The reason I'm titling this entry as Jordan's Gift is for a few reasons. But you'll understand what these gifts are as you read.
Jordan was an infectiously happy person. He was also one of the most gentle, kind hearted people I've ever known. I never heard him speak ill about a single person... but that was so long ago. I regret that it took me 16 years to come to realize the important things. That allowing trivial things and disagreements separate people for so long. I knew Jordan when he was a kid, and awkward teenager. Some of my happiest memories include Jordan, and they always end up making me laugh. That is one of Jordan's gifts. Laughter.
16 years ago I walked away from my life in Vermont. I did what I thought was the best thing for everyone by disappearing. And yesterday, while we were sitting in the standing room only filled church for Jordan's service - and in the minutes while people spoke so fondly of him, their memories, their hearts - I realized how much I missed. I missed watching this person turn into the incredible man he is now. I always knew he would be someone great. Yesterday... yesterday was the proof. To live a fraction of the life that Jordan did... to touch as many people as he did in his short journey on this planet. I hope he knows how much love he created here on earth, because it was apparent in every tear that was shed yesterday, every laugh, every smile, and every memory.
This picture of Jordan I'm borrowing from his brother Josh for this entry. And I think this picture speaks volumes of the kind of heart this man has.
A common theme from the service, and afterwards at the celebration of life was to not waste an opportunity. As Josh said - write that book you've been talking about. Take that college class you've been wanting to take. Get out and LIVE. That's how we honor Jordan's memory. We live as he would. He took every opportunity to learn as much as he could, to experience as much as he could. And I can honestly say for myself - I've allowed fear of consequence dictate much of my life - so much so that I've become stagnate in this life I live. Not to say that my life is bad - I love my life - my husband, my family, friends - and even starting to like my job again. But I could do more. This was another of Jordan's gifts. Having passion about life, and learning as much as we can while we can to make the most of what we have.
When you think big funerals with tons of people - most people automatically think rich and famous - someone with their name in lights. That's simply not true. Jordan may not have been a millionaire. But he was rich with family, friends, and life. Again, there were so many people at this service - they had to put people in the upstairs and downstairs portions of the church and pipe in the service through speakers.
Picture from Robin Gagnon from the service.
The walls were lined with service men and women from the fire house, and EMT squads. People packed into pews like sardines to pay tribute to this great man who made a difference in their lives. It was an honor being in that room. And as I watched from the back of the church - the movements and the sounds - I kept thinking of his wife Sara (whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting) and how broken her heart must be... and how I can't begin to imagine the pain, the sadness, the brokenness she must feel right now - but at the same time, the immense amounts of love, and comfort, and friendship. I looked at my husband several times through the service, and I thanked God for him being in my life. I thanked God for keeping him safe every day on the road. I always knew I was lucky to have such an incredible person as my husband - but I don't think it fully sank in until yesterday - being slapped in the face with another persons reality. Life is short. Life is precious. We have no idea the set amount of time we have on this planet. And I think for Sara - even if she had known that this is the way that it would end - she would have loved him anyway.
Picture from Jordan's brother Josh of the candle lite vigil - Sara (wife)and their dog Kodin.
After the service everyone gathered in the church basement for comfort, and hugs, and memories. The room was packed, and people filtered in a little at a time as others left. There was a flow of contact - faces I'd forgotten, but names I remembered. Or faces I remembered, but not their names. And it's strange - how so much time has passed, yet as I looked about this room full of people - how much has changed, yet hasn't. We all look the same. We all talk the same. We act the same. There wasn't a beat missed. There was just a shared feeling of hope, love, forgiveness, and healing.
Had it not been for our friend Hayley - we would have had no where to stay when we got in at 2:30am on Friday morning. And even though we only see each other maybe once every 2-3 years - she was right there, first one up to offer a place for BJ and I to rest. It's people like Hayley - and the people I reconnected with yesterday - that remind me of WHY I love my home state as much as I do. Walking away 16 years ago didn't erase the people, or the fact they are kind, and good, and giving. All 16 years ago did for me was create loss, and resentment, and anger. I did those things to myself - and people like Hayley, and Jordan, and my husband showed me why it's important to let go, and move on - to forgive - and to also apologize to others for the wrongs I'd done.
I was so nervous and apprehensive about going to the celebration of life after the funeral. Hayley was adamant that I had to go. That it would be good for not only me, but for others as well. BJ said the same thing. I was speaking with a friend after the service, Shane, and asked him if he thought it would be ok that I go to the celebration, since I'd been gone for so long, I didn't want to step on toes or make anyone uncomfortable. He looked at me like I had three heads and said "Why wouldn't it be ok for you to go? Weren't you listening in there? Once part of this group, you are always part of this group - no matter how long you've been away. You're one of us." My heart needed that. So, after visiting with my brother Bob for a bit at my old house in South Ryegate - we headed over to the celebration.
There weren't tears shed at this gathering. There was laughter, and stories, and a feeling of togetherness that I hadn't felt in such a long time. These people - this group - is unlike any I've ever met before. And I see a piece of Jordan in each of them. They've all been affected, they all want to honor his memory - and they did, in the only way they know how. A bonfire, a party, a few beers, some music, food, and lots of laughter.
Small circles formed, people talked - and after a few minutes, one or two people would break off, and join another circle - and more stories would commence. I overheard Shannon saying that she didn't feel like any time had passed, that she was still 16 years old, and an awkward teenager. And I smiled, because I knew exactly what she meant. To us - we're still kids with big hopes and dreams. Yet we have marriages, and children, and jobs, and these separate yet very important lives that we live. Yet, we're still kids - at heart. This is yet another gift of Jordan's. The gift of living life to it's fullest.
Josh read his eulogy for Jordan at the service. The thing I took away from it was that Jordan lived every day like it was his last. He was always that friend you could call when you needed help, or a listening ear, or someone to drink a beer with. He learned everything he could about anything he could - because he had a curious heart. He was determined to utilize every gift he was given as a person - and make it work.
And while standing at the bonfire - there was a person there that was my heart for much of my life. My best friend, my sister, a person who knew every bit of me, and every scar, every moment of my childhood. We both knew the other would be there. And I think there was anxiety and hope in both of us - as it's been near 20 years that we've spoken. And all that hurt, that resentment, that pain and fear - all those trivial bullshit teenager spats, betrayals, misunderstandings, and anger - all those things faded away into dust. My heart wasn't heavy anymore. We both said and did things 20 years ago that hurt the other. We were stupid kids, and made stupid mistakes - mistakes that cost us 20 years of friendship. And I never want to live that way again. There is nothing so bad that could have been said or done that couldn't be forgiven. I know I made terrible choices as a teenager, and those choices affected her in ways I didn't understand. She had to sit idly by and watch as her best friend destroyed herself physically, and emotionally, and mentally. And I used my bad behavior as a catalyst for placing the blame on her when she had no other choice but to let me fall. And she was hurt, and angry, and lost because this person - me - the person who was supposed to be her best friend - let her down. I let her down. I did this to us, because I didn't know any other way than to be toxic. And I didn't realize then, as that ignorant 16 year old kid - that my actions affect other people - and eventually people will have enough of your bullshit, and retaliate. And I can't blame her for that. But there we were. 10 feet from each other for the first time in a very very long time. And all I wanted to do is apologize to her for my wrongs, forgive her for hers - and try to rebuild a friendship that I wish I had never lost to begin with. She hugged me, and we cried. And this is another gift from Jordan. Forgiveness.
Jordan lived a full and happy life. Albeit, too short. We all would love to keep our loved ones here forever with us - but as BJ and I talked last night - God puts us here on this planet to do certain things. And when those things are accomplished - He brings us home. Jordan went home. And it hurts the rest of us still recovering in his wake. Because we're mortal, and we don't feel or believe that his work was done yet. He gave us the greatest gift of all...
We were all brought back together to celebrate Jordan's life. We came from many different states, and many different back grounds, and many different histories. Yet, we gathered - this collective group - and we shared the greatest gift of all.
Photo borrowed from Josh - Jordan's brother.