To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 5th piece was written by Stephanie, Jordan's friend.
It's hard for me to separate my "college experience" at the University of Michigan from my "Jordan experience". Jordan was my closest friend, confidant, ally, and roommate for a very wild four years of my life. Granted, I think if you throw 7 girls in a house, it probably always ends up wild in some form or another.
Now, instead of looking back at my college years as that wild, crazy time of life where I shared a throw-up bucket with Poonam and watched Ajooni use her waste-long hair to create a Hagrid beard and flew high in the sky on the legs of Candice as a human airplane in the law quad and watched Jordan create questionably sanitary sangria in a giant tub for a house party... I instead jump to the dark times. The head-in-the-sand let's-forget-about-this times. The crying on the floor times and the how is this happening times and the oh my god, was she saying goodbye to me when she said that times.
There is some sort of interesting human phenomenon where we tend to vaguely remember all the goodness in our lives and hone in on the bad stuff like a black dot on an otherwise pristinely white page. Even as a resident now, if an attending physician gives me 19 good comments and 1 bad one, you better believe I tuned out the 19 good things. Five years after Jordan died I am more aware of this phenomenon than ever before. Now that the initial stabbing pain is gone and more of a dull aching throb has set in, I strive SO hard to remember all of the good things with Jordan. I want the simple joyous moments. I even want the simple run of the mill moments, like telling Jordan to pick up her clothes for the twenty zillionth time and her laughing and shrugging and probably doing it later but maybe not. I want the back massage memories, the strumming the guitar memories, the "are we really doing tequila tonight" memories. But somehow, when I close my eyes, I go back to that same day.
My family always told me I had a pretty lousy memory. There are whole family vacations we took when I was in middle school that I apparently just wasn't mentally present for (turns out, I have been to St. Louis!). Even now almost a year out of medical school I am amazed by the amount that I used to know just a few years ago that I have to frantically look up now. That being said, when it comes to Jordan's death and the events surrounding it, I have a picture-perfect, movie-esque memory. I can easily replay every earth shattering moment from the phone call from Jordan's mother, running downstairs to Candice's room, and the absolute mayhem that followed. I remember people taking turns sitting in Jordan's room absorbing her ambience. I remember at first feeling like a ghost had come to live with me, then remembering that Jordan was gone and running into her closet to just smell her again. The rush to get flights to Texas, the desire to make a eulogy worth Jordan's beauty but the realization of the utter impossibility of that task. The feeling of looking Jordan's mother in the eye for the first time. And the second time. And the third time after Jordan's death. Seeing Jordan's body, so strangely alive appearing in the casket. All of it feels like yesterday.
But it was five years ago. FIVE YEARS! Candice said to me recently (and in her blog post) that Jordan has been dead longer than we knew her alive. For some reason that concept seems wrong to me. Jordan is more than a person I knew and loved, she is a large chapter in my life that shaped me into who I am today. The way my memory distorts the past, it seems like Jordan is less of a person and more of a horrible tragedy in my life- and I don't like that distorted view. I am working hard to change my memory, sharpen it, make it reflect what I know was the truth- that Jordan shaped me into who I am because of the four years that I knew her, not because she died.
So now, when I close my eyes and think about Jordan, I am working on actively taking my mind away from the end of senior year and backwards to other moments. I can picture Jordan and her mom decorating her wall after she moved in at welcome week (my snap judgment was that I thought she looked pretty and therefore probably popular and therefore we probably wouldn't be friends). I can picture exploring Main Street in Ann Arbor for the first time with Jordan and Candice- we went into a small trinkets shop and they were both super in to the tea cups and other very hippy items, and I thought maybe I'm not cool enough for these people. I remember being made fun of for ordering fries at a vegan restaurant because it was the only thing on the menu I knew I would eat. I remember moving in to our first shared dorm together sophomore year in East quad and deciding we wanted beds side by side because bunk beds seemed weird and isolating. I remember her favorite Pandora station, the invention of "shower shots" (yes, even in the group showers in the dorms, we made it work). Harmonizing to the lion king. Many wogs (walk/jogs) around campus contemplating love and life. Jordan's first real snowfall. Sledding on cafeteria trays. Forcing myself to try kale then promising her I would never eat kale again. Lying on the sand staring at the starry sky in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Dancing. Singing. Loving.
It's a work in progress, but my memory is coming along. I don't remember what we talked about on those long jogs in the gardens, but I do remember our last conversation in person about what I thought her funeral might look like. Jordan had flown back to Ann Arbor from Texas during our last semester of school (she had taken a semester off because of her depression) for my 22nd birthday celebration. After a weekend of celebrating, I calmly drove her to the airport completely wrapped up in my own life and oblivious that this would be the last time I would see her alive. After talking about her upcoming summer plans to return to school and finish up her degree and mindless chatter about the weekend, she turned to me and asked about her funeral, and asked me point blank what I thought her funeral would be like. I told her that she would be 95 and that we would have co-caskets and our friends and family members would be drinking vodka cranberries over our graves toasting our long and happy lives. She laughed. I told her that she would have friends lined up around the block of the funeral home waiting to come in and pay their respects. I told her that of anyone else I knew, she had more friends and people that loved her than I had ever seen. A lot of what I told her was true. I may not fully remember how it felt to hug her, but I am trying to remember how it felt to be loved by her... and I think it's working. Five years later, and I think it's finally working.
- Stephanie Garbarino