I’ve put a lot of thought into how to write this. I think it’s an incredible idea – a set of tributes to a group of people killed on a terrible day.
I didn’t make the decision to participate lightly, and was moved to tears immediately when seeing Jean’s picture. So I did what I normally do when something upsets me. I look for long enough to remember - to make sure it lingers in my thoughts, then wait until I figure out what to say.
My first thought was to do research – to find details of her life and family and work so I could share them with you. So we could get a sense of the true loss not only in the overall event, but in this individual life lost. After my searching though, I’m left with very little more than was offered by the 2,996 project.
Jean was a vice president in the CAPS division (Claims Accounting and Preparation Services) of Marsh. She lived in Newfoundland, New Jersey – apparently about 40 miles outside New York City. I’m not sure if she was married – if the baby in the picture is hers. She was 42 when she was killed.
It's precious little information, isn't it? She was important to people. I've given her a great deal of thought lately. And though I've written and rewritten this several times, it's terribly difficult to know what to say.
My life of late has included a great deal of thought about death. About how to remember a friend – someone I did know, someone I loved and respected though I wished I knew her better. I watched the world around me continue – work went on, a brief tribute was attended, but I felt that there needed to be more. She was special, my friend, Winnie, and I wanted there to be some … something that indicated she mattered. That showed we missed her, wished desperately that she was still here.
I feel the same for Jean – wish I had something profound to indicate that I was saddened deeply that she was taken from the world. Wish she’d had the opportunity to spend time with those who loved her already, and to meet people in the future with whom she could laugh and learn and live.
I’ve talked with people I love about death – what it means to not be here anymore. And apart from my personal religious beliefs, I’ve learned something comforting. The world doesn’t have to mourn you. It can’t, really, because not everyone was blessed with the opportunity to know Jean. We don’t know if her sense of humor was gentle or biting. If she smiled easily or was more stern. If she sighed with impatience or listened to audiobooks on her commute. If she concerned herself with politics or preferred quiet community service. If her family is facing a terribly difficult day even as I sit and try to finish this.
“Katie,” I was told by Carrie – a dear friend from graduate school – as we spoke on the phone soon after Winnie died. “It’s good that you miss Winnie. That you think about her and wish there was something more you could do. But you didn’t have time to get close to her. You do love other people though. Your family and friends. Those are the people who know you, who would be crushed with sadness if you left us.
“I love you.” She assured me softly. “How we share sitcom references and laugh at the same jokes. How you have nightmares when you watch disturbing movies and sob over the sad ones. How you agonize over the future, then bounce back with sunny hope and trust that it’ll work out in the end. How you coo over dogs, regardless of how homely they may be. And when you decide to love someone, you do so completely. Not everyone gets to know you on that level. But those of us who do? We’d cry ourselves sick if you were gone. I promise.”
On that level, I trust that those who knew Jean have mourned her loss deeply, and hope that time has eased some of those wounds for them. I’m profoundly sorry for their loss, and simplicity has to work in writing this paragraph. There’s no way for me to express how very much she must be missed by those who played a role in her daily life.
The amazing thing about this online world in which many of us participate is that we do get to know each other – share worries and joys, offer sympathy that is surprisingly effective to people we might never meet. So when I asked to be part of the project, I felt very certain that my friends here would take this seriously. Would understand that regardless of how well or poorly I wrote, that I cared about Jean. Wanted people to spend a moment thinking of her and her family. It matters – sharing pieces of myself online. It makes me think about concepts I might have ignored, has introduced me to people I've come to love. It connects us in an unusual but important way.
This blog, due to the notice on Parts-n-Pieces, has connected me to Jean C. DePalma. Has afforded me the opportunity to think about her, cry for her loss, to hope that those she loved have found some measure of peace and happiness in these past years. I’m grateful for the chance to try to write this – I knew I’d feel inadequate in doing so, and I was right. I wish I could have done better, more, offered something appropriately meaningful. But we do what we can, I think, and continue to grow in our experiences and understand that this pain has various degrees of sharpness, even 5 years later. It's a very difficult day.
This blog, for me, has offered a great deal of support. I’m asking for a bit more tonight and tomorrow. Please think of Jean, and perhaps visit some of the other tributes that may celebrate or mourn people many of us did not get a chance to know.