It was only two months ago that you and I sat in the lab chatting and doing our thing. Suddenly you said “Jen, I want you to sing at my funeral.” I remember chuckling and saying “Well sure, but that won’t be any time soon. Right?”
You died on a Monday. On the following Saturday, I sang at your funeral.
I am now realizing that ANY TIME would have been too soon, let alone the short month between that casual conversation and your funeral. But, I did what I said I would do and I almost made it through the entire song without shedding a tear, until I looked at your mom and dad. My heart broke for them. As my voice broke with my heart, I realized that I was sorrowing no longer just for me, but for those who lost their daughter, their sister, their aunt and their fiancée.
The Sunday night before your death, I thought that I should text you and say hello. Text you and tell you how much I love you. Just text you. Who knows why? I talked myself out of it because I knew I would see you on Wednesday. I should have done it. I should have told you what I wanted to say and since I didn’t, I am going to take a few minutes right now. I am hoping you will be watching over my shoulder as I type this–so that you’ll know just how much you mean to me. Truth be told, I have sent you a text message a few times since you left me and foolishly I sit there holding my phone, waiting for a response. But they don’t come. Somehow it makes me feel better knowing that still have your number in my phone. Like you’re not so far away.
A story is told of a man walking along a beach. As he is walking he comes upon starfish along the coastline–thousands and thousands of starfish. Down the beach he sees a young boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one at a time. He approaches the boy and asks him what he is doing. The boy says “I am throwing these starfish back into the ocean. I want to save them. I want to help” Hoping to show the young boy his wisdom, the man replies “You’ll never do it. There are too many of them. It doesn’t matter–don’t waste your time.” The young boy stops, poised to throw another starfish into the ocean. He turns and looks at the man as he says “It matters to this one,” and he throws the starfish out to the surf.
Every day I would come to work, do my thing and look forward to 4:00. The time when my Nikki would dance into the lab and giggle. That precise moment is the time that I felt like I was one of the starfish on the coast that was being rescued and cast out to sea…by someone who knew that it did matter.
It’s been almost three weeks of lonely and every day I come here and see the chair you used to work in and think of you.
You made me feel like I was important and lovely and worthwhile. You laughed at my jokes with your contagious laugh and would spontaneously throw your arms around me as you told me that you loved me. Your sense of humor and your compassionate heart made working in a place of illness and sorrow so much easier. You reminded me that silly is good and that when you feel something, you say it! Right then! Don’t wait! Even if it causes embarrassment and giggles! Go for it man! And yes, you cried with me too. When some things seemed just too much to bear.
Since your death, the ties that bound some of us who knew and loved you have been binding, indeed. We have forged better friendships and have leaned on one another through the moments when we internalize that you are gone. Sometimes thoughts of you pass between us like a charge of electricity and, more often than not, they go unspoken except for the knowing glance we share with one another. You have made us stronger, individually–much like the starfish–and as a band of individuals who knew you and loved you and learned from you. You have truly made a difference.
Finally, Nikki, I want you to know that the way you passed doesn’t matter to me. The fact is that you are gone. It has been a blessing for me to be able to contemplate the plan that I believe God has for each of us and to reflect on the comfort and security it affords us. I know you live, still, and not just inside those of us who were your fans and friends, but that your spirit lives on and that one day I will see you again! You will continue to be my friend and I will continue to be blessed because of it.
Love your face, Nikki!