Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 15, 2013

Laughter and love one year later

Dearest Jocelyn: There are a lot of people missing you and thinking of you as we come today to the anniversary of your passing. You were not a shrinking wallflower, so your absence is a huge presence.

People talk about missing your laugh, your ever-present singing (and we do mean ever-present), and your smile. That smile ... most of all, we miss that because it shined like the sun. The dark moods admittedly cast dark clouds that blocked that sun, so we really appreciated that smile when it was shining and we miss it.

And the singing baby voice that made our whole family laugh. The contrast was quite amusing ... you singing lyrics from Britney Spears or Rihanna, sounding like a toddler. You’d hate that I told everyone about that but ... oh, well! It’s a memory that makes me laugh so I want to share it.

I miss you in the strangest and sometimes silliest ways.

The milk was the first strange thing that struck me as I reached into the refrigerated case at the grocery store only a few weeks after your death. I grabbed the gallon of 1 percent we always buy in twos, one to have active and the other in reserve, and then I realized that we had to throw out some of the last gallon jug. I shut the door and stood there looking at the case. It was a moment that struck me cold and real. I blinked myself back into the present and opened the door and grabbed a half gallon jug. I still don’t like buying a half gallon jug of 1 percent milk.

One of your friends set up the bedroom that was designated to be yours in our new home when we moved three weeks after you left. Sometimes I try to ignore it but it always feels painfully odd walking through that room that you’ve never slept in. Your bulletin board is propped up on your desk with photos and movie tickets still pinned there, the furry black collapsible chair your VA friends gave you in 6th grade sits in the corner, and new bedding-because I promised you new bedding when we moved — is stretched out on your always neatly-made bed.

That’s the strangest thing about that room. It’s always neat. There aren’t clothes strewn across the floor and piled in that furry black chair. The bureau drawers don’t hang open. That’s another one of those moments where your absence feels so real. That, and the constantly clean condition of your bathroom.

I also miss you and your sister’s after dinner kitchen clean up party. It may not have felt like a party to you two, but it often looked and sounded like one — with music blaring, you dancing, loud singing punctuated by laughter and shouting. Even if I had to nag you two to get the job done, I always smiled to myself as I walked out of the room, leaving you two to team up on the work and the complaining.

I miss how there would be some running-late-to-church drama, yelling included, which would be soon quieted during the praise and worship music when you’d reach over, slip your arm around me and we’d sway to the music and sing. I think I’ll always tear up during music at church if there are guitars and a drum set and that memory of swaying and singing.

I miss you coming into my bathroom to borrow something or steal my new facial product.

I miss cracking your back, which I always hated doing.

I miss your hugs.

I miss a lot of things.

Sometimes, I seem to have grasped that you are truly gone. Other times, I still shake my head in bewilderment. Sometimes I simply can’t wrap my head around the fact that this truly happened to you and to us. We will never fully understand it. We will never know how you went from being that funny, confident, sweet, easy kid to being an angry, depressed, insecure and damaged beauty who let ugliness in the world and sadness in her bring her down, farther than we thought possible.

I find great comfort in the belief that you are at peace now. Some people don’t believe in heaven or any kind of afterlife but I’ve experienced things I can’t explain and that’s proof enough for me. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I admit we are still sometimes angry. Angry that you stole your future from you and from us. But we still love you. Always. And we still have our lives to live and I won’t let that be stolen by your death.

Several months ago, I asked a mother how she lived her life differently after her 26-year-old son died by suicide. “I lived a fuller life,” she answered. “I stopped saying, ‘One day I’ll do this or that.’ I started doing it. I went back to school and changed careers. I travel more. I live a more full life in his honor.”

It is my hope and prayer that we all do that, Jocelyn. All of us who know you or even know of you. We should live a more full life — fearless, hopeful, and boldly loving — so our lives can overshadow your death rather than the other way around. That way your smile lives on, lighting up rooms through others. Your smile becomes as limitless as the lives we can all lead.

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

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