I’ve been away from my blog for longer than usual. I thank all of you who continue to visit.
I travelled to my college alma mater for homecoming and the Black Alumni reunion this past weekend. I went even though the week before was filled with anguish and tears. In the days before my trip I ministered to my children when grief engulfed them. I cradled each of them as they wept out of yearning for their brother and as they relived with vivid memories learning of Jordan’s death.
Even though I had already purchased my plane ticket I hesitated about going. I wondered if I should cancel my plans. I didn’t want to be away if my kids were in such a fragile state and needed me. While I became ambivalent about my trip, Mark became the reassuring voice, “You were looking forward to seeing your friends. We’ll be fine. I’ll be here for them. Go and be Jackie.” Even though I felt Mark was right, thoughts of what my children needed from me swirled in my head. I finally landed on the thought that made me know I was going on my trip. Since Jordan died, my children hadn’t seen me do anything to nourish my spirit. I wanted them to see me beyond my roles as wife and mother. They needed to know, just as I did, that it’s okay to look forward with excitement, instead of anxiety.
The fact that I was excited about travelling back to my college campus thrilled and intrigued me. Four months earlier, when I attended my 25th college reunion, my experience was one of sorrow and regret. Mark came with me that time and I could barely leave our hotel room. The first time I stepped onto the campus and saw all of the college kids, I was holding back tears. I kept looking for Jordan. I watched the students with their rightful looks of freedom and invincibility and wanted to see my son. I looked at the students and thought repeatedly, “Jordan should be at college, not me.” It was an emotionally exhausting weekend. I walked with vigilance and apprehension, praying Mark and I wouldn’t run into anyone. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the exchange. I dreaded being asked, “How have you been?” or “What have you been up to?” I had no idea how I would answer these questions. My biggest fear was that I would start crying and not be able to stop.
The brief encounters I did have with former classmates were strategic. I made sure to stop by my freshman dorm reunion as I had promised, to see friends who I hadn’t seen since I graduated. The other event I attended was the meeting of the Black Alumni Association to thank them for the scholarship fund they started in honor of a classmate from my graduating year who died in the years after our graduation and in honor of Jordan (even though he didn’t attend my alma mater). I was determined to thank them for honoring my son.
Fast forward four months and here I was feeling excitement and anticipation when I was headed to the same place that had recently brought me to my knees with anxiety and tears. I realized Mark was right. I needed to be called “Jackie” for a few days. The responsibilities of marriage, motherhood and grieving have absorbed the majority of my heart and mind. I wanted to reminisce with friends, rekindle my intellectual self and think about career options that have lain dormant. For the first time since Jordan died I was leading with joy not fear or regret.
The weekend was transformative. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you tomorrow.