What We Do

jason schippersWheels were down in Denver at 6:51pm last night, the return leg of a journey I never thought I’d take. The ceremony of saying goodbye – I don’t know what kind of solace it’s supposed to provide in and of itself, but I will say that I’ve learned that like every other human being, I’m subject to the laws of inertia and motion. I’ve fought non-stop of seven days to keep moving, because physics has no explanation or condition attributed to being alone in your head with every thought, memory and Ouda. The Ouda Sisters – I talk about them often. Shoulda, Coulda and Woulda – bitches, all three. But turning their antics over in your mind keeps you moving.

I’ve realized once again some things that don’t work, like getting completely shitfaced in an effort to kill the pain that’s in a part of you that no blood can reach. Fighting an Ambien-induced sleep because you’re not done looking at pictures – equally useless, given the pictures will be there in the morning. But moreso, there’s the remarkable discovery of some things that actually do work as I wander through the type of lost that no map can fix and makes me want to punch the voice on my GPS.

Honesty: Sugar-coating is for shit, rots your teeth and makes everything seem trite. When you stand in front and beside people you love and respect enough to dispense with the bullshit, you do a few things – make it possible for them to feel the need to say nothing at all and give them the gift of compassion. And compassion and platitudes aren’t the same, little kitty…oh, no no.

Layering: Having fewer memories of Jason than most everyone in any room I’ve been in for the past two weeks, I’ve learned the value of layering. Basking in everyone else’s memories allows me to do something I never anticipated: find peace in who I knew Jason was from the day I met him, as everyone else knew him as that for the longest time. It’s the Jason Cake – and each story, memory, photo…they’re building the sweetest layer cake for me to carry with me.

Hearts: Over the past week, I’ve received the incredible gift of meeting those who love Jason. From other women who dated him to college buddies filled with stories of shenanigans. Jason earned respect because he gave it to you first – and without a second thought. I’ve been surrounded by words of love, hugs I never expected (and damn good hugs) and stories that, as we all float in this sea of grief, make us laugh.

And so I’ve come to today and what it is we do. We leave nothing behind, as Jason’s made that impossible. The little shit is so vibrant that we’ll see him everywhere for the rest of our lives. I’ll have my gift of sweet kisses, smartass remarks, giant hugs in my kitchen and the way it should always feel when a man holds my hand. Today, I’ll take those things and begin the process of finding that equal and opposite force that will require me to slow down. Pause. And change direction. I have no doubt I’ll be better for it, though there was supposed to be someone by my side on this path.

Adam, Andy, Andi, Austin, Carl, Michael, Terri, Neil, Brandi, Heather, Monika, Rich, Brian, Rick, Tiffany, Josh, Micah, Linnae, LeVar, Zoe, Suzanne, Michael S., Cara, Merredith, Shelly, Cali…brilliance, all of you. And I’m forgetting so many more, but know that it’s the limitations of my brain and no failing of having made an impression on me. As with each of you, there will be memories of Jason that I’ll hold safely in my heart. You’ll never hear the stories because they’re not meant to be heard. They’re like a secret batch of salted caramels that I can tap into when I need that deep, lingering sweetness. When I miss him so much it’s unbearable. When life randomly reminds me that the Right Now would be infinitely better with him to share it with me. When a new superhero movie comes out and I struggle, knowing the person who would be most excited has the best seat in the house instead of the one next to me.

There were two great gifts that have come from having Jason in my life for a flash: him, and everything we did, said and shared together, and the people who filled his life. I thank each of you for sharing the gift you can’t buy – your love for him. And for sharing that gift with a complete stranger who, ironically, turned out to be a redhead named Erika.

It’s what we do – moving. Jason always was and never let a minute slip by. Maybe we can each strive to be a little more Jason, even though we’ll never quite get there. For me, I’ll just hear him whisper – plain as day – “Bring it, bitch,” and rise to the challenge.

25 replies
  1. Mike Masin
    Mike Masin says:

    A voice, sad but strong, is heard over life’s wind. “I am ERIKA. I will fight and I will RETURN!” And those that listen to the wind yell back in unison “WE will join your ranks and add our strength to yours. YOU WILL PREVAIL.”

    And you did; glad you’re back.

  2. Pipsersmom
    Pipsersmom says:

    Jason didn’t have room for “shoulda, coulda, woulda…” never did. I remember him, nearly every lunch time, teasing/flirting with my friend Lisa and I…we could always to go his hall and hang with he and his cross country buddies…there could have been a room full of people and he always made me feel special…and of course, there’s the “Shoulda” in my own heart…why didn’t i reconnect? why don’t i make more of an effort to share life with people from my past?

    but i don’t think that’s the point, you know? I mean, technology has gotten so that we could be connected with every person from our past, and that would crowd out the life we’re meant to live in the NOW, with the people around us, and that’s exactly what he’d tell me. YOU’RE SO RIGHT on the “little shit” and that little smirk he always had…ALWAYS. every time he’d see me…”raaaaaaaachie!!!!” even if he was running with the cross country guys. 🙂 he was one of the most relational people i knew…

    i don’t believe in auras and all that jazz, but i was driving down the street this morning and was thinking that if anyone had one, it would be him…a bright, shining one and it just pisses me off that he’s gone. trying to work it into writing but there’s nothing to work with…

    i remember a horrible breakup i had and him comforting me….telling me he was a f*cker anyway… makes me laugh, right now, thinking of it.

  3. Pipsersmom
    Pipsersmom says:

    just wanted to re-iterate that the little shit in the picture didn’t have time for “Shoulda, woulda, coulda…” i know you’re going to struggle with them, that’s the price of loving and losing…but at the end of the day, you know there’s no room for it in your heart, either.


  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Let’s resolve to be Jason – and move our asses through this week, love. And then the next. And it will never be easy. And you’ll never forget. Because he’ll be back there, kicking your ass in his smartassity way, making sure you bring it. And you will. Of course you will. You’re you.

    Love you.


  5. Greg Smith MD
    Greg Smith MD says:


    My family, and especially my three daughters, once had a great friend named Jaime. He was an actor, a singer, a dancer and was full of life like no other person I’ve ever known. He came into a room and filled it. He didn’t embrace you-he hugged you to the ceiling. He didn’t joke with you-he played practical jokes on stage, in real time, that made his fellow dancers pee in their pants. He was a little guy, muscular and tanned and lithe and strong. He was vibrant and happy and intense and talented and all the things that we wish we could be. Jason sounds like Jaime’s long lost brother.
    Once upon a time, when the dance company was having a working retreat at our family’s beach house, some of the kids went out for a swim. I had always taught my girls how to be safe in the water, especially the waters of the creeks around the island, shallows that at tide changes could rip you and take you under with ease. Jaime and some of his friends went out and waded out to a sandbar for kicks. The tide rushed in. Everyone made their wat back toward shore. Jamie could not swim, but he followed them in. He never made it.
    We searched for his body for two days, all around the island. Orange Coast Guard helicopters hovered over tidal pools looking for signs of life. My wife still cannot see that orange helicopter roar down the coast at noon every day without crying.
    We found him on the far side of the river, past the bridge, by the boat ramp. I took that long walk down the little gravel road to indentify his body. We’d always joked that you’d know Jaime’s dancer’s feet anywhere. I knew it was him at fifty yards.
    Loss at any time is hard. We’re losing my mother-in-law right now. She will not last more than a few more days. That’s tough, but she’s eighty and it’s time for her to exit stage right. Losing a Jason or a Jaime, in the raw, prime, don’t give a shit, life is GREAT stage is gut-wrenchingly, agonizingly, heart rippingly painful like nothing else.
    I feel your grief, acutely, as your writing has reminded me of our dear friend who died those years ago at one of our favorite place on this earth. We still go the beach house. I will teach my one year old granddaughter about the creeks and rip currents, and she will love the island as much as I do. Her mother will tell her stories about her friend Jaime, a guy who embraced the world so hard that it decided it could not share him with the rest of us and took him back.
    We will miss them both terribly, won’t we?



  6. Jim Brochowski
    Jim Brochowski says:

    Erika, When I first started reading your work I smiled, I laughed, I sighed – alot. I said “Hell Yeah!” a lot. I wanted to share my new find with everyone. These last few posts – my heart just aches for you and all the people who knew Jason. The loss of a friend like him, well I’m sure I can’t define it any better than you have. My wish for you is that as you continue to remember your friend and to find what works you get to smile, to laugh, to sigh, that you get to scream “Hell Yeah!” at the top of your lungs and that you keep moving, and keep that perspective that you bring to what you do and continue to rise to the challenge. Go get ’em Batman!

  7. Jazz Salinger
    Jazz Salinger says:

    Hey Erika,

    I hope that you’re doing okay. I know that you’re in a world of pain right now but you will find your way out of this hell.

    I know it doesn’t feel like it and there’s a good chance you don’t even want to try. Just remember to breathe and do what feels right for you.

    You will find a way to ‘be’ in this new world when you’re ready. We’ll be here waiting for you.

  8. Teri
    Teri says:

    Please never forget that you truly were well loved by that sweet ‘little shit’ . I know that to be true and unfortunately, that’s all we have to give you. That, and our friendship. Until we see you again, Andy and I will be thinking of you often and keeping tabs on you here. Be well. Peace out ~ from Teri & Andy.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      What, no “boyscout?” 🙂 I know – he shows me every day by sending me people like you and all of his other friends who are each like flecks of gold. Bright. Rare. But if you know where to look, plentiful. And in Jason’s life…man, were they plentiful.

      Thank you both for being you. You’re ossum – and yes, that’s spelled with an “o.”

  9. Farnoosh
    Farnoosh says:

    Oh the Jason series has been so sad, so bitter, so well-written and so poignant. I have been reading these heart-felt words, Erika, and you are truly compassionate. I know Jason somehow somewhere appreciates this tribute. Thank you for sharing your grief with us. Wishing you much inner peace!

  10. Shelly
    Shelly says:

    The oulda sisters.. They ARE bitches.I am glad you got to have Jason in your life… Sounds like he gave you a lot of good things… Memories, connections, challenge, energy and a great hand on your back to never let a moment slip by… I’d love to be a little more like Jason!

  11. Mazarine
    Mazarine says:

    Your posts about Jason made me cry. And I don’t even know who you are, I just started reading this blog yesterday.

    Thank you for being open about your pain. So often we try to sweep shit under the rug and pretend nothing hurts. You make me grateful for the little things.

    Please keep writing.

  12. Mazarine
    Mazarine says:

    Thank you for writing about Jason. You made me cry yesterday, when I found this blog.

    Your writing is so powerful. You make me grateful for the little things.

    Thank you for being open. Thank you for the redheaded fury. Please keep writing.

  13. Marla Schippers
    Marla Schippers says:

    Thank you for that, I love it and you. I’m trying to go on without my son in my life-it will never happen. Each day it gets harder…


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