For a long time after Jess died, I was angry.
I guess in some ways, it’s normal to be angry when someone you love dies. It’s unfair for someone so young to die. She had struggled and conquered so much, and had so much life left to live, and then, suddenly, this. A freak accident, cutting her story short. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one miffed at the universe for the injustice of it. But, beyond that, I was angry that she had been the one to die, and not me.
I met Jess in eating disorder outpatient therapy, and we became fast friends. She became my ray of sunshine on otherwise dreary, frustrating, downright shitty days. Even at times when we were both in tears, she’d be there with a hug, and that support and understanding meant the world to me.
But it wasn’t always tears. Just as, or even more, often we’d be in the fits of laughter. Jess could make anyone smile. She’d compliment near-strangers things like “Hi there, I like your face!”. She played ukelele and sang sweet lil songs. And she told the absolute best lame jokes.
As we’d sit around the clinic’s kitchen table for group meal support, she’d be the one to lighten the mood. Being where we were, mealtimes were generally anxiety-filled affairs. But having Jess around helped, so much. She quickly became known for her terrible (wonderful) puns, the best of which were usually about bees. (What kind of bees make milk? Boo bees!)
We all had good days and bad days as we moved along on the journey of recovery. Jess’s good days were great, but her bad days were infinitely worse. It broke my heart to see sweet, happy Jess be so terribly sad. But, somewhere along the line, those bad days became fewer and rarer, and by *that* summer, she seemed to be doing amazingly; living her life, healthy, happy, free.
And that’s why I was so angry when she died. She was doing SO WELL – just beginning to thrive and fully enjoy life, while I was still struggling, hard. What kind of an unfair world takes that life away from Jess, while
letting making me continue to live? Deep in my depression and self-hatred, I was jealous of her for dying. And yeah, I realize now how very effed up that is.
I held onto this anger and jealousy for months, until it finally occurred to me how messed up it was for me to be thinking like this. Jess was gone, but she’d enjoyed and appreciated the good days she had had alive. What kind of an asshole was I for not appreciating my own days, good or bad? It was unfair of me to continue to be miserable, when I was the one with the privilege of still being here.
Prompted in part by this realization, I finally agreed to giving antidepressants a try. My thinking changed, and within just a few months I felt an amazing difference. Life wasn’t as terrible as it had felt for the past god-knows-how-many years. Life suddenly didn’t feel like an extended punishment that Jess had escaped. I finally realized how lucky I was, and how I owed it to Jess to appreciate my life and be a happier human.
The next summer, I began noticing bees; I’d never really given them much thought before, other than “oh god please don’t sting me”. Now my thoughts were more like “awwwh, lil bee”, and a smile would reflexively come to my face. I didn’t consciously make the connection to Jess, I just knew that bees made me happy.
It was only later on in the summer, a mutual friend mentioned how she’d seen a bumblebee and been reminded of Jess. Duhhh, that was why I’d developed such a soft spot in my heart for the little fuzzy bugs! Finally linking the two in my brain made me even happier each time I’d spot a bee among the flowers. Whether a real, live one, a piece of jewelry, or just a doodle, the sight of a lil bee always brings a warm, happy feeling to my heart.
I recently got a small tattoo of a bumblebee on my left forearm. Some of the happiest days of my life have been ones I’ve spent in Thailand, so it seemed fitting to get a tattoo symbolizing happiness while I was there. I’m so pleased with the finished product, and I think Jess would like it, too. I like being able to look down at my arm and have a little reason to smile. I get to carry about a little bit of Jess, a little bit of Thailand, a little bit of happiness wherever I go.
It hurts sometimes to think of Jess, but I’m no longer “jealous” or angry. I’m sad to think about how she died way too soon, but I’m happy that I got to know her for as long as I did. She taught me so much, and I’ll never forget what a sweet friend and amazing human she was. Anyone who knew her would agree; Jess made the world a happier place.
I’m glad for my little tattoo; it’s a daily reminder to be grateful and be happy, thanks to Jess. I miss you, lil bee ❤