It has been the hardest time of my life. It has been the sweetest time of my life. It has been the darkest, longest, most beautiful, miraculous, and healing time of my life. January 1, 2014 my world was turned upside down. One minute I was spending New Year’s Eve with my love celebrating the time we’ve had together; looking forward to our future. The very next day, I’m holding him in my arms as he passed this earth. No warning. No time to say good-bye. No time to tell him how much I loved him. No time.
…where it all began….
A friend of mine called me in a panic! She had double booked two bar mitzvahs and was in desperate need of some extra help. Why she chose me who has no prior experience with event planning? Honestly, I even had to Google what a bar mitzvah was. But like a good friend, I wanted to help out.
Fate stepped in…
I can still see him entering the room. My first thought was, “Who is this guy.” He had beautiful wavy hair, a beard (I was always a fan of the beard!), shirt unbuttoned a little bit to show some of that chest hair. I was locked in. We couldn’t stop staring at each other the rest of the night. As Jed said, we were buzzing all over each other. The connection was hard to explain but we both felt it. It was as if no one else was in the room as we talked. Later, I came to find out he was feeling exactly the same way. “You were my dream girl, Rachel.”
Two days later, we’re sitting at Café Madrid (our place) sharing our stories, drinking wine, not wanting the night to end. I felt like I had known him for years. Conversation always so easy together. After that night, we spent the next two years falling in love.
It all would change….
I look up to the sky and talk to you. What I wouldn’t give to hear you talk back.
I miss your voice. I miss your laughter.
I miss everything about you.
Always, I’ll hold you in my heart.
Looking back at our last days, everything was perfectly set in place. On New Year’s Day, he went for a 6am run. Jed, a dedicated athlete just started training for his third Ironman. His dedication to fitness always amazed me. He was committed to his training. He thrived off getting his run or bike ride first thing in the morning. It was his quality time with himself. In a way, this was his sanctuary. It was his time to think about the day, give thanks to his life, and worship nature. It was his meditation. Every morning he’d get up hours before me, put on his running clothes, kiss me on the forehead, and head out the door (sometimes taking our dog, Waffles).
We took his kids and Waffles to the park. His daughter showing off her gymnastics and dance moves! His son, kicking the soccer ball and chasing Waffles. This was Jed’s little heaven.
I see you, baby, just like that.
For New Year’s Eve, we took his kids to Medieval Times and stayed up for the countdown. We had a blast! Everyone was so happy. Tons of love that night!
The next day, he woke up saying how he’d like to take me out for dinner, just us. We dropped off the kids at Barnes and Nobles with his parents. Jed hugged each of them saying, “I love you Mom and Dad,” and we headed off for an early dinner. This would be the last time he saw his parents and children.
After we dropped them off, we headed to what would be our last dinner together. I remember thinking how affectionate he was with me. Telling me how much he loved me. Kissing me, hugging me and not caring who was watching (he never cared about that kind of stuff). People would walk by, and he’d say “Look how lucky I am!” I’d laugh, completely embarrassed but loving every minute of it.
Jed, I hope you know I felt the same way.
I said to him, “Baby, what got into you today?” He said in all seriousness “I’m happy.”
A few hours later, everything in my world changed. From having a romantic flirty dinner, to being at the ER watching the doctors try and bring him back to life. All I could do was scream out his name. All I could do was cry out, no god no.
He can’t be gone.
I need him.
He can’t be gone.
Stop, please just stop.
I wanted to jump out of my body and never come back. I have never felt so much pain at once. I was sick. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t understand what was happening. My legs didn’t’ work. I didn’t know how to respond to doctors questions. I couldn’t remember how to walk. Everything in my body, heart and mind shut down. Everything I had loved was gone. My love, my best friend, my future…gone.
They asked me if there was anyone I should call. My mind went blank. I couldn’t figure out how to operate my phone. As I sat on a hospital bed, calling my parents, a lady came over to me, holding me, and praying. When I got off the phone, I looked over to see who this person was, but she was turning a corner. Looking back, I believe it was an angel. I can still feel that embrace. It was an embrace that understood pain.
My parents arrive. I fell into their arms. Hours passed. I couldn’t leave the hospital.
“Jed is here, I can’t leave. Where are they taking him? What are they doing with his body?”
Before I am about to leave, the nurse comes out with a bag of his clothes. I fell to the ground holding his shirt. My body and heart dying inside.
At that very moment, I experienced a little bit of what hell must be like.
I don’t remember the drive home, just remember crawling in bed and holding our dog, Waffles. For weeks Waffles would go back and forth to the garage door where Jed always came in. She’d go to the door in the mornings, and right before bed. We both just sat there together as I told her, “He isn’t coming back.”
Will this nightmare ever end…?
After the funeral, I needed to get out of town. As I was going through some of our letters we wrote each other, I came across a card Jed wrote me for Christmas. At the time, I remember thinking, “Why did he write about the beach on a Christmas card?” But now I know why. It said:
“You find yourself at the sea. Remember how it sets you free. Always go to the ocean, that’s where you find yourself.”
I fell to the ground, crying, laughing, and talking to Jed. “Ok baby, you got it.” That day, I booked my flights to San Diego and Del Ray Beach.
Thank you, Jed. You knew me so well.
Both trips helped me find a piece of my spirit again. I’ll share with you a little about each one…
While in San Diego, I met a woman I know I was destined to meet. This woman, a spiritual advisor/medium/psychic shared with me a message she said Jed wanted me to hear. I’ve probably lost some of you with “medium”, but that’s okay. She shared with me things that only Jed and I would know. As I sat down holding her hands, afraid about what was going to happen, I felt warmness through my body, I got chills. She tells me, “He is still with you, Rachel. He is right here. What do you want to say to him?” I always knew how to talk to Jed, but this time I was so nervous. I took a deep breath, and let it all out. Whatever that experience was meant to be for me, it helped me open my heart up again. After the funeral, I was starting to close myself off to people; even Jed. I was so afraid I would become this person that never loved or opened up again; that I would let this destroy who I was. But at that moment, as I talked to Jed, and heard his message, my heart opened. Forever, I am grateful for this woman’s gift.
On the beach, I started to journal. The sun was shining and I could feel him near! I promised Jed right then that I will choose life, just like he always did. I promised I would smile. I promised him I would dance and sing. I promised him I would fall in love again. I promised him I would be happy. I promised him I would find myself again. I swear, I heard Jed say – in his smirk-like way, “Prove it.” I ran into the ocean, clothes on, diving in and out of the water.
Next I was off to Florida to meet friends; friends that have become my family, Ed and Liz. During a dark period of Jed’s life, Ed and Liz took them into their home. They became the family he needed, and now, they have become family to me.
Jed, thank you for bringing us together.
In Florida, we saw one of Jed’s favorite bands, Dispatch.
Jed met one of the band members, Chad Stokes from Dispatch at a living room concert at Liz and Ed’s home back in October. We were invited to come to the house before the concert started to hang out with Chad. I remember walking into the house and saw Jed chatting it up with Chad. I wasn’t surprised one bit! His smile said everything. He ran over to me and was like, “Babe, he’s here.” As Chad gets ready to sing the first song, he says, “I’d like to dedicate this first song to someone I met tonight. This song goes out to you, Jed X!” All of us are in shock!
Jed smiles, turns to me and says, “I always loved this song but had more meaning to me when you came into my life.” Jed, you were always the romantic one.
by Chad Stokes
I knew I was all alone
then I saw this girl with the most beautiful hair
she had it wrapped around her for clothes she did not wear
I asked her for a lock and she complied, after leaving
gorgeous footsteps in the sand as if she didn’t care
she was the prettiest girl I ever saw
the stone lay still without a flaw
the feelings I had defied the law
As we’re waiting for Dispatch to play at the music festival in Del Ray Beach Florida, I was determined to see Chad. I had to let him know about Jed. I had to let him know how grateful Jed was that the first song dedicated that night was to him! Liz and I see Chad and quickly run up to speak to him. I grab Chad and start telling him the story. He is shocked and remembered Jed so well. He hugs me and tells us all, “Tonight we will tribute a song to his life.” The concert starts and we all work our way to the front, pushing and shoving; whatever we needed to do to be up there. And then, right when I get in a comfortable spot, Chad and the rest of the band says, “This next song is for you Jed X.” They put their hands on their hearts, look at us and started singing Out Loud, a song about someone who has passed away trying to deliver a message to their loved ones. I cried looking at each one of them thanking them over and over. I don’t know if they’ll every fully grasp how much they helped me, but every time I think of that moment, it bring me joy. In that moment, I found my smile.
And if I was gone from the land we know
Would be the dawn
And let your beauty still show
And if you were walking
And heard the cold night coming
Would you call my name
’cause you know I’d come running
Getting back from Florida….
I think the hardest part in all this has been discovering me again. Before Jed passed, I made decisions for my life that involved the both of us. It’s like I’m meeting myself again for the first time. Part of my identity included him in it. It used to be Jed and Rachel, now it’s just Rachel. I miss him every day and I know a piece of me always will.
I’ve had some amazing dreams that lasted for a couple months after his passing. During my meditation every morning, I would ask for Jed to come to me. Speak to me, send me a message, let me say goodbye.
The first dream I had of Jed was after the night he died. He was laying on top of me with his face pressing into mine. I felt the pressure and warmth. It scared me at first. I woke up; my face was red and hot.
Thank you Jed for saying goodbye to me.
He drove up in his car. I was in a field, nothing around me. I recognized his car, and waved my hands. The door opened, and there he was. “Get in, gorgeous!” As he drove, we just talked. Smiling, holding hands, and laughing. I don’t know what we were talking about, but I could see us just like it used to be. I remember one thing he told me, “Sweetheart, remember this moment. I have to go, but I’m good.” He dropped me off at a huge building, smiled and took off.
Thank you, that he is happy.
I’m in a tent, pacing back and forth. I am muttering, “where is he, he cannot be lost.” His kids are there with me. Shauna was talking on the phone with her mom; Ryan playing with his toys. I look out of the tent and see a man dressed in white robes. I look closely, and it’s Jed! I scream for Shauna and Ryan and we all run! I jump into his arms; we kiss and roll in the grass. Shauna joins in. Ryan was scared, but Jed grabbed him and started to tickle him. Everything was back to normal. All of a sudden, Jed is wearing cyclist’s gear, sitting on a rock, his hair is long. I remember thinking how young he looks. He is telling us all about his travels. He has been traveling throughout Europe. Smiling and acting out stories; making us all laugh. He kissed us, and says “Time to go. I love you all.” I didn’t want to wake up. I woke up crying.
Jed, I believe you seeing the world. Traveling like you always wanted. You’re happy.
I’m in a room; he is standing there with Ed and Ben. They are both talking, laughing like they always did in the Club Ed days. He hugs both of them, and they all look at me. Jed looked happy. He says, “It’s okay baby. I am so happy.”
My last dream with Jed….
We’re in a white room. I hear a gunshot, and Jed falls into my arms. I am scared. I am holding him; he is looking up at me. I am thinking to myself, no please, not again. He says, “it’s okay baby. You are going to be fine. We can say goodbye to each other now.” I share with him how much I love him. How he changed my life. How I am not sure I can go on without him. He says, “Yes, you can. I love you and will never leave.” The last thing he said, that stays with me every day, “Rachel, just BE YOU.” I hold him, promise to be me, kiss him, stroke his hair and then I wake up.
Thank you, for letting me say good-bye.
July 1st. 191 days. It still shocks me. I don’t understand how this happened. I still blame myself. I still see his death. Yesterday, normal day, having dinner with family and my phone alarm goes off. Weird I thought for it to be going off around 7pm. It’s a calendar reminder “Don’t forget to get Jed a gift for his 3rd Ironman.” My heart sank. It all hit me at once. Everyone is laughing at the table, no clue that at that very moment my heart dropped. I could feel the tears coming. I was fighting it. I was starting to sweat, my heart beating fast, I’m trying to laugh along with everyone but all I want to do is scream. I had to get out. Once I got into my car, I lost all control. I didn’t know where to go. All I wanted was to feel Jed’s presence but as the days goes by; he is starting to feel very distant.
I didn’t know where I was going, but somehow I ended up at our home. I pull up to our old condo, rolled the windows down and tried to see us together. I imagined him in the kitchen cooking his specialty pasta, waiting for me to get home from work. I loved those surprises. Coming home, the table set, wine and dinner prepared.
Please Jed, never let me forget those beautiful memories. Don’t leave me. I’m not ready.
I know those moments will happen. I know they will hit me at random times. 191 days after that nightmare though, I am happy.
I have been living.
I wake up every day excited to be a part of this world.
I wake up everyday grateful I had the honor of living life with Jed.
As some have maybe seen on Facebook, I am dating someone. I was nervous about sharing this part of my life with anyone who loved and knew Jed, afraid of what everyone might think. And then I realized, that’s not living. And it’s certainly not what Jed would want.
Meet Ben. I met Ben through Jed a couple years ago. Ben’s parents are Ed and Liz. Jed and I almost every Sunday would be at their house, drinking and hanging out by the pool. Ben and I became instant friends. I remember feeling more excited knowing Ben would be at the house. Not because of any hidden feelings, I just really enjoyed his company. After the funeral, I moved in with Ed and Liz. As they took in Jed during a dark time, they took me in during my dark time. Ben helped me move out of the condo and into his parents house. He started coming by for dinners, and slowly I started noticing each time I’d get a little more excited and anxious to see him. I was nervous about it. I felt guilty at times. But one day, it was like I couldn’t fight it any longer. I like Ben.
Ben and Jed
Life is funny. Sometimes I wonder, “Jed, did you do all this?”
For anyone who has lost someone close to them, my heart is with you.
Dear Friends, Family, Jed’s Family and Friends,
Thank you so much for the amazing support you have given me. All the messages helped me get through every day. I know our hearts still break, and mine always will. But as Jed would want it, continue to cherish and celebrate his memory. Don’t give into the darkness. Find the light in everything. Shine for him. Love you all. I am amazed by your love!