Susan WonderStone's Blog


Wonder Woman at Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival

 

Once again…Wonder Woman showed up for the Mukilteo Lighthouse festival. For those of you I met for the first time and a recap for the rest of y’all who follow my adventures…

For those of you who took pictures of me, please send them to me here, susanwonderstone@yahoo.com or on my Facebook page https://Facebook.com/susan.story.71

My son Cameron and I have been participating in the parade since he was in 2nd grade. He turns 20 this week.  Since the festival is always near his birthday, we invited his friends to celebrate with us. Sometimes we had a party after the parade,  complete with singing and birthday cake. At some point along the way, he decided to make a “FREE HUGS” sign. He would run from side to side along the parade route, with his arms out offering hugs to anyone who wanted one.

In the beginning, when I first made my outfit, I realized that when people saw me they often smiled, laughed  and asked to take pictures with me. We all tend to smile when someone smiles at us. It’s just as contagious as a yawn! People who were together, but not saying anything, would smile and communicate with each other. Regardless of whether they are having problems with relationships or work, recently lost a fur kid or other family member, have health challenges, are “drugged” from the crap food they just ate…or, whatever other things are going on in their heads, comnecting and communicating with another human always makes life easier to deal with. I’ve continued doing it, not to make it easier to deal with my own stuff, but to bless others with my will, in hopes that they’ll find their own.

Friday at my retail job, I dealt with the biggest jerk I’ve ever dealt with in the store. It spun me for a bit, because I really thought I could change the constipated look on his face into a smile before he left. I wondered what could be so bad in his life to make him nasty to not only me, but several of my coworkers he also interacted with. After about 30 minutes of wanting to chase him down in the parking lot, and tell him that I’d pray for him because his terminal cancer and putting his dog down this week must be challenging to his entire existence, I realized that jerks only show up in my life to check my own attitude. I really paid attention to myself for the rest of the day, still having the goal to make everyone I came in contact with, a little better than before they talked to me. I try to always make it a goal for me, even when I’m in so much pain I should be at home in bed. Like after the parade, when I slowly wandered around the Festival.  I did my best to smile. I talked to everyone who made eye contact with me. I met a beautiful woman named Demetria, who after a health challenge of her own, started a business providing  shoes to low income and foster children.

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People are amazing when you give them a chance to tell you who they are!

What’s my story?

As many of you know, my first melanoma diagnosis was in March 2000. I had two more surgeries in 2002.  In 2004, aside from skin lesions on my face and just about every body part, I had an open 2inch hole on my right butt cheek and the cancer was in my liver and lymphatic system. In August that year,  my doctor told me I probably wouldn’t make it through the summer. I knew, based on the conversation I had with my dermatologist in 2002, that there were no treatments that would give me hope. I cried  daily for months, wondering what I could do to save my life.  I researched and implemented everything that made sense. Over the years, I’ve stopped things that no longer seem to be helping and added things newly discovered.  A few days ago, my friend Armi, who I met in Tijuana, suggested I put raw honey in the hole in my leg. Why had I forgotten how many times raw honey had helped the skin lesions?   I filled the hole with raw honey, aside from the other things I’m still doing, and after two days it looks so much better!

In 2007,  I broke my back in a skydiving accident. It was my third jump. I had an L1 burst fracture. The staff in the emergency room told me I would probably never walk again. I must have said 100 times “Thank you God, I can move my toes!”  I believed that if I could move my toes I would walk again!  I kept telling them that they did not have my permission to touch any cancer they found in my body. I believed  what I was doing was working, and didn’t want biopsies or other medical treatments to interfere with my healing. My neurosurgeon  asked where the cancer was. Even though I still had lumps in areas of lymph nodes, he showed me the CT scan if my liver. There were no spots on my liver. I KNEW  if I could eliminate melanoma from my liver, I could recover from a broken back. He put me back together with screws in L2 and T12, with flexible plastic rods in between to give me full range of motion. They made me walk soon after I came out of anesthesia, three days after the accident.  I have walked every day since! It took me awhile to get my courage (or stupidity- however you look at it) to skydive again. I have 40 jumps now. Someday I’ll travel and jump in every city, state and country I can!

I’m not going to list all of the challenges I’ve faced, because it seems when I signed up for this life, that I agreed to face most obstacles others do, so I could empathize with the masses.

After I made my rounds at the festival, I went home to do the cancer treatments I didn’t have time for in the morning. I was so tired, but didn’t have time for a nap before I was supposed to be back for dinner with my Northwest Photo family.

I love my spray tan, sponsored by Oasis Airbrush Tanning!

 

The evening was just as amazing as the day!

While looking for the kids, I spun a wheel and won a month of free karate classes. I later found them giving hugs to the people who were within ear shot of the dude yelling at everyone, telling them they’re going to burn in hell for eternity. I’ve never understood how anyone thinks anger, hatred and fear will help convert another to their ways. Meanwhile, the Sikh group was dancing, hugging and appeared happy. But…that’s another story.

Dinner was great! Sunset was great! Connecting was great! Fireworks were great! I fell asleep with my feet soaking in Epsom salt, apple cider vinegar and frankincense.

 

Life is good!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan

 



When life•••••• It’s time for a new perspective
September 8, 2016, 2:20 am
Filed under: coaching, Inspiration, Skydiving

•••••• insert negative adjective here.

When life sucks, it’s time for a new perspective. Okay, to be clear, when some parts  of life suck. Saturday will be 12 weeks the tumor on my leg has been open. I’m still believing  it’s a drain for all the bad stuff to flow out. Buddy dog. Jake, Anna and Jordan. And a few other things, but I don’t want to share too much negativity.

I’m currently not qualified to jump at my home drop zone. Going there, is tough because there’s nothing I want or need more than to jump. Okay, there’s something. Oh, there’s someone too, but jumping is high on my list. Since I can’t jump, when the  opportunity to fly came up, I jumped on it!

We’re  familiar with the area, and know better than to fly thru some of the clouds. Sometimes, mountains look like clouds. After accidentally flying thru clouds on a birthday skydive, I know they’re soft and fluffy. Mountains, not so soft and fluffy.

Up, up, up. Decrease power. Roller Coaster! He called them maneuvers, I called it Roller Coaster.

I didn’t have to ask,  but we did not do maneuvers over the poop pond. Hat island looks so little out there in the water.

 

 

imageimageimageAgain, without prompting, we flew right over my house. It’s just south west of the wheel.

I’ve always said I’d rather get out of the plane high than at lower altitudes.  This is especially true, around 3000 feet, where I can see and count cows, cars and people.

We had a conversation about perspectives. Right now, I’m sitting on a couch in my living room. I’m feeling the heat From the TDP lamp, hearing the ozone generator and the time clicking away on the clock. I’m aware of the room I am in. It’s not the same for me in a commercial aircraft, but in a little plane, everything changes.  Not only am I aware of my surroundings inside the plane, but the vastness of everything outside of the plane. The water, the mountains, all the homes  and cars, the  largest volume building in the world, right next-door at the Everett Boeing plant.

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That corn maze seems to take forever when you’re in it, but so small from  2000 feet. 50 years!

What’s big? Small? What’s important? It’s all a matter of perspective.

I had so much fun!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



Buddy
September 7, 2016, 12:16 am
Filed under: Death, Gratitude, Hope, Love | Tags: , , , , , ,

Last night when I got home, my son Cameron and his girlfriend Rayla, were about to leave to take Buddy into the woods for his last hike.

I still remember Buddy’s picture on the PAWS website, six years ago.  Immediately when I saw him, I said “That’s my dog!” Cameron and I went to see him that day when I got off work. It was just before closing, so they told us to come back the next day. Buddy was scared. He cowered in the back of the kennel. His neuter surgery had gone bad and they had to open things back up to clean out the infection. The staff made it seem like that’s why he was scared. I was concerned he could be a fear biter, until we got our Rottweiler Keta, out of the car to meet him. He followed her around the play area and seemed so excited! He was leery of us, but loved Keta. We went back the next day and brought him home. We only had Keta for 6 more weeks until her kidneys shut down from bone cancer. She had broken Buddy in. He was afraid inside the house, but excited and loved going for walks in the woods. Over the years, Buddy continued to be afraid of certain people, mostly men wearing baseball caps, but always men who were smoking. We could rough-house with him outside, but if anyone touched him inside the house without warning, he’d pee. It took several years for that to stop.

I’ve always wondered what happened to him before we met. I had a goal to prove to him that some people are good.

Five years ago, Buddy appeared to catch a squirrel. I thought he broke its back. Buddy was gentle, but dropped it when I screamed. It crawled away, dragging its back end. It died as it reached the other side of the driveway.  Buddy cried. He seemed disappointed it didn’t play with him. When we saw the third squirrel dragging its back end, my partner took it to PAWS. They have a wildlife center. They told him that local squirrels had been getting a raccoon parasite that attacks their spinal cord, paralyzingly their back ends.

About 2 years ago, Buddy’s back legs started getting weak. His right leg was worse than the left, but both atrophied. We were told he had degenerative myelopathy. It’s like ms in people. Recently, I researched ms and parasites and found several articles stating that the ms patients they tested had an unusual amoeba in their blood. I’m pretty sure we aren’t supposed to have amoebas.

They say there’s no way to cure degenerative myelopathy,  but regular exercise can slow the progression. I wondered how long I could help Buddy and keep him alive. We continued our daily walks in the woods. As time went on, Buddy’s legs shrunk more and his walking was increasingly worse. It was so bad in March when I had my surgery, I thought he might die during the time I wasn’t able to drive. He looked happy though. He ate every day. He drank water. He pee’d and pooped, although it didn’t appear he had any control over when he went. Most days, he’d drag himself out the back door and down the two steps to go potty in the back yard.

Aside from my doctors in Mexico and my neurosurgeon who put me back together after I broke my back, I believe all the medical doctors I’ve seen over the last twelve years, wrote me off shortly after meeting me. Last year, a doctor at a walk-in clinic, knowingly prescribed a narcotic I was allergic to. The pharmacist told me he didn’t want me to take it, but the doctor did. He said that if I took it, to sit in a chair with my phone and if I had breathing difficulty, to call 911 immediately. Seeing the open tumors on my neck and bottom of my left foot, was he trying to help me with pain or help me die from an allergic reaction? Even though I wasn’t ready to die, I felt like he could come in handy when the time comes that I am. I was angry that if I didn’t know what I do, that doctor could’ve been my end. Why should anyone have the right to decide when someone else will die?

Why should I be the one to decide when Buddy would die?  I know it’s considered humane to put a dog to “sleep” when they’re in pain. How do you know of a dog is in pain?

About a month and a half ago, Buddy started drooling a lot. I asked my neighbor, who is a vet. She said if we had put Buddy down a year ago, it wouldn’t have been too soon. The drooling in a non drooling dog is a sign of pain. Someone else told me that in the wild, an animal wouldn’t let the others know it was in pain, because they’d leave it behind. How could I know if Buddy was too miserable to keep going? I’ve been so sick at times over the years that the people around me gave up on me. I guess I just wanted Buddy to make the decision and die on his own. Cameron wasn’t ready. When his friends were killed on July 30th, I really didn’t want to make that decision.

Last week, we had a family meeting and decided it was time. The first available appointment at our vet, was this morning at 10. Back to my first paragraph…

I asked the kids if I could go with them. Our plan was to get Buddy in Rayla’s car, drive to the woods and then, I don’t know what. Cameron enticed Buddy to drag himself to the front porch. He picked him up to take him down the steps and driveway to the car. Buddy started peeing as soon as Cameron picked him up. He held him still until he stopped peeing. I went back inside to get towels to dry Buddy off. Before I got back, Buddy ran down the driveway, dragging his back legs behind him. I washed the porch and sidewalk off with the hose, while the kids dried the pee off of Buddy. We all cried on the way to the woods. It’s only 3 blocks. Buddy wanted to walk, but Cameron picked him up. We barely got past the trailhead when he put Buddy down by a favorite peepee tree. Pretty sure most dogs pee there. Buddy dragged himself around it, sniffing what his friends had left.

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Cameron wanted Buddy to have one last walk in his favorite places. We’ve walked in Japanese Gulch several times a week and often daily, since we moved here 17 years ago. Cameron taught me to hike in the dark without headlamps, being careful to feel what’s under my feet. It has helped greatly with my other hikes. In the gulch, I could also see the dogs, which helped as long as they stayed on the trail. In the dark, we mainly took the same trail. There’s a spot we call “the lookout”. On full moon nights, we’d go to the lookout and howl at the moon. Buddy would howl with us, while Lucy the bulmastiff,  just looked at us like we were crazy.

Last night, we walked as far as Cameron could go, then stopped to rest, lay on the ground with Buddy and talk. We heard our friends Debra and Cooper. Buddy sat up and started whining, wanting to see his friends. Cooper is a rambunctious puppy and Debra always has treats. I yelled “Cooper” once, but with all of us crying, didn’t yell out again.

It was getting dark by the time we got to the lookout. Buddy wasn’t interested in howling. We really weren’t either. We decided to take a shortcut because the chance of falling is higher in the dark and even higher while carrying a large dog. I cried nearly the whole way, watching the love Cameron and Buddy shared.  It was only a mile. It was a mile I’ll always remember!

We all got up this morning, knowing what the day would bring. We all tried to hold back the tears, but didn’t. Rayla drove. The vet and staff were great! I wouldn’t want their jobs. I won’t go into the details, but Buddy died with all of us holding him. We showed him that regardless of what happened before we met, some people are good. He knew we loved him.

It’s only been 13 hours. Every time I’ve walked thru the kitchen, I expect to have to step over him, but he’s not there. I’m tired and crying again. It seems this year’s theme has been loss. I hope this is the last one for awhile!

We LOVE you, Buddy! Thank you for teaching us so much and loving us back.

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



More Connections
August 31, 2016, 12:53 am
Filed under: cancer, coaching, contact me, Death, Inspiration

 

You may say I’m a dreamer,  but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one. John Lennon

When I had my first boyfriend, my mom told me to not spend so much time with him and to remember my friends. I didn’t have many friends, but the ones I did have, took a back seat to my new guy. He played football for the other high school in town, so if I went to a school function, it was a football game for my rival school. My two closest friends, became best friends with each other as I spent more and more time with “him”. It only lasted 4 months, but that was long enough to lose a good part of my best friendships. Not only did I lose him, I felt like I lost both of my best friends too. When I started dating my next boyfriend, I was in “Health Occupations”, a work co-op that allowed me to leave high school at lunch and work in a doctor’s office every afternoon. My co-workers were 10-40 years older than me. They weren’t my friends. My new guy also went to the other high school, so we usually spent time together instead of going to school functions at either school. He was a year ahead of me in school, so I planned ahead, took summer school and graduated early so I could go to college with him sooner.

When that relationship ended 15 years later, I had few friends. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.  Looking back, I wonder how different things would have been if I had friends and a support system of people, other than my family, who I didn’t want to talk to about how lonely I felt.

Last month, a young man texted acquaintances, saying he was going to kill everyone at a large party. He shot 4, killing 3 of them. One of them was his ex girlfriend. I wonder if he felt like I did when my first relationship ended. I wondered if he felt like I did when my second and my third relationships ended. Was he lonely, wondering how he’d accomplish anything, being in so much pain? I’ve read studies that say the emotional pain of a broken heart can be as painful as the physical pain of a broken bone. The loneliness I experienced wasn’t as intense as the pain I experienced and still do from when I broke my back, but probably close. I’ve often said the pain of a breakup is worse than cancer. Okay, that’s bullshit, but I have said it.  When my last relationship was coming to an end, the cancer exploded. I isolated myself again, but this time I was having intense physical pain. Not intentionally, but I started doing things with friends from my past. New connections formed. I joined meet up groups. I stayed in a hotel room with people I’d never met.  I drove long distance to meet a facebook friend. I took meditation classes and met more new people. I went to ecstatic dance classes and made connections without words. This time, the emotional pain was more like when I broke and dislocated my finger in 10th grade. I wanted to cry, and I did, but I still laughed enough to get yelled at in the emergency room.   It hurt! It throbbed for months whenever my heart rate would increase. I’d run anyway. I’d also find things to laugh about. Like with the broken bones I’ve had, the emotional pain from losses lasts long beyond the time everyone else even remembers it happened. Life doesn’t stop for emotional pain. Having connections to many people, made it easier to deal with. Many of the connections I’ve made, aren’t with people I’d spend a lot of time with, but our stories have helped each other.

Would the shooter have done what he did, if he had more genuine connections, than mostly those on social media? The more connected we feel to others, the easier it is to deal with whatever stresses, challenges or losses we experience. He doesn’t get a do-over. Our friends are gone.

We can learn so much from others without having to make our own mistakes! Every single person is unique! We all have our own set of gifts that nobody can do for us. We are here to do whatever it is we do. The lessons you’ve learned and gifts you’ve been given will help so many people! Why are you keeping them to yourself?

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I’m challenging you to meet at least one new person every week. Give them your contact information. If they give you theirs, BONUS!  What’s their story? You’ll either know someone or meet someone who’ll benefit from their story.We are all connected anyway, let’s figure out how!

Connect, Communicate & Celebrate Life!

 

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan



Connections
August 27, 2016, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been brainstorming ways to not only connect with more people, but to encourage other people to do the same. Social connections are vital to our well-being. I believe connecting  is just as important as food and water.  I used to think I was fine by myself, until I watched out the window as a steady flow of people took food and who knows what else, to my neighbor across the street after she had surgery on her wrist.  She had a husband and two teenage boys. I felt so isolated and alone, being by myself in my house with a terminal cancer diagnosis. Nobody was calling or stopping by to see me. More than anything else, I was afraid of dying alone. I knew the only way I was going to connect with anyone, would be to leave my house and find people to connect with. I had many  acquaintances, but few close relationships. I don’t drink, go to church, bars or sports functions. Where would I meet people?  As many of you know, that was about the time I made a WonderWoman outfit and started  going places, just to see people smile, laugh and communicate with the people they were with -when they weren’t before I showed up. I found kids to go to parades with me!

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How big is your social circle?  The smaller the circle, the harder the impact when one person leaves. Regardless of how they go, a broken heart can be just as painful as a broken bone.  Many people resort to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Connecting and communicating with people can be even more beneficial if we allow it to be.

Today’s comnection…

I ran into a man today in Lynnwood Washington. He lives in Oregon. When I saw his last name, it reminded me of someone I met in 2006.  I asked him if he knew my friend Emily who lives in Southern California. He said “Of course I do she’s my sister.”  He then asked how I knew her. I told him that I was a patient in the same hospital that his mother was in, and Tijuana in 2006.  Emily was with their mom Ruth. He looked at me as if he didn’t believe me. I then asked if he believed in woo woo stuff.  He said no, but my sister does.

At first I wasn’t going to tell him, but the urging was too intense to ignore. I went on to tell him that the night after his mom Ruth died, my smoke alarm  went off. Because I was running ozone in my house 24 hours a day, I couldn’t smell anything. I didn’t know if my house was on fire. Once the fire department got here,  The alarm had stopped. As I walked under it a drop of water landed on the top of my head. The alarm started again. The firefighters searched the house for smoke and/or fire. Nothing.  They also went up into the  attic, but didn’t find anything,  including any water that could have been responsible for the drop of water on my head. Pushing the reset button wouldn’t turn off the smoke alarm, so they knocked it off the ceiling. (it has since been replaced by Dan the fireman)

It took a little while for me to calm down and go back to bed after they left. As I laid in bed and closed my eyes I saw a Ruth laughing at me. I found out about a week later that Ruth had died. I’ve shared  this story so many times, that it has become common for one or more of the smoke alarms in my house to go off for no reason, only for me to find out later another friend has died. I only gave  him a few of these details. He seemed overwhelmed as it was, but did allow me to hug him!

After he left, I remembered another strange connection. Apparently, their grandma had a daughter with her second husband. That daughter is the great grandma of my little brothers wife.

All this time, Emily and I have felt close, but recently realized we’re connected on a giant family tree.

Just think, the bigger we make the tree, the more connected we already are. Let’s make more connections, communicate and celebrate life!

I haven’t figured out the details yet, but it’s time for us to connect! How will we meet?

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan

 



NO!! Please help me!!
August 26, 2016, 12:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Someone, please help! I had a craving and decided to make it. I peeled an entire bulb of garlic, pressed it in the garlic press and  fried it in coconut oil. I added salt and pepper and a little Parmesan cheese. It’s my favorite midnight snack in the world!  I don’t know why I usually make it at midnight. Who knows,  maybe I’m  fighting off vampires before bed.

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Since I’ve done it so many times, I know that it’s going to cause a lot of cramping, gas and intestinal upset, sometimes belching and even diarrhea.

It’s still my favorite midnight snack in the world!

I’m by myself, OK not really by myself, Lucy, Buddy, Roxanne, and Becky are here too. They can’t stop me. (Canines and felines) Who is going to stop me from eating my all-time favorite snack?  Is the taste going to be better than all of the problems I’ll have tomorrow? I think the only work related rule to this sort of situation is “NO crop dusting in the elevator!”  I’m pretty sure that cropdusting anywhere else is OK. Although I’m guessing that the break room and/or the office is probably not a great idea either.

It tastes so good! Someone please! Stop me!

Nobody can stop me! It’s a simple choice that only I can make. I know some of the consequences, there could be more!

Eat it or not. My choice. Isn’t it exciting to realize how many choices we get to make?!

Elevator or stairs. Raw or cooked.  Water or alcohol. Bath or shower. Participate or spectator. Reach out or hide away.

A choice.

I don’t really need help. I’m a master at making decisions for myself. I actually already ate it all! Crop dusting or shart. Oh shit! I hadn’t thought of that as a consequence!

The consequences of some choices are irreversible. I hope you quickly think through pros and cons of the choices you make and take 100% responsibility for them!

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan

 



Missed Opportunities or Distant Friendship

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Another beautiful story about friendship and connections. Written by Darian Clogston, another of my son Cameron’s best friends. And a little Harry Potter spoiler…

 

I went to Jake Long‘s memorial service this weekend, and it was the most difficult funeral I have ever been to.

Not that I have been to a whole lot of funerals, but for a twenty-year-old, the few I have been to already feel like far too many. Jake’s was different for me though, because he and I were not friends…not until after he died. Prior to a week ago, when I had been asked if I knew Jake Long – and I had been asked before, on at least a couple occasions – my answer was, “The name is familiar; I would probably recognize him if you showed me a picture…” His profile picture on Facebook would jumpstart my memory, prompting me to add on, “Oh, he sat with the group of guys behind Blake and I in Mr. Schillinger’s calculus class my senior year”. Not really a significant connection to bring up, considering that I essentially never talked to, or even really acknowledged, that group of guys sitting behind us. I’ve thought about that class every day since Jake died though. There were 180 school days where I could’ve tried to talk to them. 180 missed opportunities where I never said, “Hey”, or, “Good morning”, or anything. I’d just walk in every day, glancing a little skeptically at Will Kramer rocking on the back legs of his chair – that drove the stage manager side of me nuts – and then I’d take my seat next to Blake. And Blake is just such a friendly and positive human to sit next to at 7:20 in morning; It made sense to mostly just talk to him and to ignore everyone else as much as possible.

I know I can’t fill my mind with the what-if’s though. That’s not fair to myself, or to Jake, or to anyone. That class was years ago, and I can’t change the fact that I never talked to Jake when I had such a prime opportunity to. The connection between Jake and I started to grow even years before that though. The problem was just that neither of us knew it.

Jake had taken part in the Summit program, through which he grew a group of guy friends that became a very solid, tightknit bunch. Cameron – one of my two very best friends now – was a part of Jake’s group then. I’ve heard a remarkable amount of stories and anecdotes in the past week about what Jake was like back then and about the shenanigans that this group of guys was able to get into together, and everything I hear makes me love Jake a little more.

And let me tell you, he’s amazing. I’m not going to re-cap all of the stories I’ve been able to hear about him, or share all of the photos I’ve seen of him in the past week, because other people have shared those with me, and I feel like their memories are better left in their own hands to keep sharing. But either way, there is no denying that Jake is one awesome guy. From what I can tell, he and I would get along so well if we had ever had the chance to hang out together.

One of the biggest differences between us is the fact that Jake loves baseball and I love theatre. But within our own realms, each of us thrives. We’re both driven and passionate when we get involved with something. Baseball and theatre are our outlets. They allow us space to practice, and to persevere, and to overcome obstacles, and to build community, and to engage, and to inspire. These activities keep us going. They give us something to look forward to.

Attending Jake’s memorial service was surreal in a way. It is one thing to know and love someone, have them pass away, and to then grieve for them by reflecting on their life, celebrating their achievements, and sharing the stories you have about them. But to begin to know and love someone after they’re gone – that is a whole other beast to tackle. Responding to the question, “How do you know Jake?”, was harder than it ever had been before. I hadn’t even known that Cameron and Jake had been so close until after Jake died. And Cameron has been the biggest contributing factor to me learning about Jake, but I have also witnessed an outpouring of love and stories coming from the other friends that Jake and I share, as well as from his family at the service. So simply saying that we have a mutual best friend doesn’t seem to sum it up. It feels more like Jake has become one of my best friends himself.

Late on the night of the funeral, when I finally went home, I was welcomed by new groceries that my mom had picked up that day. It was late, and I was sleepy and I wanted to go to bed, but I also didn’t quite feel like I could sleep yet. So, being the huge nerd that I am, I sat down in our living room and started thinking about Harry Potter. Often, I find myself using the morals found in Harry Potter to get me through rough patches of life. It’s as if J.K. Rowling has a direct line to my heart through her writing. This past week, I have been drawing inspiration specifically from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Spoilers from this and other books will occur if you continue reading). The end of the fourth installment to the series is where Hogwarts loses one of it’s students, Cedric Diggory, to the hands of Voldemort, and where Dumbledore tells his school that they must band together for the light to rise out of the dark. I have found this part of the series very relatable this week because Jake, Anna, and Jordan are all a little bit like Kamiak’s Cedric Diggory. The sense of community and love felt at the end of the fourth book was exactly what I was reflecting on when I looked up and saw two copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sitting on the mantle. Now, I love Harry Potter. I love the books, I love the movies, I feel kind of iffy about all the spin-off books and movies, but they are all an extension of the Wizarding World that I consider myself to be a part of, so I love them too. BUT all of that being said, when I picked up my copy of this new book, I didn’t know anything about it. I had heard it was coming out soon…but I had no idea what was inside. I opened the front cover to read the inside flap; it informed me that this was actually not a book at all. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play, and so I was holding in my hands not a book, but a script. Continuing to read the inside cover flap, I also learned that the play is already in production in London’s West End. The world premiere was July 30, 2016. The date that Jake, Anna, and Jordan died.

I took all of this as a sign. I needed to start reading. The timing was too perfect, and a play about Harry Potter – yes there are already other Harry Potter-related plays, but one that J.K. Rowling wrote and brought to life – it felt like it was meant for me to start reading immediately. I made a snack, took my new script up to my room, and jumped in. I made it three scenes before falling asleep. So the next day when I woke up, all I did was read. I read until I finished the play, only stopping for a bathroom break or two. And it AMAZED me how much of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child depended on Cedric’s death. The entire play is about the idea that while you can’t change the past, you can allow the past to inspire you to live.

My favorite part of the script, the part that resonates with me the most, is this exchange between Harry and a portrait of Dumbledore:

DUMBLEDORE attempts to reach out of the portrait – but he can’t. He begins to cry but tries to hide it.

DUMBLEDORE: But I had to meet you in the end…eleven years old, and you were so brave. So good. You walked uncomplainingly along the path that had been laid at your feet. Of course I loved you…and I knew that it would happen all over again…that where I loved, I would cause irreparable damage. I am no fit person to love…I have never loved without causing harm.

A beat.

HARRY: You would have hurt me less if you had told me this then.

DUMBLEDORE (openly weeping now): I was blind. That is what love does. I couldn’t see that you needed to hear this closed-up, tricky, dangerous old man…loved you.

A pause. The two men are overcome with emotion.

HARRY: It isn’t true that I never complained.

DUMBLEDORE: Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.

HARRY: You have said that to me once before.

DUMBLEDORE: It is all I have to offer you tonight.

He begins to walk away.

HARRY: Don’t go!

DUMBLEDORE: Those that we love never truly leave us, Harry. There are things that death cannot touch. Paint…and memory…and love.

HARRY: I loved you too, Dumbledore.

DUMBLEDORE: I know.

Jake, as well as Anna and Jordan, were taken from us too soon. And we can’t ever change that. But through the memories and love that they instilled while they were alive, they gave so much light to everyone around them. And so we have to live for them, spreading their love and memory and light along with our own, Always.

*Upon reading this, Jansen – another member of Jake and Cameron’s Summit friend group and another friend of mine – wrote me this: “I remember him saying that you were in Calc together. He said that he didn’t know you too well but he thought you were cool and he wished he got to know you better in Calc[…]Jake knew how much you meant to Cameron and what a great person you are. He heard it from me, as well as from Cameron. Even though you never became good friends, you now feel close to him in his death, hearing all about him from Cameron. And he knew how important you are to Cameron. It wasn’t 180 missed opportunities, instead it was 180 days of distant friendship, both incredibly important to each other and to Cameron.”

I love our distant friendship and how it has evolved. I love you, Jake

by Darian Clogston

Jake will be missed by so many! We can’t bring him back, but we can live our lives even bigger than anything we’ve ever planned before.

Love, gratitude and blessings

~Susan