We met in 3rd grade when I was transferred to a Gifted class at her elementary school and quickly became friends. That friendship just grew closer when we attended the same middle & high school and saw each other every day instead of just once a week. Jessica quickly became one of my closest girlfriends, one of my compatriots in the emotionally charged chaos that is high school. Although we eventually went to separate colleges, our friendship remained.
The summer after we graduated from college, my grandfather was in the hospital. Jessica frequently came to the hospital to visit us. She had a wonderfully close relationship to her Poppa and she understood completely how I felt about my Papa. It was a busy summer and we weren't able to spend as much time together as we would have liked before the next phase of our lives started.
The day my "new" life was to start, my mom woke me up because Jessica's mom was on the phone & wanted to talk to me. I was moving to Charleston to start graduate school, so I wasn't surprised my "bonus" mom was calling to tell me goodbye & wish me luck.
I was completely unprepared for what she had to tell me.
Jessica had been killed in an accident.
Reality began to set in and I heard Jessica's mom's sweet voice trying to comfort me. Me. In the midst of her worst possible tragedy, she was trying to give me comfort in losing my best friend. I was in shock. This didn't happen. This couldn't have happened. Not to Jessica.
Then she asked me to do the single most difficult thing I have ever had to do. Jessica's mom needed me to call our friends and let them know what had happened. Reality sank in and I became an adult in one single, painful moment. I had been entrusted with a tremendous and heart-wrenching task and I had to pull myself together long enough to make some of the most difficult phone calls I have ever had to make. Our circle of friends was tight-knit and I knew no one would be unaffected by Jessica's death.
That was the last moment for many months that I was able to hold it together. Her death marked the point in my life where I hit rock bottom. I was the friend in our group that could be depended on to be the "rock," the dependable one to help everyone out when they needed it. Suddenly, I was the friend barely standing on my own two feet, drifting at sea without a rudder. I learned through Jessica's death that I had some incredible friends who were willing to return the favor when I needed them most. Up until that point, I had never needed anyone, much less cried in public. We circled our wagons and supported each other through our heart break.
Her death changed my life in many tangible ways. My carefully planned life fell apart at the seams and I learned to live without plans, my only goal being to enjoy what I had, where I was, while I was there. I learned everything can be lost in an instant and for the first time, I learned to be vulnerable and open to people and experiences. I am a better person for having known Jessica; her life and her death changed me forever.
This post was inspired by: 1.) The moment I realized I was a grown up.