I had sat down in my new spot in concert choir, very nervous. Jami was the most beautiful girl in the room, wearing a white sundress, with dramatic cat eyeliner, sparkling green eyes, and strawberry waves. She was also one of the best singers in our section. I was seriously in yoga pants, flip flops, and a neon pink hoodie. Don’t get me started on the hair.
A few days later, I saw her in the library before lit and then in class. I felt rather ridiculous that this lioness managed to be everywhere I was, far more reserved but so elegant, glamorous, and present. The thing about her was that when you saw her? You didn’t stop looking. She was so kind, smart, and beautiful…you just wanted to be around her forever.
Friday she yawned after choir and rolled her eyes over to me, saying ‘Coming to my house after this right? It’s spring and I have white merlot. I cannot imagine that your biochem class is more exciting than us repotting geraniums .’She was always right and at least today, I was wearing decent clothes. We made shrimp scampi and asparagus, Pia brought 3 issues of Vogue and several more bottles of wine. My friend Josh stopped after work with lemon cake, we all sat on quilts, talked about music and food and stars. We stayed there for three days.
That year, we stayed at each other’s apartments nearly every weekend. In the summer, we would hike and picnic with lavish cheese, bread, and fruit. We learned how to make fudge cakes, lasagnas, lobster biscayne, & huevos rancheros. We ate out, we barbecued, we sliced up cheese and called it good, we at Arby’s. There was always wine.
We grew into women. We talked books, shoes, sex, adventure, love. We stayed closed, we strayed far, we shared all our stories, or we fought. We had periods where we fought because each of us became more lion like near each other.
‘I have a wanderers spirit. I can never catch up to me.’
Neither of us felt at home anywhere. If we were anywhere too long, skin began itching, eyes wandering, minds dreaming. I would take trips, and Jami would pick up her things to leave. I visited Jami several times. Sometimes, I had a silly boy in tow, sometimes I needed a weekend where we laid in bed to read and drink coffee, and other times, we would then keep traveling. We would repeat the things we loved, painting, eating, sipping, looking, reading. Jami was refined and graceful, but also roamed unbound and free.
She never questioned the woman that I grew into. She questioned when I masked that woman, bridled it, suppressed it, changed it, and made myself unhappy.She lived for the quiet, messier layers of life. The ‘wherever you go, there you are’ level that meant her red nails got dirt under them when she planted the flowers, and that she was just fine to go to dinner that way.
She traveled one summer and took the fall semester off. She worked at the best cafe, sang and played music, painted her room a drenching purple. We would meet in libraries, apartments, cafes, grocery stores, parks, and we would do things both mundane and wild. The thing with my beautiful friend is that she could make you feel like your life finally jumped off of the paper. She would give gifts that were unexpected and perfect. She knew when to be silent and when to laugh with every nerve in her body. Her smile and eyes were beautiful n the elusive, Roman candle-esque way that Marilyn Monroe captivated us all. She sparkled brightly by being both wise and sweet, open and elusive, a rive and the ocean all at once.
We went to breakfast, one rainy morning. A small coffee shop, tucked away, on our way there, we chatted about our shared dream to become flight attendants. She spied a homeless man a ways down the street, so we jogged up to him and smiled. She gave him a $20 and I promised to come back to pick him up. I was headed the way he was going, after all. Then, she shook her head and offered for him to just come with us, which was the exact tender generous soul she had. He did and it was the funniest, most delightful day I had that spring.
Late that summer, we parted ways. I traveled across the state, she to another and we started new schools. Soon after, she became a flight attendant and I became a mother. Occasionally, she had layovers near me. Life needed to stand still so that we could wander together for a few hours. One time, we sat in the cafe of a book store, as my future husband was walking our daughter through the children’s area. She watched him quietly, then said, ‘Do not let go. He’s ready for you.’ I smiled and shook my head, murmuring about not wanting marriage, and she laughed. She said, ‘Well, it wants you. You are the most lovely family. Give me something to smile on?’ I made sure to send her the first picture from our elopement, later on.
‘Alaska is amazing. Lonely, brutal, and it has captured every part of my heart. Do you still wear blue eyeliner?’
My beautiful golondrina of a friend had ridden the wind again to Alaska to teach. She had amazing adventures and sent me photos each week, her climbing the ice, her wonderful pup, food she had made, wine she drank, hikes, flowers, crafts with her kids. We talked about things children need, what it is to be a wife and mother. She sent me care packages to remind me that I must pamper myself – our shared favorite scent of body wash – Brown Sugar and Fig, boxes of pomegranates or grape fruit, so many books and bottles of nail polish. I sent her the 4 inch heels that a new mother never wears, the blue eyeliner with a tutorial for girls with green eyes, and buffalo jerky.
‘I wish you could meet him. There isn’t a thing I can think of that I want to do without him.’
Jami met the love of her life in Alaska. We had both been lonely for so many long years. I had my daughter and got married so much sooner than she. I dearly wished that she was not only there on my special day, but there with the one. Not long after I read the email describing her soon to be husband, I saw pictures, read letters about all the things that they planned with their life, and best of all…talked on the phone shortly after they were engaged. She was content and fulfilled. She sounded more vibrant than ever. Her wedding pictures were sparkling and humble with love.
They have a daughter. A beautiful daughter who looks so much like her mother. Jami is the most radiant mother and we talk about how our life work has shifted. We have these amazing visions, to change our little corners of the world, as we are both in the Midwest. We talk about the little farms we plant in our yards, honey bees, making yogurt and kombucha, raising chickens for our children, we miss one another. The constant denominator is that we have always known we will see each other.
So, we sent each other more poetry and paintings. Christopher Moore, Tom Robbins, Gregory Corso. Wine colored nail polishes, knit things, gourmet chocolates.We commiserate about sleep, headaches, diapers, food that we want to eat with our husbands, and the full end of heels. We decide on different birthday and holiday traditions. She is shocked when I go through cancer, she cheers when I am in remission.I pull out the blanket she made my girl nearly nine years prior and smile as I send Jami a picture of it. We are more accustomed to not hearing from each other for long periods.
‘I have these instances where I lose vision in my eye and get headaches.’
After my own terrible run with cancer, and the fact that I pulled through…scraped up but better and wiser, I was honestly devastated when she told me that she was facing it down herself. I wandered into a church to light candles and say rosaries for her. I looked at my beautiful pictures of her, her wedding day, happy smiling couple snaps, adventures, a beautiful daughter, all off the contentment that she worked so very hard to earn. It was just frustrating to me. Cancer had been the most terrible experience for me. It ripped my family up, changed so many things for me, and landed us in a very real financial situation that led to bankruptcy.
I was left embittered by not only cancer, but also where we live. So many things had gone so very wrong for me. But even in her own terrible situation, she reached out to gently remind me that we have to keep evolving and moving. We are not where we are or what we go through. I have always been humbled by her generosity, her kindness, and grace. It was such a spiraling situation, but I honestly thought it was going to be fine. Cancer is so weird, you really never know so you have to be totally optimistic.
When we wrote, I heard something new in her words. She was actually afraid and it devastated me. Her words began to take measure and a different shape. It was angular and careful, instead of something that spread into you, warming your soul up, and giving you new ideas. She spent time apologizing. I asked her not to, there was never a thing I wanted her to apologize for. In truth, I could not measure up to her – the beauty, the snapping sparkle of those green eyes, her melodic voice and laughter, the way she held a room, the very way that she existed. Jami…a most magical woman that I got to be friends with.
‘Forgive me, if I don’t make sense. It’s because I don’t see.’
We emailed and messaged a few more times this winter. She sounded far away to me. I called and sang to her for a Christmas present, because she would always sing to the stars. I hoped that cancer had not caused her to forget that. Everything got harder for her and a terrible feeling settled over me. She had another surgery and illness set in…we were being so optimistic. We would visit Oregon in the summer. Help plant Jami’s garden with her husband and daughter. Cook and bake, then leave so she could nap. Take them to eat, breathe the beautiful air, see more stars, laugh with wine, and then I saw that Jami was not better at all. She had gone home with a prognosis of being terminal.
The worst thing happened, people. I could not lift my hands to my computer to write. I could not call. I sat on this bed and stared at the little swallows that we made in a pottery class over a decade ago, laughing and joking, batting eyes at cute, artist boys, as we painted our birds. At the end of the week that we made them, we went on this picnic, down to the river. She waded in and sang up to me, ‘You should keep my bird for me! I still have to fly for a while.’
I did. I do. I still have our birds. Jami taught me about the depth of beauty and refined, easy grace. She was fiery, artistic grace, mixed with the most genuine soul. Refreshing, honest, deeply funny, and terrifyingly smart. Everything about her is amazing. She is the credit to femininity and womanhood that e all should look to. The truth is Jami taught me to be more, to change this corner of the world, to always sparkle.
Jami died today. I am consumed by the grief and nothing has color. I have eaten rich foods and drank a beautiful Merlot to celebrate her but truthfully, I taste nothing. I can think of nothing but doing everything in my power to honor and celebrate her memory, despite my terrible grief. Nothing but finding as many ways as I can to help her husband and child as the walk this terrible road. Cancer wields a more terrible grip than death. It destroys your life, and the lives of all who surround you.
I have a decade and a half of letters, emails, books, art, jewelry, memories, and the acute knowledge that it was so very fleeting and not nearly enough. I am so blessed that I have had Jami Lynn and I am so lost with this fact that she is gone. She was that person who is a true Roman candle – regal, sparking, sparkling, funny, charming, kind, and powerful.
So many of us are raising the banner to help Jami’s family. I can think of people no more deserving after this terrible grief has settled on us all. So much struggle and loss does not deserve the price tag that insurance companies levy. I will be hosting as many fundraisers as I possibly can to help them. Many people are working on the start of a medical and memorial fund. If there is a way that you would like to help, please do.
My fundraiser is on my scentsy website – sararose.scentsy.us and Jami M Family Fundraiser, also Facebook, and you can always email me. All sales and all of my commission will go to this family.
There is also a Medical and Memorial Fund – Jami’s Memorial Fund. These donations can be written off for your taxes.
My friends, light a candle so she walks in light. Lend someone a helping hand and smile even more at those you love. Be the love that this world so needs.
Sparkles and Glitter,