The door is open to go through
If I could I would come, too
But the path is made by you
I don’t know if I believe in past lives, but if I do - it’s because of Josephine. From the moment we met, we were friends.
When we were teenagers, we made a pact that if we made it to our forties without being married, that we’d marry each other. We’d buy a big house and have 12 cats, and convert an upstairs bedroom into a bouncy house - just because we could. When I did get married, she was there to sign the certificate.
Our friendship was made up of small fragments of time, days out of the year when our paths crossed. They were full of all of the love and intention and laughter we’d need to tide us over until the next time, whenever it might be. She traveled constantly. When we’d finally connect over the phone, I’d find her in another state or on the other coast. I never knew where she was until she was already there. Her death was very much the same.
On July 7, 2018 I sat down at my desk with my cup of coffee and read a post on Facebook that she was fighting for her life in the ICU. I was to learn that she had an asthma attack; her body was alive, but her brain was broken. She was 23.
That night I barely slept. Exhausted, I would find that heavy, dreamy place between awake and asleep. I would be with her weeping mother. I would see her heartbroken family. I would wake up suddenly in tears. After 45 minutes I would relax enough to start again.
I spent my days glued to my phone and computer - desperate for any news. Three days later, her family decided to let her go. Literal hundreds of her loved ones made altars, held space and ceremony for her death, while a dozen of her dearest joined hands in a circle around her and her mother on the hospital bed. All across the country we wept together.
This was the moment I’d been training for, and damn… it came way too soon.
The first week was a blur. I cried all the time. I swore some of the time, too. I didn’t know what day it was, or what time. I’d accidentally put pantry items in the fridge. I almost caused a fire turning the stovetop on instead of the oven and leaving the house. Some nights I’d sleep 11-12 hours; some nights I’d barely sleep at all. If it wasn’t about her, it didn’t seem to matter.
One of the few places I found comfort in that ugly time was a Beck remix of U2’s ‘Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way’ released the morning after her death. Through its dreamlike video created by Israeli graffiti collective, Broken Fingaz Crew, we follow the stop-motion grief story of a small man made of green clay. In a world of swirling, vibrant color, it lovingly depicts those difficult, everyday moments we all seem to face in the midst of loss.
There are so many moments in this 3-minute video that I love, but arguably my favorite is the ending. As he opens the door to leave his home, and you find that his home is symbolically shaped like his head, with a peaceful smile upon his face. He warily looks around, and walks into the wilderness.
Grief makes us all leave our homes and happy places, to walk into something vast and unknown. But like this little green man and his clay suitcase, we get to carry what we have of our loved ones with us - and take comfort that love is bigger than anything in its way, even death.
In Josie's honor, I will be donating 10% of July's sales to the American Lung Association as they work to make a world free of lung disease.