Extinguished Flame

Myself and Jessie at her wedding

So it’s been a few weeks since my friend Jessie Grossman unexpectedly passed away at the age of 29. I can’t possibly put her life and the memories she gave me into words. And that’s not what I’m trying to do with this post. Heck, I still can’t comprehend that she’s gone. I will just simply write what I’m feeling now, at this early time of dealing with loss.

Here is one small story. We buried Jessie on Friday, October 15th. The day before, I went to church.

I was full of anxiety. I had drank the night before, trying to digest the incomprehensible news. I barely made it to church and grateful I didn’t have a panic attack. I decided to light a candle for Jessie, so I went to the church shop. Don’t worry, Jessie was a good Jewish girl but loved other cultures and customs. Her house had images of the Virgin Mary while her hands would be painted in Mehndi. All my Jewish friends would not like it if I lit a candle in their memory inside a Catholic Church. But I am confident that Jessie would be bouncing in happiness. Inside the shop, there was three different sized candles. The medium sized one, which would burn for five days, was a bright red unlike the other two which were white.

Since I’m new to my faith I didn’t know (and still don’t know!) if I did it right. But I went into the cathedral, placed the candle where a sliver of sunlight would hit it and lit the candle with the wicks provided there. I kneeled and prayed a little prayer. There was no knee rest, so it was pretty painful. After a few words to God to take care of her, I did the sign of the cross and left church, this time with less anxiety and a clearer mind.

I came back about a week later. I knew that it was over five days but I was sure that the candle would still be there. It wasn’t.

The reason I tell this story is not to talk about myself. You see, Jessie was with me through all of that. I arrived full of anxiety because I had not done the smart thing in taking care of myself, just like Jessie would. I picked the red candle because it was loud, demanding and deserving of attention; also Jessie. I went in there not really understanding yet appreciating everything. Unsure, yet resilient to go forward. Jessie and Jessie. And after leaving I felt better than I had arrived. The same effect Jessie had on me.

Finally, when I went to see the candle, it was gone. Just like her. Nothing for me to see, no warning. Just gone, with me and my wits left to try to understand what happened.

Like a candle, Jessie’s life was bright and beautiful to see. Painful at times… calming in others. That was the duality in the beauty and tragedy of her life. It burned brighter than most. It also burned out quicker than most.

Like that candle, her flame will never be lit again. We will never see her beauty, nor her feel warmth.

But just because she’s gone, doesn’t mean that her fire can’t live inside of us. Her light lives on inside those she touched, for her fire and passion for life was that potent. Her light can still illuminate our minds and calm our souls.

I still fail to fully understand that Jessie’s gone. Maybe it’s because she has really never left.

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