This journey of grief began on April 13, 2002. I’ve shared my journals from those first days as well as books, people, and a faith that guided me through the valley. Sometimes I worry that these Heart Lessons are too sad or depressing, but I think of those who are struggling with their own grief. So I carry on with the story.
I kept two different journals that first year: one contained notes from books and Scripture that brought me comfort and the other was purely reflections of emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
In March I begin writing again after no entries in late January or the whole month of February. The writing of my dissertation for Trevecca required me to meet deadlines for each chapter, and those days in January and February were busy.
March 5, 2003
The Consumer Science Dept. at Tennessee Tech had an awards ceremony and invited Larry and I to attend. Since he was out of town, I asked my close friend, Emalie to join me. Jennifer’s major had finally solidified into Nutrition, third time a charm! She loved taking the cooking classes, a connection to my mother, who majored in Home Economics back in 1946.
In February, 2002, Jennifer applied for a 2002-2003 scholarship through the Nashville Family and Consumer Sciences Association.
Under Career Goals section of the application she wrote:
I came to Tennessee Technological University on a track and field scholarship and planned to major in Psychology. After one year I learned that Psychology was the field I wanted to pursue. I changed my major to Nursing because I love to reach out and help others. While taking a Nutrition course required for nursing students, I fell in love with learning about food and the way the body handles it. I then changed my major to Human Ecology with an emphasis in Food, Nutrition, and Dietetics. I have enjoyed all the classes I am taking in my new major.
When I graduate with my B.S. degree in May 2003 I hope to further my education by interning under a Dietitian and becoming a Registered Dietitian. I would also like to get my Masters in Nutrition and Exercise. For my post-graduate work I am looking at Virginia Tech University’s program. With this extended education, I am considering two options for my career plans. One is to be a practicing dietitian and concentrate on anorexics and bulimics. The second option is to work in sports Nutrition, planning and perfecting diet plans for athletes. This would combine my love for sports and nutrition.
In lieu of the scholarship Jennifer earned, on March 4, the association donated money and cookbooks to the School of Human Ecology in her memory.
Excerpt from the presentation:
Briefly, but profoundly, Jennifer Souder passed through our lives as an active, involved student at Tennessee Tech. We remember her as studying Human Ecology . . . but her MANOR was life . . . pouring her life, that is the life she lived in Christ, into those around her. I believe she would say through HIM, that is Christ, she excelled. Academically, Jennifer was a Dean’s List student and a teacher’s dream student . . . desiring knowledge and the improvement of skills. She served as captain of the Spring Team at TTU and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes where she met her fiancé, Josh Sesler. She went beyond in the field of athletics competing as a triathlete and instilling in youth her love for sport in summer camps.
These beautiful words were music to a mother’s heart. I learned again how Jennifer’s life was a blessing to those around her. She would have been quite astonished to know that God’s glory just poured out of her.
It was lovely program but very hard. Tears flowed.
Daily, I know I am about 30 seconds from tears at any time. If I listen to praise and worship songs or dwell on her memories for a few seconds, I am in tears. The pain is not better. A friend whose baby died while they were missionaries in Papua New Guinea called the other day. He said when people say you’ll get over this, people are wrong.
The closer it gets to April, the sadder I am. This will be hard, the one year anniversary. I don’t even want to think about it. The woman from Kansas called and talked to Larry. I don’t want to talk to her. I cannot help her and can’t face the emotional drain talking takes from me.
Selfish thoughts. This need to hold on to control.
But this is where I am.
March 30, 2003
Reading today in My Utmost for His Highest, O. Chambers asks in the title, “Holiness or hardness toward God?” He says that “many of us stop praying and become hard toward God because we have only an emotional interest in prayer. When we lose sight of God we become hard and dogmatic. Our prayers are more lists of demands, things we need, rather than reaching up for that holy relationship with God.”
I don’t think I’ve become hard.
But I have stopped praying.
The business of writing a dissertation and school work have crowded out my quiet times with God. I have excluded God from this grief work. Moments at church still catch me unaware.
Last night we ate dinner at Safari’s restaurant. When we were seated, memories overwhelmed me. We were in the same booth in April last year with Josh and Jennifer. They had spent the day visiting outdoor wedding sites and met us at Safari’s. It was her last visit home. A week later she and Josh were hiking and she fell to her death. We asked for a different place to sit. It was our first time to eat at the restaurant since her death.
Landmines are everywhere!
When friends and acquaintances told me they are praying for me, I responded, “Thank you, because I cannot pray.”
Remembering and counting these blessings during those hard, dark days:
- close friends like Emalie and Martha who made my path so much easier every day.
- kindness Cathy Cunningham, Professor in School of Human Ecology
- classmates who wrote and shared their memories of Jennifer: Audrey and Cristen
- countless friends who prayed for us in this journey
- Jennifer’s life of service that reflected the light of Jesus