My sisters in faith (see the post, “Sisters’ Promise”) came to our house Sunday afternoon with two of the husbands. They came to plant a shrub in memory of Jennifer. We had already discussed what to plant; since we had several trees already, it made sense to plant a flowering shrub that grows rather tall. They brought a pink saucer magnolia; some people call this a tulip tree, even though it is not actually a tree.
We found a place in the backyard near the back fence; I could see it from the kitchen sink window. Josh came over to the house for this anniversary; we prayed and remembered her life. It was a good way to spend April 13.
I did not work on Monday or Tuesday so I could participate in a memorial run/walk/bike at Tennesee Tech. They did this last year after her death as a way to remember Jennifer’s dedication to be healthy and active. About 50 people participated this year. It was good to see teens from the church and college friends. The Tech students will be graduating this spring, the year Jennifer was to graduate.
The beauty of this season is a reminder of last year. I have relived some memories but try not to go there in my mind. It’s like a wound covered with a bandage, and I don’t want to take it off because it will hurt too much.
April 20, 2003
So where am I in this journey? I continue to take Wellbutrin for depression and have not hit that horrible low that occurred in November. Sunday night after the tree planting and Monday were hard. The physical overwhelming sadness, but it got better as the day went on.
It amazes me how the despair appears. It comes without warning and may not be related to anything I’m reading, watching, thinking, or doing. It truly is physical. What makes this happen?
Right now, I try not to dwell on memories, or I will be in tears in minutes. I still have not worked on her room since the initial purging. Right after she died, I gave away nearly all of her clothes to some of her friends, her stuffed animals were taken to Mexico by mission groups, childhood toys and keepsakes were shared with Brooke, her best friend since they were pre-schoolers. The extra furniture she had in her apartment in Cookeville is just stuck in her room so there is only room for a path to walk through the room.
I want to work on her pictures and displays. Must have a protected heart to do this.
April 22, 2003 An encouraging email from brother, David:
“Isn’t it nice to be surprised by an unexpected blooming flower? See, flowers can bloom for you again. And the sun can shine for you, too. It’s just been a very, very long winter for you. Eventually your metamorphasized self will emerge from its cocoon, in its own time. You will be changed, but you will be o.k.”
May 27, 2003
A long month with no journaling or quiet time. It has been too hard – I just don’t want to think or remember.
We placed membership at the Woodmont Church of Christ, and Larry signed up to be a reader or lead prayer in worship. I have no energy or desire to get involved in a ministry. On Sundays I just hope I can engage in a period of worship in which I don’t weep.
Last weekend was our last class at Trevecca for the semester and the same day as Brad and Becky’s wedding. Their wedding is the last for the group of engineering guys who roomed together at Tech, except Josh of course. It was an outdoor wedding; I did fine until after the wedding. During the reception I was hit with the waves of sadness and memories of Josh and Jennifer. I left quickly and felt so sad on the way home that I was physically sick. Sunday was a day on the couch, and Monday I was still emotional.
Jennifer Souder Humanitarian Award
Sometime during the school year my assistant principal suggested that I give an award to an 8th grader in Jennifer’s memory. I gave it some thought, discussed it with the 8th grade teachers, and developed some guidelines. We called it the Jennifer Souder Humanitarian Award, gave a large trophy to a boy or girl of my choosing, and hung a plaque in the office with a place for names to be added each year. This first year of the award I chose Monica because of her heart of service. She demonstrated in many ways the same willingness to help others as Jennifer did.
At our end of the year awards ceremony my friend, Emalie, made the presentation for me. I stayed on the second level of the gym and watched. Afterwards I just cried through the hugs and had to leave the classroom with Emalie in charge so I could regain control.
How hard it was! I have just kept this protective shell around my heart because I can’t stand the pain.
I presented the award for six years, one each year until I transferred to a middle school in another part of the city.
That saucer magnolia has flourished and provided me much comfort each season. From its early blooms in spring to the full leaves in summer, I can look out the window and remember the kindness of friends and thank God for this gift of creation.
Counting the gifts of:
- Spring blossoms on Jennifer’s tree
- Lush, green leaves of her tree
- Friends who have been my support team
- Larry, who never fails to anchor my heart
- Josh and the memories of their love