It was a year ago today that I learned of the life and death of Jenn See. I was reading some new blogs, and I came across Carl V’s site, Stainless Steel Droppings. While reading some of his earlier posts, I came across a memorial post to Jenn See (click here to read that original post).
I really cannot explain it, but I was struck by Jenn See’s death. I did not know her at all, nor had I ever visited her blogs (see I am following my fish and tourist of everything here). Yet, there was this inexplicable feeling, this pain I felt in reading of her sudden and horrible passing. I mourned for her loss, and I mourned for her mother, for OldBen, and for MysFit. I mourned for all those who did know her. I decided to write my own tribute to Jenn See, which you can read here. It put me in touch with Jenn See’s mother and a few others in her circle of friends, and knowing them, even virtually through blog posts and emails, has deepened my sadness for her loss and my resolve to bring greater meaning to my own life through her passing.
I’m not the only one who has remembered Jenn See. Carl V posted a wonderful tribute to her last month (See Carl V’s one-year tribute to Jenn See here). Her memory and her legacy lives on through the hearts and the words of so many people, and I am humbled by this opportunity to contribute my little part to remembering her.
I’ve lost my own share of loved ones since Jenn See died, including my mother and my mother-in-law within weeks of each other. Three of my students have also died tragically, and I find that the older I get, the more time I spend at funeral parlors, graveyards, and memorials, contemplating the value that each moment holds in our lives as we are here on Earth. Since I learned of Jenn See’s death, I have had 365 opportunities to embrace life more fully, hug my kids a little longer, tell the ones I love that I love them, offer smiles to those who need them, and listen a little longer to those who just need to talk through a problem.
It’s hard to remember all that, all the time, though, isn’t it? I mean, right now, I am in the heart of my summer vacation. I teach 11 months out of the year, but I get the last ten days of July and the first 20 of August to call my own. During this time, I slow down, get to the gym every day, take walks, spend more time with my kids, write daily, and embrace and appreciate the natural sounds and sights that surround me. I cannot even begin to tell you of how blessed I feel, in so many ways, simply because I am alive, and I have the opportunity to experience all that is around me.
This is the way I believe life was meant to be lived. If you read through some of Jenn See’s posts, you will see that she got that. She understood. She lived a life filled with joy, with passion for her art and photography as well as for those who surrounded her.
Why is that so hard for so many of us to do? The 80’s and 90’s demanded so much of us to multi-task, thinking that was what the secret to life was all about. And in the earliest days of this new century, we seem to think that we are now masters at multi-tasking: talking on the phone, driving, selecting a new playlist on our iPod, and eating a Value Meal as we head to our next meeting, our next whatever that was written digitally into our PDAs months ago.
I know a wonderful person named becky who gets it. When I can, I visit her page on Facebook (or Myspace…I can’t remember which), and it is filled with love of friends, love of good times. Just yesterday I received a message from her to join her in celebrating some new pictures she posted of friends playing various stringed instruments around a fire. In each of the photos, there was genuine life, love, enjoyment in all that they did. I know none of these people but Becky, and for all I know, these folks might have day jobs that put them behind a desk for eight hours answering phones and attending meetings. Whether they do is immaterial to the fact that they haven’t forgotten how to get out, enjoy life, enjoy the celebration of friendship, to embrace the moments shared between each other, and hold on to love as if it’s the greatest thing that could ever happen to them.
On Carl V’s one-year memorial to Jenn See, somebody posted a comment that I fell in love with. This person wrote that “Jenn See Is. . .” Simple, yet powerful.
She is. Jenn See lives a little in all of us. Whereas her friends will always reflect fondly on her memories, She will always be in the present to all of us who understand that these days given to us come with no guarantees. Putting off another day to tell somebody you love them may be a day too late. Taking time for yourself and unplugging the phone, the computer, the everything and just slowing down for the sake of appreciating the moment–either alone or with the ones you love–is more important than any meeting you might feel you need to attend.
So, given this day, I say to all of you: I love you, and I wish you many moments of complete joy today as you take a moment to look over your cubicle and smile at a friend, take an extra five minutes at lunch and listen to the hum of the cicadas in their summer song, or call a friend and let them know you are thinking of them. It doesn’t take much, but it means more to them, and to ourselves, then we can ever realize.
Jenn See’s family has set up a wonderful scholarship program for artists and writers. The information is below. I encourage you strongly to make a donation and help Jenn See’s family continue to celebrate her life through helping others. Donations can be sent directly to: “Jan-Ai Scholarship Fund” c/o Bob Walker P.O Box 8068 Atlantic City, N.J. 08404. This fund is set up in jenn see’s memory to help struggling artists, photographers and writers. in this way, we are carrying on jenn’s energy and love of life. please help.memorial fish