By JALETTA ALBRIGHT DESMOND
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Jocelyn never expressed an interest in being a teacher, but she taught many people lessons they say they’ll never forget.
My daughter would turn 18 on Jan. 27. I want to share with you the lessons learned, the gifts given, that others felt she gave in life and in death. But, first, I want to share something I posted a while ago on her Facebook page, a place where many of us gather to remember her: “It is evident when I read this page how much you are missed, Joc. How terribly big and gaping is the hole left in so many lives. I pray that these words of affection and longing to have you here read as a cautionary tale to anyone feeling alone and desperate enough to do what you did, Jocelyn. Nothing is solved with suicide. It only spreads the pain around to everyone else. So, I hope no one touched by the love expressed here, and feeling alone in their own lives, romanticizes this or glamorizes it ... because, we can all tell you, this grief isn’t pretty or glamorous. And anyone who feels alone should know that she sometimes felt that way, too. But she was wrong. She was only alone in her own mind. Because we all held her in our hearts. Always.”
What follows, anonymously, are just some of the messages and comments others shared about lessons Jocelyn taught them:
• “Some people live 71 years and their lives do not have the impact that Jocelyn’s 17 years have contributed to this world. She was such a person of contrasts that she challenged us to look at ourselves differently. She was smart, funny, talented, intense, somber and feisty. And looking at the world and myself differently are some of the lessons that Jocelyn has taught me. I now know that sometimes people can be in such deep pain that no matter how much love, support and kindness is showered upon them, they are not able to take it all in. I also believe that it is not about making a choice to live or die, it is about ending pain. It is hard for me to understand that deep-seated pain. But one thing I do know is that I will speak up and not remain silent about how Jocelyn lived and how she died. There is much to learn from both.” — L.
• “Jocelyn taught me that a beautiful 16-year-old girl ruffling the hair of a shy 12-year-old boy can do more for that boy than one would have thought possible. That a smile really can light up a room. That pain can take many forms. That love is sometimes found in the most unexpected places. What Jocelyn taught me in her leaving was to slow down, to love hard, to hold hands, and to say ‘I love you’ more freely.” — anonymous
“She taught me that confidence is important. She taught me how to stick up for myself, and for those who can’t do it themselves. She taught me how to be more outgoing and to be silly. She taught me that it’s OK to cry sometimes. She taught me that brownies taste better when they are not cooked, and that Diet Coke makes me sick. She really taught me what a true best friend is.” — B.
• “You encouraged me to embrace who I am. I know it must make you smile to see how much more outgoing I am.” — H.
• “She was always the one that stuck up for herself and others. She always had the best advice. People may look like they have no pain on the outside when, really, they keep it in.” — A.
• “Jocelyn, you have slowly changed my way of thinking about everything. I appreciate more, have more patience, forgive more, and love more. Because of you I have stopped and cherished amazing moments with my friends and family more. I just wish I did all these things before you passed. You didn’t just teach me things after your passing but before too. You taught me to come out my shell and not to care what people thought about me. I honestly would not be as social if it wasn’t for you. — L.
• “You have inspired my optimism and changed my outlook on life and I thank you for that. You’ve taught me to treat everyone with the respect they deserve and to stand up for what I believe in. While it’s a hard situation, I thank God all the time for being blessed with you as a friend.” — J.
• “I have set my heart on pursuing my masters in education/school counseling. I want to help teens navigate their high school years and assist their parents as well. If I can reach one child ... assist one in getting their future into focus, resolve one issue, I will be satisfied. I cannot say that this decision was made simply based on the loss of Jocelyn, but it was coupled with other thoughts that I have had for quite some time. The puzzle has finally locked into place for me.” — anonymous
• “Her death has helped me to be more compassionate and think about individual struggles that a person may have. I have learned to pay more attention to what people are saying and more importantly what they are not saying. To listen for the pain. I now go out of my way for others and try to be available if they need me.” — B.
• A final posting to Jocelyn from someone who understands internal pain much more than most of us: “In your passing you’ve showed me just how many people care. Thank you for helping me realize the amount of suffering and sadness I’d leave in the wake of my absence if I had succeeded in killing myself. That amount of sadness will always outweigh that of my own, so thank you for showing me that living is the answer.” — anonymous
There’s no greater lesson Jocelyn could leave behind than that. She may have only been with us for 17 years but the lessons from her life and death will last a lifetime.
Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.