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On Jocelyn - Cris Stoddard

 

April 29, 2002

 

What value will I carry away from this tragedy?  Toward what purpose can I put this loss so that my life and her life will benefit with a total victory over the negativity inherent in this violent act?

 

Jocelyn’s benefit in my life had been to imbue me with certain characteristics – she was a model for me in many ways of how I wanted to interact with the world, of the good person I could be.  She always saw that good person in me even when I could not, even when we fought so much that in the moment she did not.  She told me that she always knew I was a good person and that she so valued my role in her life.

 

My relationship with her was the first major adult relationship I had with a woman.  I thought, as did she at that time, that we would be lifelong partners.  I was 22, she was 24. We had no money and I had no sense at all of how to be an adult, to have responsibilities, or even to have goals.  Jocelyn had a strong send of self, a strong moral conviction, and an idea of what she wanted her life to have.  She taught me the value of what I was doing, thinking, consuming and desiring at any given moment.  She made me question anything that I thought I knew.   She made me laugh and she made me feel safe.

 

Unfortunately, I was a young little self-absorbed shit-head and despite my best intentions, I had no spine, no courage, no honesty with which to live my life.  As I have stated ever since we broke up, I had found the woman that I did want to spend the rest of my life with but I found her before I had learned painful lessons.  I lost her because I had to learn painful lessons.  I looked for her in many subsequent relationships until I finally found a part of her in the Self that I needed to become.  By the time I had found me, I had thought that I had lost her – she had moved to Ohio, unbeknownst to me at that time.

 

I lived my life in ignorance of her and whenever I caught up with my two closest friends, Laura and Kayt, we often asked, “Gee, I wonder where Joc is?”

 

I moved last fall to western Massachusetts.  Not long after I got there, I read an issue of Lesbian Connections and discovered her name and number listed as a ‘contact dyke.’  I was stunned. I was so happy to learn that I had found her.  I was so happy to know that she was still herself – that she would list herself as a contact – a resource, a connection.  This was Jocelyn’s heart – she found the humanity in all of humanity and desired to connect with other humans.  I believe that this came from her very being and that her family fostered that sense of care for world in her.  She loved her family and I know she felt some pain too at not feeling more connected to them.

 

I know that she felt pain at feeling disconnected, period.  This is a human condition and Jocelyn was very sensitive to it.  She has not had, as have I not had, the greatest track record with relationships.  Yet, she gave her time, her heart, and her life freely – as can be witnessed by the work she put into every job she ever had, the connections she made with people at CC, and the impact she has had on – well, my life for certain.  She gave generously of her time and strength to others and I believe this generousity helped to mitigate the disconnections she felt in life.

 

So, having found her number, I then remembered that I had never fully made amends to her for the ways in which I had failed her.  I was too embarrassed to call her.  I was too afraid to call her.  I thought that I could just wait and maybe that courage would come to me and then I could reconnect with her.

 

About one week later, I received an email from her.  In her usual steadfast and determined way, she had set about to find me and so she searched the Internet until she did.  What she had found was an old posting on usenet in a dog forum in which I was having a belligerent argument with someone I had deemed a prick.  I learned righteous indignation before having met Jocelyn but my experience with her righteous indignation had taught me well.   If you acted like an asshole to me, I would climb up into your face and tell you that you were an unmitigated asshole.  I know Jocelyn never held back as well.  Anyway, this posting to usenet from 1996 had my email address on it and this is how she found me.

 

There are very few moments in our lives when any of us actually get a chance to rectify our pasts.  Somehow, when I received her email, I found the courage to immediately apologize for the ways in which I had let her down and I earnestly spoke to her from my heart about how much I loved her and how happy I was to have her back in my life.  Jocelyn is and was always the family that I never had and I felt an enormous sense of relief at being reconnected with her.  To my great joy, she responded with an abundant and embracing love and told me that she was back in my life to stay and that she hoped we would share the future together as friends.  I connected her up with our mutual friend, Laura, for her recent trip to Texas. Laura later had called me after Joc had left to report how overjoyed she was that Jocelyn was back in her life again, too.

 

Jocelyn encouraged me, motivated me, and moved me.  She felt strongly about all of her connections and she felt great pain at the ‘disconnects’ she had felt in her own life. I was looking forward to flying out here to visit her and to talk with her, to really connect with her.  I hoped that I could influence her with my new sense of self to help her overcome her sense of disconnect.  I hoped to be able to repay her my debt of gratitude by being able to offer her encouragement, support, love, a guiding hand.

 

Of course, I let my daily life and the few 1000 miles of distance interfere with calling her as much as she wanted me to do.  She called and left messages that I swore I’d return.  On April 18, 2002, two Thursdays ago, she composed a hand written letter and enclosed a Michelle Shocked CD and photos of herself and Juno and August.  I did not go to check my PO Box until just this past Saturday, April 27, 2002.  I cried when I opened the package because it touched me so how sincerely she felt about reconnecting with me.  Not 30 minutes later, I was involved in an auto accident whereupon an old man backed his truck over the hood of my Honda, crumpling the front end.

 

I was so livid and yet so aware of my anger.  I wanted to get up into this man’s face and tell him to go to hell for crumpling my car.  Instead, I folded my arms and said nothing.  I am trying to control and to contain the rage in my life and to spread peace and dialogue in the world – not pain and discord.  However, this accident so ruined my day that I decided to not attend a concert for which I had tickets – WAMFest – also for which Jocelyn had written about in her letter to me.  When the phone rang and it was the 719 area code, I figured it was Jocelyn asking about the concert and I decided not to pick up the phone.

 

When the phone rang early the next morning from 719, I really wondered why the hell she had to be so tenacious about reconnecting with me.  When I saw the color drain from my roommate’s face as she handed the phone to me, I wondered why I was still so selfish – I knew something was wrong.  When I heard a voice that told me she was Tina Pettit calling from Colorado with bad, bad news…. I wondered if people would never stop dying in my life.

 

I have, to date, lost about 39 close friends to death of one sort or the other.  Motorcycle accidents, drug overdoses, suicides, AIDS, cancer.  It is my plague in life and my greatest fear has always, always been losing one of my former lovers.  I never wanted to feel the agony of losing someone whom I had slept with, or romanced by, or otherwise intimately involved.  For me, the pain of not being connected to any of my ex’s had always been a hardship and a sore spot.  I know Jocelyn felt that way as well – she told me so.  We both asked each other why those we had been involved with shied away from us.  I surmised that everyone needs time and space to heal from their own pains… that I had an ex or two that I really wanted nothing to do with.  She told me that now that she’d found me, she would never go away from me and I concurred and we both took comfort in that sense of connectedness.

 

I almost told Tina what she was trying to tell me.  I asked, “oh no, this isn’t that, is it, this isn’t ‘bad bad’ is it?  This is just ‘bad’, right?  Not ‘bad bad’.”  Babbling.

 

Her next words stunned me.  I knew by the call that Jocelyn was dead and I was already trying to process the profound sense of loss I was starting to feel. When she told me that Jocelyn had been murdered and then the circumstances of that crime, as she then understood it, I was dumbfounded, enraged, shocked, stunned, and so so so so so very sad.

 

It felt and feels unfair. Unfinished.

 

This will never make sense to me.  “Why” it happened will never be understood.  That it happened and that it has consequences is all that can be understood.  That there are so many twists and turns of fate in my personal story of her will not likely be understood.  But that her death _must_ have some value is essential.  It is what we do with our knowledge that makes all the difference and it is how we live our lives after we are impacted by an undeniable event that then shapes our lives and our worlds.

 

Jocelyn will never be meaningless so long as my memory of her, and your memories of her, translate into some action taken on her behalf and on our own behalves.  Whatever ‘lesson’ or ‘moral’ that can be drawn will be different for us all… but her gift of herself to me means that I must be more earnest and diligent in my gift of my life to all of those who come my way and who came my way.  My anger, my indignation, my sorrow, my fears are not what is of value.  It is my joy of life, my compassion for others, my determinations to help and to guide, to mentor others, my willingness to work as hard as it takes to accomplish my dreams and goals…. These are all things I learned from Jocelyn and all the very things that I can carry on with to ensure that her life is an eternal well from which others may benefit.

 

She _loved_ living.  She reveled in music – that was her haven and her refuge.  She loved being in a community of music – she loved going to shows and listening to music and spinning music and she loved everyone she worked with at CC.  I know this because when we last spoke to each other she made sure to tell me how much the folks at CC meant to her.  She knew that it is through culture – through music and the arts – that people are touched and she contributed to that touching of other people’s lives by all of the work she did around music. Maybe I am making it grander than you might think, but I know her and I know she has a love for humanity that makes her a true bodhisattva of this saha world.  I know that I can uphold her values around contributing to the world culturally.  I know that I can carry on in her tradition of mentoring people but never being condescending to people.

 

She made time for people.  This was a very core value of hers and I am battling with my shame for how I do not make time for people.  I can determine to carry on her tradition of making time for people and for checking in with people no matter the relationship.  I believe that she had no regrets about the efforts she had been making in recent months to get it all straight with everyone she had ever connected with in her life.  I am eternally grateful that she sought me out and I will courageously attend to this in my own life in order to keep her spirit alive.

 

The circumstances of her death are difficult.  Why did she leave her vehicle?  Who did she encounter?  What was the encounter about?  Who started it?  How did it come to end as it did?  What role did she play in the outcome?  I know my last statement may seem inappropriate but Jocelyn would not hedge the question had she been alive.  No one is perfect in any given moment.  We don’t yet know what happened and it is futile to speculate.  However, I need to carry away from this a pledge in my life to not contribute to violence on any level.  Christ called this turning the other cheek, Gandhi and King both preached non-violence, and my mentor in faith tells us to battle for our happiness and to create harmony in our lives and in our world regardless of external circumstance.  I want her murder swiftly and justly avenged.  I want to carry myself in such a way that I don’t worsen the roles that violence plays on this stage.   I want you all to do the same – I really want to show from her senseless, meaningless, horrific death that a greater good is at the end of all evil.  Specifically, that greater good is how we each change as a result of this tragedy and how we each vow to not perpetuate the senselessness of violence in each of our lives.

 

I am really talking to each of you directly.  That GF or BF you want to nag or to decimate due to some perceived wrong?  Think again.  That asshole who called you some name as you walked by?  Think again.  The boss, the parent, the whatever – whoever – whatever that brings that animalistic desire to fight?  Whoever murdered Jocelyn carried something within themselves that allowed them to stab her that we all carry within us, which we all manifest when we dismiss someone critically, when we gossip maliciously, or judge or condemn, or hate.  The hate we show to others by being rude or passive or unkind is also the hate with which we can treat ourselves – our pain of disconnectedness.

 

Besides that I will not in this lifetime be able to sit with Jocelyn and to laugh with her again, that greatest pain I have is that this woman, who loved so many of us, felt disconnected.  True, she told me that she was happier than she’d ever been but she also carried a pain of separation about her.  That she died alone, face down, in the early morning, so close to home and yet so far away… this is the most painful thing to me.  This is the greatest tragedy for she lived her life so gregariously so for so many people.  She LOVED all of you.  I am disgusted that she died alone.  We abandon each other in a multitude of ways daily – I am determined to not abandon anyone again as this incident so outrages me.  Jocelyn should have lived to be 100 and should have had each of us waiting on her hand and foot.  She should have outlived her parents.  She should not have died ALONE.

I love her, I have loved her since I met her, and I will love her into the unimaginably long future.  I am grateful beyond words that something motivated Tina Pettit enough to call me to let me know what had happened and I thank you for letting me have this closure with Jocelyn in a very public way.  I hope her family sees how loved she is and how their contribution to her life was so, so very valuable.  Because of the Sandbergs, we had Jocelyn, we had a huge slice of love in our lives.   I hope everyone realizes how much she loved you – she TOLD me that she loved you guys.  I hope I can weather the painful loss that reconnecting with her and then so suddenly losing her is.  I most sincerely hope that each of walks into the world with something valuable to carry through our lives so that her spirit walks the planet.

 

And I sure do hope she’s able to be somewhere enjoying the terrible irony that her former lovers and her current friends and her family all gathered in the same place, Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College, to honor her one fine Spring morning in 2002.

 

 

"once the realization is accepted

that even between the closest of human

beings infinite distances continue to exist,

then a wonderful loving side by side can grow up,

if each succeeds in seeing the other

whole and against a wide sky." –rilke

 

 

my life closed twice before its close

it yet remains to see

if immortality unveil

a third event to me

 

so huge, so hopeless to conceive

as these that twice befell

for parting is all we know of sorrow

and all we need of hell.

 

-emily dickinson

 

 

 

 

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