A Letter to Jennifer

We didn’t get to say goodbye.

A month after Jennifer’s death, and it didn’t seem real to me. I kept calling out to her in my head, “Where are you?”

Gone forever? Impossible but I knew in my heart that she lives in heaven, so writing a letter seemed like a good idea.

From May 20th to June 8th my journal entries were one long letter of goodbye to Jennifer.

May 20, 2002

Dear Jennifer,

How full of life you were the last time we saw you! Wedding plans, summer plans, and your love for Josh were filling you up.  Do you know how proud I am of you? Do you know that you blessed so many lives? You became a woman at college.  You came so far from the teenager in high school who did not want Mama to interfere or would not believe me about some things. We had such good conversations – so much like those I had with my mother.

Do you know how much I love Josh? How pleased I was with your choice? Your devotion to God, your seeking hearts, your clear journey together on His path inspired and encouraged me.

May 22

(She was to be maid of honor at a high school friend’s wedding in May. Then she and Josh were headed to camp in Colorado to be counselors at summer camp.)

So today I think of how you should be here, going to showers and teas with Kim, expecting Josh to come for the weekend, getting your dress fitted. Instead Kim will be remembering you at her wedding by lighting a candle. You would be packing that blue trunk for camp and checking off a long list of things to include. (You always made a list for camp.)

Jennifer, you just blessed our lives every day! How thankful I am for your 21 years, the opportunities that you had to see the world and share the love of Jesus. The last five years of your life were just peak times for you in every area of your life. You were living that book that I wanted you to write about living healthy physically, spiritually. There could be no doubt in anyone’s mind that healthy living, your walk with God, and your love for Josh were intertwined into the fabric of your life. What a testimony!

May 25

How I missed you at Kim’s wedding! She was beautiful, and the wedding was so sweet. Melissa looked great! I cried so much my sinuses were pounding.

But I don’t feel you near.  It feels like you are just away on another mission trip or at camp. Sometimes when I come home I think there will be a message from you on the answering machine, and I will be able to call you back to talk.  Where are you?

You are in Courtney and Kim, Brooke and Tracy, Daniel and Eric, Melissa and Stephanie. And especially Josh. To have you flop down on this bed and tell me about your day or chew on a problem – that is a joy to remember, but never experience again.

May 31

Jennifer, how brave you were! You faced your fears – your insecurities and with grace and charm, you waded through. To think of you entering that high school in Cookeville to eat lunch with some of your teens from church compared to your days in 9th and 10th grades! How you struggled to seek out new friends, faced snobbery and hypocrisy, were lonely and even sad! You never whined and seldom complained.

You are a young woman frozen in time at the peak of beauty and holiness. What a time to go—perhaps at the pinnacle of your influence and example! Your decision to go to Tennessee Tech instead of a college with many of your friends was courageous. It was another proud moment for me. God blessed your life, you blessed ours, and now – now – that card you made for your bulletin board?

Now you truly are a citizen in heaven.

June 8

Last night as I prepared a Dutch apple pie I thought of you. Last Thanksgiving at Standing Stone with all the relatives, you and Josh peeling apples for a pie. You delighted in your discovery of cooking and preparing foods for others to enjoy.  Who would have thought after several false starts that you would choose nutrition as a major? I suppose apple pies will always remind me of you.

How delightful for me to hear you telling about college experiences that took you back to our roots – to your grandmother and great grandmother in the rhythm of their lives as homemakers – canning beans and tomatoes, making jelly and at the same time learning the science behind it all. You were challenged by it and relished it.

You are teaching us every day in small ways to appreciate every moment we live. Thank you, my child.

Counting 21 years of joy with Jennifer,

JoyMartell

“When we recall the past, we usually find that it is the simplest things – not the great occasions – that in retrospect give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Bob Hope

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