Truth be told; anger is more commonly misarticulated fear and guilt. In death, that anger becomes rationalized in selfish terms that are twisted with the use of more altruistic objectives. We are reminded each and every day of our lives of how unfair life is. And this is true; life is unfair and no matter how hard we try to balance the small things to make the larger events more even and fair for another, we are left with the discomfort of knowing equal outcomes in life will never be fulfilled. We could have always done a bit more for Jamie, or even been a little more insightful. We believe that had we (or I) done this, or perhaps not done that – that our today would be different. In the end, we wish Jamie were still among us and we bear a certain individual sense of responsibility for his loss – and for that, we get angry. It is the selfish and healthy mind at work devilishly inflicting our own lives with the insecurities of being wonderfully, yet so very fallibly human.
Ironically, it is okay to be selfish, especially when someone as lovable, likable and gregarious as Jamie has touched your life. Maybe it is time to explain why Jamie and Jamie’s life (present tense is deliberate) is so important me… from my own selfish point of view. Honesty is always healing.
Granted, I did not know Jamie as well as many of my closest friends, but Jamie showed me, through his death, that for the first time in my life I was safe and actually free to grieve loss. This may sound simple to most and I sincerely hope that it sounds simple to you because the safety to grieve the loss of a loved one is something we should all have the luxury of taking for granted.
It was not until we all sat and watched the slideshow of Jamie’s life that I realized the stress I had been feeling in those developing days was little more than me grieving his loss while sharing how his loss impacted those close to me. More accurately, it was when I hugged Theresa immediately following the slideshow when it all fell into perspective. For the first time in my life, I was actively in mourning. For the first time in nearly as many years, tears filled my eyes. Though in pain, I was alive and even vulnerably human once again.
My life has been littered with loss from a very young age. Being from a large and extended family, death found our residence with a relentless persistence. I have lost my father, two brothers and countless friends before I could even consider myself an adult. It was a harsh childhood where abuse was more business as usual, than it was a horrible reality. There comes a point in an abused child’s life where they have to turn off the more commonplace emotions of love and sadness. You see, to extend yourself emotionally meant that you were vulnerable. I grew up in such a manner that being vulnerable only ensured that you were certain to be harmed. When it was the members of your own family harming you, there was no safety. So then, it was to be; I became emotionally disconnected to protect myself from the likes of my own mother who suffocated me with a plastic bag to “prove they [plastic bags] were dangerous in the hands of children.” They proved far more dangerous in my mother’s hands.
You read that right; suffocated by my mother. She baited me in while I had the bag in my hand smiling while saying, “Come over here. Let me show you something about that bag.” As she smiled and even laughed, she pulled the plastic bag over my head and twisted it shut around my neck. When the air stopped flowing, her smile turned to a look of pure evil as she refused to let go. I panicked and fought for my life against my mother hitting her in the face repeatedly until my eldest sister snatched me from her steely grip. Her unsympathetic parting words, “At least I know he will fight for his life.” Little did she know the beast of hate she birthed into existence in that vile moment. When your own mother is out to get you like that, you abandon the thought that any decency exists within anyone. You hate all people for all reasons and for no reason at all. You hate people who seem happy and you hate those who are not because they should be overjoyed with their lives when compared to that of your own. You hate, hate, hate all things for all reasons. It is your own decency that has been stolen from you, beaten out of you and ruthlessly discarded.
I would later watch my mother put a beating on my older brother that should have landed him in the hospital (had anyone been decent enough to take him) for something I did. I told her I did it, but beating my brother to a pulp seemed to be better suited for her aggression that day. Her sister (my Aunt) would later turn on my brother and me eventually beating me unconscious after locking my brother in the basement. And those are but the beginning of the stories that defined my sense of normality.
The first thing smoking out of that hellhole was the Navy. I joined, but only as a tool to use such training to inflict my will on others in similar fashion to how others had been inflicting their will on me for all of those years. I was a dark, bitter person who was full of rage. Having committed my life to harming others, I found that others were always seeking to harm me. Even in adulthood, the safety to mourn still eluded me.
And then came Jamie.
And then we lost Jamie.
Unlike my father, brothers, friends, Shipmates and Marines; I was able to mourn for not only Jamie, but with his family and friends. For the first time in my life, I was able to feel something I had committed a lifetime to repressing – genuine hurt.
This allowed me the freedom to realize how much loss my life has suffered and mourn for my father and brothers. In a sense, Jamie helped me return to decency. He showed me that while individual members acted badly against me, not all people were to be hated for it. You see, my anger at life was simply my fear of life because I had spent a lifetime dealing with the worst life has to offer. Jamie showed that Rachel was right: I am proof that people can change and that I have changed and am no longer that dark person so full of rage and hate. Without Jamie, I would not understand this for what it is today. My focus today would not be on the good, it would be on the bad. That is something Jamie taught each time he smiled! Life is about the good in it, not the bad we take from it.
Jamie taught me that even though those who sought to harm the innocent had once fouled my life with hate, I am now living a life submerged in love and fully supported by an amazing woman, incredible family and the best friends ever known to me. For that and those who now surround me, I am forever thankful.
The mourning process is new to me. I guess I am just damaged that way, please feel free to judge me for having been forced into such emotional naivety. But, emotional novice or not, I can tell you this! The best way to honor those whom we love and have lost is to move forward with the tools that they have enlightened us with in their passing.
I think the onus falls on the individual when determining how to best proceed with Jamie in their hearts as opposed to an active name in a cell phone, or a picture branding a social networking page. Jamie would want each of us to acknowledge that even though his loss has knocked us down, he can actually help return us to our feet in a manner that has us standing tall with our heads held high. We just have to believe and embrace a life beyond our own insecurities. No matter the cause, or the timing for that matter, Jamie’s death is the fault of no single individual or even a collective group. Relinquishing the guilt is the first thing Jamie would want. He was full of life and always wanted everyone around him to live life as hard as he did. He would not want the guilt of his death to overshadow the power your life. However, he would be pleased (and shocked) to know that he unwittingly passed to you a set of tools that improved aspects of your life even after his came to such an abrupt end. Believe and embrace for Jamielee.
I share this because I can. Much of my life has been lost to my past. Jamie, while the circumstances incomprehensively tragic, was the catalyst that brought this awakening out of me. People like Tino stood up, completely vulnerable themselves, and showed me that I could survive such emotional exposure and no longer be harmed for simply being human and fallible. Unconditionally, Ric listened, supported and helped me back to my feet when I realized the source of my inner darkness - for which I harshly blamed myself. With little more than a word or two, his support validated the like perspectives of Rachel, Tino, Melissa, Morgan and Daniel whom all have accepted a life of support over judgment. The fallibility of being human is a blessing in that it shows us a better way. Experience and express. Be flawed. No one will love you any less, or think differently of you because of your past…
I share this because I have to. It is a duty of sorts. You crawl through the muddy obstacle course and the first thing you do is give pointers once you have completed it. You then go back and point and laugh while others effort your accomplishment. It is the way life works. Jaime is pointing and laughing, but has long since given us the pointers. I therefore own a small piece of responsibility on Jamie’s behalf and must share the lessons he has taught me. This is simply my medium. Choose yours. You can pass deuces and truth simultaneously you know – you just have to do it in your own way and in your own time – this is mine. Do it for both Jamie and yourself.
I share this because I want to. To date, only a handful of people have heard these stories of my past. It is not that they are a “secret” per se; it is that my personal discomfort with my past was overwhelming. The single greatest dishonor I could serve Jamie would have been to keep stalling my future for my past! So, I am letting it go because Jamie taught me that keeping it was killing me slowly (and I mean that in its literal sense). The day will come when I too will pass from this retched place leaving all of you wonderful people behind. I then will point and I will laugh. It is you that will have to get up, knock the mud of life off and keep it moving! The expectation is that you will. Maybe not at first, and that’s cool. You just have to do it in your time. But, here is what this is about it. You can’t remember me without remembering Jamie because he is the one that gave me the new lease on life by giving me the tools to understand that my past is simply my past… For that, I am eternally grateful for the short amount of time I had to spend with great man who helped shift my future.