Since Feeling Is First

Jason's flowers
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
– the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

“since feeling is first” ~ e.e. cummings

I never knew the sound a broken heart made until 11am on Sunday, October 31, 2010. In my case, it was a wail. A thousand banshees crawled in my ears and ravaged my brain, leaving me clinging to a man I’d only met hours before as the words, “He’s gone” unapologetically filled the air around us. The other sounds I heard were Silence shifting on a squeaky chair, Loss tearing through the hospital hallway and slamming face first into a wall and a pounding in my head that could only be attributed to the carnage the banshees were leaving in their wake.

I met Jason Schippers on Thursday, August 26, 2010. He was a reader of mine and had responded to a posting I’d made about tickets to a sneak peek for the new Xbox Kinect system. He introduced himself soon after I arrived, this perky little smart ass of a guy. I couldn’t help but to smile, even when he was making fun of me for being the only person to explode during the tai chi game or when he was flipping me shit for my lackluster performance at bowling.

When I left that night, I was smiling. Smiled all the way to my car, all the way home. And that night, a friendship began that grew into something I never expected: the beginnings of a relationship where I never had to be anything but myself.

From the ink on my various body parts to my love for every comic book-based live action flick ever made, an insatiable thirst for Kevin Smith movies, love for video games and the inarguable raging smartass that is me…Jason liked it all. As a matter of fact, he even told me he liked those things about me. The things that for 37 years weren’t cool for a girl to be, have or have done…they were okay with Kiddo. I called him Kiddo.

I’m sitting here now, wading through life, using a keyboard to keep me afloat. I’m supposed to be a writer but I can’t find the eloquent words to tell you that a piece of me is gone forever. I don’t know how to describe seeing a whole family’s heart break and watching a mother say goodbye to her son on her birthday. A family who didn’t have to trust me, but did, and over the past week, I’d come to love. I don’t know where to turn, how to help. And there is nothing I can write that will bring sweet Jason back so I can talk to him and see that sly smile of his again.

Having had my heart crushed more times than I could count, the way I got to know Jason was all I could have ever asked for. Night upon night spent on Google Chat, emails. There was never a day that went by that I didn’t receive a message from him telling me “You’re wonderful,” or “You’re beautiful.” And my heart melted each time. I looked forward to his calls, texts, emails, direct messages, Facebook comments. I looked forward to him. I looked for Jason everywhere and I won the grandest of prizes each time I found him waiting.

Today is day one. Tomorrow is day two. I’m scared shitless of days three and four. Five is horrific. Six – incomprehensible. Right now, I look at the clock as a timer, telling me how many minutes it’s been since the man who started calling me  “love” and “dear” and told me he was going to throw me around in some crazy swing dance move at this Thursday’s Mayer Hawthorne concert…left. And he didn’t “pass away.” That implies something…passive. Jason was a fighter, and from the last time I saw him conscious on the Saturday morning after his surgery to the moment I kissed his forehead and held his face, ran my fingers through his hair and said “thank you” yesterday, I know he fought. Jason was taken from us. And if I know him at all, he was kicking and screaming the entire way and probably kicked an angel in the nuts a time or two.

Today, I think of his family. Of those who were like family to him and had the gift of knowing Jason longer than I did. Of those of you who didn’t know him at all. I have this to say: having met his family, there is no wonder that Jason lit up every room he walked into. You can’t help but love them and I’m very grateful for the time they allowed me to spend with him over the past week. I’d met his family first through his words, and having met them in person, I see Jason in every one of them. His ICU room was filled with laughter, bad jokes, off-color remarks…all of which Jason would have joined in on had he not needed to focus on fighting. Holding his hands was my favorite, because I wanted him to know that every time he held mine, I knew what it meant. He was even able to squeeze my hand in return a few times.

I hold close to my heart tonight the incredible gift I’ve been given of both his family and those friends of his whom I’ve met as we’ve journeyed with Jason over the ten days. I cling to them not only because they’re each rays of light in and of themselves, but because I don’t know what else to hold onto. I cling to Merredith, who sat with me for nine hours yesterday while the banshees screamed in my head and as I went from room to room in my house, not knowing what I was looking for. I hold every message I’ve received from people who never knew me but who said Jason talked about me all the time. I re-read hundreds upon hundreds of lines of Gchat messages, emails and remember him as the one who coined the phrase “doucheasaurus rex.” I sit next to a vase of flowers he gave me the last time he came over. I haven’t washed the giant pot I made white chocolate popcorn in when we watched Moulin Rogue. For the first time in my life, I can’t fix something and the one thing I want most, I’ll never have.

It hurts. And my heart isn’t the only heart broken. And I can’t fix any of it. Every prayer and bargain I made with anything and everything yesterday was unanswered, so I don’t believe in much right now. I always said that the reason I write is so I don’t go crazy. In this case, it’s entirely true.

Jason, the gift you gave me for the past two months didn’t cost money and you couldn’t buy it at any store. You couldn’t wrap it and every time you delivered it, you did it with that mischievous smile. I adored the way your knee brushed mine underneath the table as we played trivia and the way you were never afraid to take my hand. You made me smile at the most unexpected times and every time I was around you, I was a better person. When I told you “thank you” yesterday as I said goodbye, I knew that was the most important thing I could say. Because I’m thankful. Two months with you changed my life and you made me believe in the fairy tale (the one I’d virtually dismissed as total bullshit) once again. And I loved that you honored me by allowing me to be a part of your days, and can tell you that the role you played in my life was the role of a lifetime.

Just come see me every now and then and kiss me goodnight. Be a breeze that blows across my lips and brushes the hair from across my eyes. Be an unmistakable laugh that makes everyone who knew you turn his or her head and smile, knowing you stopped by for a while. Wrap your arms around your mother, close your eyes and kiss her cheek. Pose for one more ethereal picture with your dad where you’re beaming from ear to ear. Sit next to your sister and tell her you’re here and you’re still her best friend – and that’s never going to change. But most importantly, be there to remind us that kindness is rewarded, love is reciprocated and there’s never any shame in saying what you feel in your heart.

Erika and Jason

jason schippers

If you’d like to read what others have written so far about Skippy/Kiddo/Jason, here are three posts that will make your heart sing. They did mine.

Gone Too Soon

The Measure of a Man

Please Speak Well of Me

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95 replies
  1. Allison
    Allison says:

    Erika, I have never met you or Jason. I live a thousand miles away. But I sit here after reading this, tears streaming down my cheeks. There is nothing that anyone can say to make it any better, or to help you get through the next few awful days. But I hope that pain shared is pain at least lessened. You and Jason’s family will be in my thoughts.

    After all, anyone who would kick an angel in the nuts is obviously someone worth remembering and honoring.

    Reply
  2. mary
    mary says:

    this is so moving. I went to his twitter stream yesterday and it was so bizarre to think that this person is not longer on this earth. I know you don’t care, but I applaud your willingness to go to the edge of your feelings and grief. So many would brush it under a carpet somewhere.

    Reply
  3. May King
    May King says:

    So sorry for your pain Erica. This is a wonderful remembrance for this obviously loved young man. I’ve watched two families lose their young men in the last couple of months and the words are almost too hard to find that do justice to the ache. I wish peace for you, in time.

    Reply
  4. Mari Kurisato
    Mari Kurisato says:

    *Hugs*

    Minute by minute. Just get through the next minute. Stay in the present, and don’t think about days six etc. This is what you will do, because it is what your friends and family need from you. What would Jason want you to do? Only you can answer that, but I might suggest he would want you to be the person he knew. That means grief, but it also means courage, smarts, strength and persistence.

    I have nothing else other than that.

    Reply
  5. PJ Mullen
    PJ Mullen says:

    Erika, I am terribly sorry for your loss. My family’s thoughts and prayers are with you and Jason’s family at this difficult time. May your memories of him always remain vivid. Godspeed, Jason.

    Reply
  6. Kath
    Kath says:

    What a remarkable guy! Thanks so much for sharing your memories of Jason at a time when remembering has to be impossibly tough.

    xoxo

    Reply
  7. Alana Morales
    Alana Morales says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. After having lost my mom, I know these words mean nothing, but since I am on the other side of it, it is all I have to offer. The heart does in fact heal, but you can still tell where it’s been broken. I wish you strength to put it back together, no matter how long it takes.

    Reply
  8. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Erika – while we have only *met* through Twitter and Facebook, I felt compelled to write to express my deepest sympathies to you and to all of Jason’s friends and family. Thank you for sharing your grief with your Internet community and know that we are out here supporting you.

    Amanda

    Reply
  9. Holly Worthy
    Holly Worthy says:

    That was beautiful, Erika. I’m so sorry for your loss but I’m glad you were one of the amazing people he had around him toward the end. Know that you have shoulders to lean on back in Des Moines should you ever need them.

    Reply
  10. Kia
    Kia says:

    I am sorry. From what I am reading he seems like a kick ass kind of guy. And he was special to you, and I know you have a special heart.

    Reply
  11. Hillerie Camille
    Hillerie Camille says:

    Erika, my heart hurts for your pain. I lost my brother and sister not long ago, 11 months apart, so I do understand loss. I can’t claim to understand your pain or your hurt, but believe me, I know that ache in your chest. I’m not going to say, I’m sorry, I’m going to say I’m happy you knew the love you had with Jason. Keep writing, keep crying, just keep feeling.

    When the numbness sets in run as far and fast as you can, because it comes to steal your memories. Scream, cuss, break things, do everything you can to send depression running with the wind. People will get tired of your pain and want you to “get on with it.” Don’t let them rush you. Healing comes in it’s own time–not anyone’s time schedule. If nobody else wants to read your post, about your feelings, rest assured there is at least one person who will read every line.

    Reply
  12. Liz Scherer
    Liz Scherer says:

    Sometimes words require love to shine. Yours’ are blinding. I wish you peace as you work your way through your sorrow, and joy in the knowing and seeing and being. This kind of special? It doesn’t go away. Hugs.

    Reply
  13. Killian
    Killian says:

    Wow. Erika, even through the veils of grief, the love and joy that Kiddo brought you is tangible. I’m sitting here at my office desk, bawling, but I don’t care. There are so few people in the world who bring that kind of light, that kind of contentment to our lives, that it would be a travesty not to celebrate them, in tears, in laughter, in white chocolate popcorn, and in good bye letters.

    Thank you for sharing your Jason with us. Now you’ve allowed him to touch our lives as well as your own, and we are better for it.

    Reply
  14. Gini Dietrich
    Gini Dietrich says:

    Erika, I am so, so sorry for your loss. The pain to you is evident yet you shared it in such a raw, yet eloquent way. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you get through the next few weeks.

    Reply
  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful tribute Erika. Thank you for sharing with us who Jason was and what he meant to you. Take care of yourself the best you can, and know that you are loved.

    Reply
  16. Clare Bear
    Clare Bear says:

    This is beautiful. I never met Jason in person but we were Twitter friends. When my bike was stolen in June in Boulder, he offered to put up posters all over Denver, stop by the bike shops. When Pinkberry opened and I exclaimed my excitement over it, he told me he wanted to go when I did. When my friend Monika had her heart broken, he patched it right up with some laughter and superglue.

    He seems wonderful. I’m so sorry for your pain. (hugs)

    Reply
  17. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    If there were words, I would gladly offer them. Words sound hollow, though. They cannot replace what’s been taken, nor can they truly fill the void. All I can do is, as others have done, tell you that I love you, and offer to sit with you in spirit-solidarity across the miles.

    *hugs*

    Reply
  18. Dysfunction Junction
    Dysfunction Junction says:

    I tend to read your blog for my “professional life” but reading this post I couldn’t help but comment.

    Thank you for this post. Thank you for showing me that love isn’t scary and no matter how much time you have with someone, they can change your life.

    I’m so sorry for the pain you’re going through right now. Just know that an anonymous pair of lips is sending you hugs and thinking of you & Jason’s family.

    Reply
  19. Tessa Harmon
    Tessa Harmon says:

    My deepest sympathies, Erika. Thank you for writing this, it was very evocative for anyone who has suffered such a loss (and it brought me to tears). I am truly sorry for what you are going through. Jason was a lovely person by all accounts I’ve read.

    Reply
  20. Chelsea Talks Smack
    Chelsea Talks Smack says:

    I don’t even know what to say….there are no words that will comfort or heal, or take away all of the grief that you’re feeling….just know that there’s people out there reading and feeling and hurting for you and wrapping their love, thoughts and light around you.

    Reply
  21. Darren Mahuron
    Darren Mahuron says:

    My heart breaks for you Erika. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a reminder of how delicate life really is. You are in my thoughts.
    Darren Mahuron

    Reply
  22. Sandy Hensley
    Sandy Hensley says:

    I know there are never words enough at a time like this, but yours were so heartfelt and special. I can only imagine, after reading your tribute to him, what his would be of you. Hoping time heals but that warm memories stay with you forever.

    Reply
  23. Xenia Smith
    Xenia Smith says:

    Loss like this blows you wide open.. it is horrific and all those words and feelings you said… my heart aches for you and jasons family while it is also happy that you got the time no matter how short with him, I didn’t know jason and I don’t really know you, but you and his family are in my thoughts and i’m sending many ~hugs~ some to be kept in reserve for when everyone else wants to move on, but you are still hurting… x

    Reply
  24. Valery
    Valery says:

    Erika,

    Your raw post pierced my heart. There are tons of blog posts that jiggle the mind, too few that open the heart as you have done. Thank you.

    Since feeling is first, the gift Jason gave you is the profound lesson of the power and depth of unconditional love. Being able to feel pain as you do right now comes with the ability to reach the other end of the spectrum – the feeling of unconditional love of others and of self. Its ultimately what we’re here to do. Jason gave you the gift of life. To the extent we feel, we are alive.

    xoxo

    Reply
  25. Brian Watkins
    Brian Watkins says:

    Beautifully written post, and I am so sorry for what you must be feeling. You really have a way with this post of taking a reader along for the ride and making, in this case me, feel a bit like I knew your friend also and sharing a glimpse of what it must’ve been to know him.

    Reply
  26. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Oh Erika, my heart hurts deeply right now for your pain. I have lost two very dear friends this year. One to murder and one to cancer, and I have another dear friend fighting the battle of her life against cancer right now. I so feel your pain in your beautifully written words. There is nothing more painful than the loss of someone you love and has touched your life…and your heart. I’m so sorry. It is a day by day, hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute, and at it’s worst, second by second healing. You never get over it despite what some say. The blessing is that your life was touched by him and that is a blessing. The pain sucks and there is no other way of putting it. I’m sending you a hug right now.

    Reply
  27. lisa
    lisa says:

    Jason was a friend and former coworker of mine. We are all missing his presence in our lives, even here in Des Moines, Iowa. He was an amazing spirit and seemed to bring laughter and joy to nearly everyone who ever met him! I can understand why your grief runs so deep. My heart aches for you to lose grip on Jason so soon, but I am so glad to hear he was surrounded by friends and family who loved him, and you were there to kiss his head and wish him well on his journey. Thank you for sharing your words.

    Reply
  28. lisa
    lisa says:

    Jason was a friend and former coworker of mine. We are all missing his presence in our lives, even here in Des Moines, Iowa. He was an amazing spirit and seemed to bring laughter and joy to nearly everyone who ever met him! I can understand why your grief runs so deep. My heart aches for you to lose grip on Jason so soon, but I am so glad to hear he was surrounded by friends and family who loved him, and you were there to kiss his head and wish him well on his journey. Thank you for sharing your words.

    Reply
  29. Natasha Hollerup
    Natasha Hollerup says:

    I’m so sorry, and my heart goes out to you and his family. He must’ve meant so much to you and I could never fathom how it feels to lose someone so special. You’ll be in my thoughts, as will his family and him.

    Reply
  30. Laura W
    Laura W says:

    I didn’t know Jason but he was in my son’s class in Des Moines…….and I’ve heard wonderful things. I want what you two had – if only for a day.

    Reply
  31. Kim Geralds
    Kim Geralds says:

    Erika,
    A few months ago I lost my best friend after she lived years of torment. I howled at the moon for days. I still have fits where I am inconsolable. I don’t want to be told it is all right, it is best, and all that other crap – cause it is not.

    What hurt the most was that I could not fix it. And I am the great fixer of all time. As I type this through tears, I hope you know how much this post, which expresses such sweet, true love, helps others who are still wrangling with the loss demons. Thank you.

    Reply
  32. Tori Deaux
    Tori Deaux says:

    There are no words. Only howls in the alone, because no one ever, ever can know the pain of someone else’s soul being shredded. It is a painful, precious uniqueness that I wish no one else ever had to feel. And I am so very, very sorry you are there.

    Sometimes, when a love is young, the loss is a bizarre mix of overwhelming love and grateful surrender and earth shattering, infinite nothingness. It’s insanity. And eventually, the brain wears out, and the pain stops for a bit, and the silence is almost worse.

    And I still have no words, but someone once shared something that helped, a little. It’s like ocean waves, crashing over you, pulling, tugging out to sea. And they never stop. But with time…. they weaken, just a bit… just enough that you are not gasping for air. Just enough that you can feel the salt water spray, just enough to feel alive, just enough to remember that you are still, and always, loved.

    Reply
  33. Meg Fowler
    Meg Fowler says:

    Hi Erika. I don’t know you, though I’ve seen Amber and Teresa link to you many times. I had the experience of falling like this for someone after 33+ years of wondering what the heck other people were talking about. I can’t imagine what you’re going through now, and all I can say is that you’re in my thoughts, and that I honor and love your openness here. That’s zero comfort, I know, but thank you for sharing who Jason was with me. I’m a better person for having read your words today.

    Reply
  34. Shelly
    Shelly says:

    Erika – I can’t come over and give you a hug – so accept a virtual one… {{HUG}} I am so sorry for your loss and I hope you have a good support system around you (sounds like you do…)

    Your words here made me smile and made me cry… and the only thing I can think of to say is that I am glad you got the time you did with him and I wish I would have had the honor to meet him myself.

    Take care and know that the hug is re-usable 🙂

    Reply
  35. Kat Jaibur
    Kat Jaibur says:

    Oh, Erika. So much beauty, power and love here. “There is never any shame in saying what you feel in your heart.” No, there isn’t. And you have said it so beautifully. I’m in awe that you can write through this. I have known terrible grief and don’t wish it on anyone. “I am sorry” doesn’t begin to express how much my heart goes out to you. Please know that we are all sending you love.

    Reply
  36. Pop
    Pop says:

    Terribly sorry for your loss, Erika. Jason seemed like an incredible man, and one who’ll have a lasting legacy. And I’m pretty sure he gave that angel a bitch slap to go along w/ the kick to the nuts.

    Reply
  37. Ana Lucia Novak
    Ana Lucia Novak says:

    Erika,
    My heart is weeping with you. I am so touched by your posting and how a beautiful man, Jason pierced your soul with his presence. I am so sorry for this loss. My prayers are with you and his family. xo, Ana

    Reply
  38. Missreported
    Missreported says:

    I wish there was a cure for a broken heart. Will pieces of many broken hearts at least make one full working one? Hugz…

    Reply
  39. KK
    KK says:

    Oh Erika, this is so heartbreaking, but good for you for letting it happen anyway – for letting your life and Jason’s become the life of you and Jason – for giving him the gifts of you and accepting his. Life is nothing unless well lived, and it sounds as if you both did that these past months – and you will always be better for it.

    Reply
  40. Pipsersmom
    Pipsersmom says:

    I sit in here in tears, stupidly hoping it isn’t true. Isn’t that silly of me? Wishing I had reconnected…but life is life, isn’t it…and we never know which day is the last one. I just sit here and I can’t believe he’s gone. Please let me know how I can help… I know there’s nothing anyone can say or do but Schippers was awesome. I just can’t sleep. I can’t believe it.
    Rach
    http://pipsylou.blogspot.com

    Reply
  41. Steve Hall
    Steve Hall says:

    Erika, for the past week, I’ve been buried under the weight of ad:tech in New York which, for better or worse, has kept me disconnected from my usual connections. Today, as I begin to play catch up, I was saddened to read about the loss of your friend, Jason. While I didn’t know him, he certainly seems like a wonderful man. And it’s clear he is very special to you.

    My son’s name is Jason. And while that really shouldn’t mean anything, it just brought your loss closer to home. It can happen to anyone. At any time. Clearly, you and Jason were very close. And clearly, there’s nothing I can really say to make you feel any less sad about your loss. I guess all that can be said is that I’m out here. I’m one more person who cares about you and is here to offer whatever support I can. Even if it’s just a little blog comment.

    I’m very sorry for your loss, Erika.

    Reply
  42. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    Your life is better for having known him. For those of us who didn’t, your talent has made us feel as though we did. Thank you for sharing something so special during such a painful time. My only wish for you is that all the negative feelings give way soon to the sweet and wonderful memories that Jason so obviously left you.

    Reply
  43. Ingrid Abboud
    Ingrid Abboud says:

    Erika,

    This is a truly beautiful tribute that you’ve written for your dear friend and companion Jason. You obviously loved and cared for him deeply and it sounds like he was a wonderful man. Your very touching words brought tears to my eyes.

    My sincere condolences to you, his friends and family. May his soul rest in peace and may God give all of you the strength and courage you will need during these difficult times. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

    I’m so sorry for your great loss.

    God Bless

    Reply
  44. Lesley
    Lesley says:

    *tears*

    this was so beautiful. I hadn’t seen your blog until a few minutes ago from a twitter link to the ‘people problem’ post and I clicked through to this one. gahh my heart is breaking for you.

    Reply
  45. blancastella
    blancastella says:

    Hi Erika, I stumbled on your blog from a blogger stumbling you:)..anyway…life is certainly strange when people like this leave so early in life…his spirit I am sure will always be with you..just imagine him in the starlight to light up your days. 

    Reply
  46. DaveKwiecinski
    DaveKwiecinski says:

    Erika, thanks to Alicia Forest for recommending a post on your blog.  That’s how I ended here.
    If I can get just a touch philosophical, I’m prompted to comment because you said:
    “Every prayer and bargain I made with anything and everything yesterday was unanswered, so I don’t believe in much right now.”
    Those are the exact reasons TO believe.  Because of the sheer tragedy and unfairness of all that we have in this life.  Faith tells us that there must be more than this effin’ flawed existence.
    Not trying to preach.  Not trying to be a smart ass.  Speaking from my heart.
    I realize that three years have passed since this post.  Yeah, time heals some of the sting.  It’s not as fresh.  But it’s still there.
    Love.  
    It’s because of Love.

    Reply

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