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 10th piece was written by Will, Jordan's friend.
jordan. i can’t believe it’s been five years. the other night candice asked me what gift i felt you had given me. i told her, but i realized that i have never told you. and i want to tell you.
i spent almost every night sleeping in candice’s bed the month after you died. in the mornings i would walk downstairs and find strangers cooking breakfast in the kitchen. people i didn’t know planting seeds in the garden. seeds you planted, still growing today. some strangers offered words that i still carry with me today, like the ones exchanged at your memorial. that place where i finally saw your tree, clear as day. other acts were wordless. unspoken sentiments that reverberated in our souls.
this time reminded me of when i was seventeen and my family and i got lost in switzerland. an older woman named judy took a train across the country to help us get where we were going. she told us that she loved americans because her husband was american, that they spent some of the best years of her life with him so she always wanted to give back to americans when she could. it was then i decided to get that j tattooed on my arm, to always be reminded of this time.
the day after graduation, i left our friends and moved to new york. in those months that followed i felt you everywhere. every sunny day. every smile on a stranger’s face. you were with me wherever i went. then one day, on your next birthday, i was talking to candice and poonam on the phone. candice relayed a theory she had heard on her travels about how we must see each other as teachers, and each act a lesson. that your dying too was a lesson for each of us, even if we did not understand it yet. immediately i thought of those seeds. the letter j.
i stopped feeling you after that. i did not feel you in the sunny days, nor the strangers on the street. you were gone. the only place i could properly process this was in a small yoga studio on north sixth street in brooklyn. at the end of every class my teacher played a song that spoke of you. i cried every time it played. at my last practice there, you came to me in a vision. i saw you dancing, with ranges of mountains around you, and a vast night sky of stars. you were laughing, and you told me that you were okay. i cried and cried on the wooden floor. that was the last time i saw you. shortly after, my studio closed. i never did find out the name of that song, though i would chase it in studios around new york for years.
at the beginning of this year, i found myself in a time of unprecedented anxiety. everything was changing, time passing so quickly, and i was paralyzed by constant fear. fear of death. a fear i later realized was rooted in not feeling that i was living my life the way i wanted to. so i decided to go on a yoga retreat in guatemala. with thirteen people, most of whom i had never met. it was the scariest thing i have ever done, but something told me that i needed to go. at the end of my first practice on our trip, in this place of impossible beauty, i lay my head down on the mat, and it finally happened. i heard your song. my heart immediately began to swell. i felt you again. i felt you everywhere on that trip, finding myself being taken care of by strangers once again—strangers who helped me overcome my fears. i found myself surrounded by a view of mountains and a starry night sky—the same as in my last vision of you.
i do not believe that everything happens for a reason. i do not believe you had to die. but, as ajooni put it so well, i do believe that we can find reason in everything that happens. i believe that this is why we are here. to find the lessons. to find faith. and that’s what you gave me, jordan: you gave me faith. faith in people. in the power we have to heal. the capacity to love unconditionally, even those we have never met. the strength that comes with knowing that wherever we go, we will always be taken care of. most of all, you gave me the understanding that we are all just teachers and students. here to learn. even from the most difficult events life has to offer. it’s a lesson i’ve learned again and again in these years since you left us. i suspect it’s one i will be learning for the rest of my life.
- Will Defebaugh