Talking to the Shadows
By Jennifer Amendt
Do you remember when we were little girls how you use to walk me home from an afternoon of fun only to have me turn around and walk you straight back home?
I will never forget how after hours of fun in the snow we would come back inside with our pink little noses and sopping socks to our steamy cups of hot chocolate, board games, and movies.
Our last run, or walk, is the fondest memory I have with you.
After our long walk we went back to my house and I put my prom dress on for you, it had just been finished.
I remember how we giggled because you made fun of how flat my chest looked in it.
We walked back to your house that night and I saw you in your prom dress.
A dress you would never wear.
Sometimes I think you knew that God was calling you home.
Could you hear him whispering your name?
Two days later I received a phone call saying, "come quickly" you were sick.
Two days later, you were in heaven, while our hearts were breaking apart down here.
Two days later, I felt alone.
Those days surrounding your sudden absence I will never forget.
The tears, the screams, the anger, the sorrow, and the loneliness are etched into my brain forever.
Almost five years later, some memories are starting to fade.
I don't talk to you as much.
I use to think about what you did to pass the time away.
Now a week or two will go by when I don't think about you at all.
Are you forgetting me like I am forgetting you?
I hardly remember your voice.
I could never forget that smile.
Yet, the memories still seem to fade, even if I don't want them to.
Can you see us strive?
Can you see us fail?
Do you see us smile?
Are you the one who helps pick us up when we fall?
In a few months I will run with the man who has your lungs.
I want to run with you one last time.
I know it will not be the same, but will you be there?
When I hear him huff and breathe on our run, will those be your breathes I hear?
When I am old and gray and it is time for my last breath, will you be there?
Will you be there holding my hand to walk me home where we belong?
I learned of Jenn a few months after learning of Kari and her family. Kari’s Mom sent me a “Happy 19th Birthday to your Lungs!” card on March 7, 2002. In that card was a poem that Jenn had written titled, “From a Quiet Corner”… I cried when I read it then, and I still do.
I didn’t know it, but Jenn struggled quite a long time with Kari’s death. I also didn’t know that Kari’s Mom suggested that Jenn contact me thinking maybe she’d get some closure meeting me. I got a beautiful email from Jenn on the fourth anniversary of Kari’s death. Though I knew of her, Jenn introduced herself and explained her relationship with Kari – then told me she was contacting me because she wanted to “run with Kari” one more time. She told me she wanted to come out and climb the Hancock with me.
We exchanged many emails after that and learned so much about one another. Months before she came out, she read “From a Quiet Corner” to ladies at her church. They coaxed her to write another poem – she wrote “Talking to the Shadows.”
In February, 2005, Jenn drove her with her sister and another of Kari’s schoolmates, Christian, and two friends. Five of them came with luggage for a long weekend in a car way too small for all of that. The girls spent almost six hours in the back seat with their feet up on luggage.
When Jenn poured out of the car and we hugged – in my heart, it felt like we had known one another forever. The emails we exchanged never prepared me for the precious girl I would meet. Jenn has since become a very, very special part of my life.
I probably should have let Jenn post her poem herself. It means the whole, wide world to me… Tomorrow, I get to read it to 400 high school juniors. 400 brilliant high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine – I get to tell them about Kari, and about Jenn, and about breathing with beautiful lungs. I get to let them see a little bit of Kari through Jenn’s eyes, and I get to teach them about organ donation.
As she mentioned in her poem, Jenn may not talk to Kari as much – but I still do quite often. On her birthday, and on the day she passed and gave me life, I often let others in on my little conversations. Laura and I have flowers placed on her grave in Iowa and I always have a note tucked in with them – sometimes to her family, but usually to Kari. I met Jenn in February 2005. A week later, my note on Kari's birthday flowers read:
I met Jenn… Her poetry has shown me how deeply friends can love one another… Spending time with her has confirmed something I already knew – How very special you are, how much you loved your friends, and how very much they loved you. We ran together like she wanted… And we talked… About you and about me. Man, she can talk! I hope you were with me when I hugged Jenn – It felt like you were… I never wanted to let her go.
I think of you every day… And of your family and friends too.
Steve & Laura Lungs
Happy Birthday, Jenn – I’m glad you were born. I’m glad you’re alive. I’m glad you share this beautiful planet with me and I will never, ever forget your friend… or you. I’ll love you forever and always.