anniversary that I am trying so hard not to anticipate, I will be more open to the magic. Jenny has unblocked a channel that allows me to feel closer to Ted. Her death and continuing life has helped cleared of the filter of judgement and doubt that I contend with in my ego-mind and my humanness. I find a sense of solace as she wraps her energetic, mother-like arms around me, her 'daughter,' allowing me to see into the eyes of my soulmate, and my truth.
Walking Far From Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg5403yj4II
In loving memory of Jennifer Rockwood (1951-infinity)