SUNDAY, August 1, 2010 – Champagne! I was the first to raise my glass. ‘To Jennifer!’ And, then, in a choked voice, ‘To her friends!’ I had intended to say more, but I couldn’t. There were eight former neighbors who had gathered together for a brunch in honor of the four of us raising their glasses to this toast. Here, Jenn lives on.
Seeing a group of people all at one time is easier than visiting them separately and having to repeat the story over and over. A good solution. It was a classic pot-luck meal: people brought food, drinks, dessert, or a simple snack. Vegetarian or swimming in fat.
Sitting around the table, the memories came drifting back. They all had their own anecdotes about the woman who had lived here in the Washington suburbs and who had long suffered from depression. Not many people knew that. The quiet lifestyle where women stayed at home to care for the children and men went out to work had crushed Jenn’s creativity.
Yet almost everyone remembered her spontaneity, her friendly gestures, her intelligent observations, and her warmth. Jenn herself would later characterize those six years in Kensington, Maryland as a cold period. After the birth of our second son, she lost herself for a long time. This also marked the beginning of a temporary ice age in our marriage.
By far the most touching story came from N about how Jenn’s death had been a trigger for her, encouraging her to take action. She regretted that she and Jenn had never gone to Italy, had never stayed in that dream castle they’d talked about in their emails. But she had no regrets about going back to school for a new career motivated not by Jenn’s death, but by the way she had lived.
L talked about her own life. It was the first time she had opened up in company. She had lost her own mother when she was only ten and her father had not been able to care for his children, who had to be placed in different families and also how earlier this year she discovered that that old wound had been cruelly torn open. L suggested that perhaps it had something to do with Jennifer’s death, but in a positive rather than in a negative sense. She was at odds with herself and in the end she left her husband. This was a phase in her personal voyage, one that had brought her some happiness.
Again we raised our glasses. In celebration of life. Her life. Our life.