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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