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The words you long to say

November 27th, 2005 · 2 Comments

I would give anything I own

Give up my life, my heart, my home

I would give ev’rything I own

Just to have you back again

– Bread

I apologize for the quiet on this blog. But in recent days silence has seemed appropriate. Within a week’s time, three people in three different communities in my life have passed away from this world.

When I first heard the news I didn’t believe it. But there it was, first sent to me in email, then on the Bainbridge Buzz and finally published as a headline on the Bainbridge Review, written in black and white on paper, tangible and real: Artist, Teacher Wendy Jackson Hall Dies at 32. The Review added her age to the headline, as if to emphasize that all of us were surprised that someone so young could disappear from us within a weekend.

I only spent a little time with Wendy but she gave me a lot. The obituaries, I believe, only begin to tell the stories. This summer I stopped by Puppets on Parade to see new friend Kathe Fraga but instead I ended up talking with Wendy, who had organized this gift of art to the community for years, and many gifts through her Animated Adventures. We both had gone to college in Providence, she at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and I at Brown, two schools that share classes, students and connections, a hill apart from each other. She told me she had gotten married in Providence, down by the water, so beautiful was the city now. I fell in love with Puppets on Parade(blog), this vibrant celebration of creativity, where any one can come and contribute. And although I hadn’t planned to meet Wendy, I enjoyed the time I had to talk with her and I got a glimpse of who she was and how she encouraged people through art to be themselves. She gave many gifts to our community. I looked forward to returning to Puppets in 2006, and seeing her again then.

I only knew a little of Wendy, and I’ve learned more about her in the stories written since her death. Her husband posted a wonderful flickr set. I didn’t know she was also a writer, published in many places, including Wired (list of her articles).

What’s intrigued me most has been to see what’s been written about Wendy on the web, including blogs, and discovering how many miss her. Animation web site AWN published a detailed obituary. The “bainbridge island” searches I use every day in blogs brought a few posts about Wendy into my regular reading.

Cartoon Brew: She had a real passion for contemporary and classic animation – and her enthusiastic spirit will be missed.

Trauma Queen, a college friend, shared the three main points from Wendy’s eulogy:

3. If you love something, share it with everyone.

Her love of animation was infectious. It wasn’t just animation that she loved. Whenever she fell in love with something, whether it was a cookbook, a film, or turkey bacon, she would share it with everyone. And I’ll always remember her love for Porter, her husband and the brightest light of her life.




Agen, who never met Wendy but once worked with her husband Porter, described what he learned from her:

I never met Wendy, and I certainly learned a bit about her from Porter (that she was an animator who loved teaching animation techniques to kids), but what I really learned from him was how much in love a person could be with a spouse and how transcendent that happiness could be. I remember when I first announced to folks that I’d asked Mrs. F to marry me, Porter was the most gleeful of all my Amazon pals, telling me how happy this was going to make the two of us and relating to me how meeting Wendy and sharing their lives together had really transformed him.

[...]

She will be missed by many, but most especially by Porter. And I am quite saddened that I missed the opportunity to get to know her, but I have a feeling I might be joining Porter and others in a puppet parade next July.



Wendy’s family has
established a scholarship fund to help income-qualifed students pursue a college education in the arts, and from Agen’s post, it sounds like it may be a special parade next year.

Within a day or two of hearing the news about Wendy, I heard that Jory and Joy had lost their beloved Joel. I never met Joel. I’ve only seen Jory briefly, during the busy Blogher conference she organized. When Jory’s mom, Joy, started blogging, I subscribed. I was curious to meet the mom who helped make Jory such a wonderful person plus I’m always intrigued by blogging families and also always hoping to gain wisdom from those ahead of me in this journey.

How they lost their father and husband reminds me in some ways of my brother’s death, everything from the sudden slope of cancer to the alliteration of family names. But this is Jory, and Joy and their family’s story, and they are telling it excellently through their blogs.

Jory wrote:

There’s been a surprisingly soothing, almost joyous tone in our house today. I can only define it as relief that Dad’s pain has ended, as have the question that lingered silently in our heads, “How long?” The feeling gets cut from time to time, and out ooozes pain, and sadness, and a little guilt for feeling relieved. My guilty tendencies make me crave for a few more weeks of suffering for Dad, or more accurately, suffering for us so that we could feel like he didn’t slip away so easily. We were enjoying ourselves too much, I thought. Then I realized the absurdity of my statement.

Joy wrote:

“He can hear you, so talk to him as much as you can,” one of the doctors said.

And, we did….often. It didn’t matter if we cried. It didn’t matter if we laughed; but it just seemed to matter. We knew he was slipping away, and it felt desperate. It was nothing unusual for Jenna and I to leave his side in tears; but when I saw my son, Joe, disintegrate into an emotional heap, my heart dropped another level. My baby, all 6’ 2+” of him, totally beside himself with the grief of seeing his father passing before his eyes.

[...]

Joel was one of life’s characters to say the least. He may be remembered fondly that way or otherwise; but I wonder if he knew how much he was loved. I’m not sure he really did; but I tried with all my heart to tell him in those last days….before he sailed away quietly into the night

Last Sunday afternoon I got an email letting me know that a family I had just seen at church earlier that morning had lost someone they thought of as their son. I never met this man who died while jogging, only a few years older than I am, leaving behind a wife and baby daughter. But the family who loved him was at our house last Friday night and it sounded like there were connections that happened in conversations at our home that may play a part in the process of going forward in the grief.

It’s been a somber week of sorrows. After Wendy died, I remembered another friend from RISD who has died in the years since college, after we lost touch with each other. I did some research on the Internet to see how her partner has been doing, and I discovered her blog.

This is the season of my brother Jim’s birth and death. Yesterday while gathered around our table, someone mentioned that Thanksgiving six years ago, the last one that both of my brothers and both of my parents spent together. I wish I had been there.

The holidays are hard. The longing for warmth, both literal and emotional, can accentuate the cold and loneliness of the season. The broken pieces of relationships seem sharp and hard.

Is there someone you know

You’re loving them so

But taking them all for granted?

You may lose them one day

Someone takes them away

And they don’t hear

The words you long to say

On Wednesday at gym class with the kids I heard Everything I Own by Bread playing on the radio background music (I had no idea how many other versions there were until I Googled for the lyrics). The song hit me immediately with its sense of loss. It’s a song that I associate with my father and his record collection that left the house when he did, and this week it was easy to associate it with other sorrows and losses. What has hit me with Wendy’s death is the fact that sometimes we only get one opportunity to speak to someone. If I had known that that July day would be the only time I’d have to talk with her, would I have said something different?

Joy wondered if Joel knew how much he was loved. I’m not sure he really did; but I tried with all my heart to tell him in those last days. ..While we can’t make someone know he is loved, we can do what we can to live and say it. Am I telling people in my life that they are loved?

The blog posts about Wendy and Joel mentioned love. Love in a family. How love can transform life. How powerful it is to know you are loved. There’s plenty of fluffy pop tunes praising love, ones that come and go on the radio, but the truth is rock solid and eternal: love changes things forever. Whom am I taking for granted? If someone in my life died today, what would I regret? What opportunities do I have today to share love?

In this week of remembering I’ve wrestled with writing this piece. As I’ve frantically cleaned and cooked in preparation for the holiday, I haven’t had the time or the emotional energy to put my thoughts into a post. But here and there, as I can, I pray. I pray for the families grieving. I pray for those of us still living, that we will have the courage to say the words we long to say.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rebecca // Nov 28, 2005 at 1:37 am

    >I pray for the families grieving.

    Thank you, Julie. I believe that makes a difference. (Lord, help my unbelief.)

    It is so strange to have found this particular blog as the result of searching for a C.S. Lewis quote (which someone posted in response to a blog of yours half a year ago).

    My heart is breaking to pieces for Jeff and his family. He has a wounded heart that only a miracle will heal. I pray that he will believe that he is not alone in his loss – and that he will not harden his heart and alienate his family.

  • 2 Lucy // Nov 29, 2005 at 7:03 am

    I’m surprised to find tears running down my face. It amazes me that living thousands of miles away and knowing none of the people, I’m still sad … perhaps because it reminds me how similiar and fragile my own world is.

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