My mom and I used to have long conversations about who would come to our funerals. We're sick like that. It was always a funny conversation when it came up. And it always ended with whatever you do don't put crazy make-up on me and make sure to get the pine box and not some satin mahogany bullshit. These days the conversation would be different. It would be about who would be your fan on your Facebook tribute page.
An old friend of mine, someone I worked with at summer camp when we were much younger, was killed in a car accident on Saturday evening, and there are a thousand plus people coming out to her Facebook tribute page. Leaving messages, reading messages, posting pictures. People from junior high, high school, youth group, lacrosse team, camp, college, grad school, work, parents of the kids she helped, her running partners, every one in the whole friggin town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado where she lived with her husband. It's unbelievable, though not surprising. She was loved. And I'm at home refreshing the screen every few minutes so I don't miss one word.
Because unfortunately I missed the last twelve years. We enjoyed a few intense and wonderful summers together with a magical group of people, with some of whom I remain in touch. And I always got periodic updates about Jenna. I think of her every year on my birthday because hers is the next day. And then there's Facebook where I came to learn that she'd become a speech pathologist. And that she was an ultra-marathoner (that's when you run two marathons back to back basically). And how she got married in August on a lake in Colorado looking beautiful and just the same as I remember. And how she and her husband went to Nepal for three months for their honeymoon and did the same trek that my husband and I did right before we got engaged. Over the years her Facebook profile would pop up from time to time and I'd mean to send her a note telling her how much I admired her. But then I'd get distracted. Because that's all there are these days, right? Distractions.
How great it would be if we all had fan pages. Where you could just write how much you cared about someone, indeed the profound affect they had at some point or another in your life. We used to do a web 1.0 version of this at camp. Friendship notes. Just little notes of gratitude written to your friends at summer's end. I still have a handful of them, my favorite ones from over the years. I still have Jenna's. She signed it Jenna Talia to make me giggle (that wasn't her middle name). Paging Jenna Talia. Please pick up a white courtesy phone...
The girl I remember is every bit the amazing woman she became. I remember a terrific sense of humor - the kind that vacillates seamlessly between silly and sarcastic in the best possible way. I remember a girl who cared deeply about people and the outdoors. She was creative, adventurous, inclusive, charismatic and deeply sensitive. She was the girl that everyone loved to pieces and she had the kind of smile you can picture even years later...
It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. -F. Scott Fitzgerald
The world is a little darker now, without that smile, but brighter still, having known Jenna.