This is Jenna. Jenna Caryl Bedau.
(she also lovingly referred to herself as JFB, but I’m not explaining that one.)
Jenna Caryl Bedau was born on June 20, 1988, and she died on April 11th, 2011.
Two weeks ago.
I know that at heart, I’m a writer. Not a good writer, but someone who writes to process. And I’ve known that there would be some kind of virtual composition eventually to help me cope. But to be honest, I’ve been struggling with my motives for that. (my dear friend Ashley has been learning and teaching me about how important it is to constantly examine our motives, particularly in things we do in the public eye) Do I want to write so that people will feel sorry for my loss? Do I want to write for affirmation of my grieving? I haven’t figured that out yet. But I do know that while the viewing and the funeral were incredibly trying experiences for my soul, they were glimpses of the finality that is necessary to release someone after they pass away. So here’s to closure.
I miss you already. But, I can recognize that I am beyond blessed, especially for these two huge reasons: that I got to spend the majority of my 23 years having a soul as beautiful as you in my life AND that I can walk forward knowing that when you passed away, you knew EXACTLY how much I love you and what the value of our friendship was.
And that gives me a lot of hope. It doesn’t lessen the sting of your absence, nor does it calm the storm of grief generated by the sight of your open casket and the mourning of your friends and family. But it gives me hope that life will continue.
I know we talked a lot in the last couple of months and you know how proud of you I was (and am) about the decisions you were making to really get back on track. And I’m not mad at you for going back to your old habits, I can’t be. I wish there was something I could have done to help you or provide more of the support that you needed during this time. But you know that I love you and that I have been praying for you every day of this process. You’ve awakened a passion in me for helping others find freedom from these kind of addictions.
You’ve always been an inspiration to me, Jenna.
Your friendship over the years has meant so much to me; from middle school adventures and getting kicked out of RiteAid every day over the summer, to camping every summer at the beach with my family, to all those pillowcases stained with mascara in high school from crying over the boys that broke our hearts over and over again, to the long talks in Starbucks since graduation and always picking up right where we left off.
I promised you that I’d sing at your wedding, remember? And last Monday I walked into a church on a day that could have been your wedding day, and instead had to listen to a pastor who didn’t really know you talk about what you brought to the world, and what you left behind. And what you left behind is a whole grip of people who loved you more than you could possibly imagine. You should have heard the things everyone said about you; about what joy you brought out in everyone around you, how you were so accepting and caring, and how you made everyone feel important. But, oh, girl, your makeup was awful on Sunday. You’d have been ashamed. I miss that phase of multi-colored eyeshadow, that was a good one.
There’s one thing left to say. Of all the decisions you made in your life, Jenna, good and bad, there is one that I didn’t know about and that one is the most important and most life-defining one of all. One of your friends from A Better Tomorrow shared at your memorial that you gave your life back to Jesus on March 13th, just about a month before you died. And to have a confidence that you are celebrating real healing up in Heaven with God is the greatest hope you could ever bestow upon me in your absence. I miss you all the time and I know that every time I say I wish I could have you back, you’d argue with me vehemently because you’re partying in the freedom that comes from being reunited with our Creator.
I have some things to remind me of you, I’m not ready to let them go yet. I know you’re happy, but it’s still hard to have you gone. Thanks for calling me on my birthday and leaving me this voicemail, I was so glad to hear that you were happy and recovering, and to have your voice and your laugh recorded brings me so much joy. And thanks to God that I still have all my ridiculous yearbooks, otherwise I wouldn’t have these pages where you wrote about how our souls are so alike, and how we will surely understand each other more and more as years go by. You wrote about how different our extra-curricular activities always have been, and reminded me to let loose and have fun sometimes, not to always take myself so seriously (I’m still working on this). And the most important words you left me with:
“Sarah, you always have been, and always will be my best friend, my big sis, my most valuable ally, and my own personal cheerleading squad. I will love you until I can’t love any more.”
Jenna Caryl Bedau, you were such a beloved friend, I don’t know how to let you go. I can’t believe the world has to go on without you in it. It’s surely a drearier world without you. Justin said, “Some birds are just too pretty to be caged.” And that’s you, love. You brought beauty and love into every room you entered and we will always miss that without you. But I know I’ll see you again someday, and we’re going to have a lot of catching up to do. You didn’t get to meet a very important man in my life, so stay tuned, I’ll tell you all about him the next time I see you.
I’ll love you until I can’t love any more, Jenna. Enjoy hanging out with the angels. And don’t tell anyone about any of the ridiculous nicknames we’ve made up for each other, or I’m gonna be pissed when I see you.