Feeling it

The Monk Chanted poem written by Jennifer L Troyer April 2019

Some days are heavier than others.

My first thought when I woke up today was, “I should call Sarah. I haven’t talked to her in weeks”. I was startled at the harsh reality that you died 10 weeks ago today. I laid in bed for the first two hours crying with stunned guilt for forgetting momentarily, only while I was asleep, that you’re gone. That you’re never coming back.

There’s so much left for us to discuss. So many memories we’ve yet to make. So many stories left to tell. Remembering all the times I wanted desperately to give you advice, but knew you just needed the opportunity to figure things out on your own. To be your own woman. When you needed advice, you asked for it, so I just tried to stay quiet. I was quietly listening and waiting.

I had a sixth sense with you. I knew when you were hurting. I knew when you were in trouble. I knew when someone had broken your heart. I knew when you needed me. I knew these things even when we were 10,000 miles apart.

You knew honesty and trust were the most important things to me. I reminded you of it all the time. I knew when you were full of shit. When you were little (and even when you were 26 years old), I knew when you were about to lie. You had a tell. You’d start a sentence with, “So…”. You lied out of some need to protect me. Or maybe it was out of a desire to avoid disappointing me.

I wish the doctors lied. I wish the Medical Examiner lied. I wish seeing you on Life Support was a lie. I wish touching your cold face at the funeral home was a lie. I wish the ashes I held in my hands were a lie.

I keep hoping you’ll call. I wish I’d saved your voice messages. Sometimes I hear your laugh or the annoying way you’d say “Mommmmm” when you thought I wasn’t paying attention. I was always paying attention.

There’s a void that simply can’t be filled. I’ve tried filling it with travels, with meditation, with music, with friends, with books, movies, and alcohol. Except for a weekend trip, I’ve stayed put the last few weeks, knowing I need to feel all of this.

I’m here. I’m feeling it. In fact, I don’t want to stop feeling it. I’m afraid if I stop feeling the pain of your absence, the memories will leave and you’ll be gone forever. But you, my sweet Sarah, you are unforgettable.

~ Jen Troyer, April 2019

Sarah’s Release – Ash Scattering Ceremony

On Sarah’s 27th birthday, I had a Buddhist Ash Scattering Ceremony at my beloved Kantiang Bay in Thailand with a local monk. Many of my Ko Lanta friends joined me as the monk blessed my daughter’s ashes. Below is what I said:

Sarah Jordan Troyer was born at 9:41 pm on April 14th, 1992. She was due two weeks earlier on April Fool’s Day. But as was typical for Sarah, she had her own schedule. For two weeks before she was born, I exercised, I did jumping jacks, I ran on the treadmill, I even got in a hot tub to try to get this kid out of me. At one point during the 36 hours of hard labor (without drugs, mind you), I stood on the bed, screamed and cursed at the doctor and nurses and pleaded with them to cut my head off and take the baby out through my neck. Four hours later, just as I was about to give up, my beautiful, bouncing 9 pound 8 ounce baby girl with a full head of auburn hair was born. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I was only 20 years old.

This baby saved me. I worked hard and I made good choices, knowing the trajectory of her life was solely in my hands. Coming home to her each night was the best. Looking back, I still have no idea how I did it. Working full time, practically being a child myself, while raising this smart, inquisitive, passionate, and very strong-willed child on my own. It was a beautifully daunting task. My mom always said I’d have a daughter just like me someday. Momma was right.

It was me and her against the world. We laughed, we sang, we danced, nearly every day of her childhood. We turned dining room tables into our own personal surf boards as we danced to The Beach Boys. We’d listen to the heartbreaking sounds of Nina Simone while Sarah asked me about The Blues, Jazz, Religion, Love, and books. Even as a little girl, she understood that music was everything. That when you’re happy you understand the music, but when you’re sad you understand the lyrics. Sarah always understood the lyrics.

When Sarah was four years old, she didn’t speak for nearly a year: instead she sang everything to the tune from The Little Mermaid. Somehow, we both survived that phase, just as we’d survived the Barney years, the Teletubbies era, and even the heartbreaking teenage years. We survived because we had each other.

At 9 years old, her teachers wanted her to skip a grade or two. She was wicked smart. I didn’t allow it. I was only 16 when I finished high school so I knew all too well that growing up too soon could be a disaster.

At 13, Sarah was accepted into a high school for “high achievers” who had an art portfolio and a good GPA. Writing was Sarah’s art. If I could go back in time and change only one thing, I would have sent her to a different school. This is where she started using heroin at the tender age of 14. I won’t go into the details. I will just say, Sarah struggled with heroin addiction for the next 13 years. Now my baby girl is gone.

Please, do not think of my daughter as just a heroin addict. She was so much more. She always had wonder in her eyes. She’d give anything she had to anyone in need. Every single animal she ever met loved her. She could make anyone laugh at any time. And she was my light.

It took Sarah 36 hours to come into this world. It took her body 36 hours to leave it, even on maximum life support. Today is 63 days since her passing. In tarot numerology, each of these numbers add up to a 9, which is The Hermit. The Hermit is always going off alone in search of spiritual wisdom. I hope Sarah is now free to find what she’s been looking for.

They say love conquers all. The phrase is well intentioned but it’s false. If love conquered all, Sarah would be alive and well. Sarah was loved immensely. **I** loved her immensely. And she loved back, fully and completely. When Sarah loved you, you knew it. You could feel her love from across the world.

I hope you can feel a little of my daughter’s love today – just as I can feel yours.

I read something about grief, which said, “You don’t need solutions. You don’t need to move on from your grief. You need someone to see your grief, to acknowledge it. You need someone to hold your hands while you stand there in blinking horror, staring at the hole that was your life. Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”

Thank you for being here and for helping me carry this grief. I love you all.

I’ll conclude with Sarah’s favorite poem, I carry your heart, by EE Cummings:

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart) I am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)

I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) I want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than soul can hope, or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

Jen Troyer ~ April 2019

Did you know?

The loss of hope. That’s the worst. I thought I’d given up all hope. It wasn’t until you died that I realized there was a reservoir. That I always thought you’d get better. Perhaps one more rehab. Perhaps each relapse would be your last. And it was your last, but not with a bright outcome.

Your moments of clarity, of longing to do better. A hankering to shake the addiction. Those moments when you were so very yourself. Those were the moments I lived for, Sweetie. Seeing your strength, your compassion, your kindness, your humor, your love of family. You were so highly functioning that we tended to momentarily forget your dark suffering.

I’m so afraid people will only remember you as an addict. Not as the girl with wonder in her eyes. The girl who’d give anything she had to anyone in need. The girl who never met an animal that didn’t fall in love with her. The girl who could make anyone laugh, and always unexpectedly. The girl who questioned everything – and I loved you for it.

I know you hated disappointing me, but did you know? Did you know I was so proud of you? That stubborn streak, which you got from me, that fire that always burned in your eyes. Wanting the world to be a better place. Wanting to help make it a better place. Did I tell you enough that I was so proud of those parts of you? Did you know that I knew family was the most important thing to you? Did I tell you enough that you meant everything to me? Did I tell you enough that with all my accomplishments, the single greatest thing I ever did was raise my two beautiful children? That’s what I thank my lucky stars for. That’s always been the most beautiful part of my life. Did you know?

Did you know how many times you saved me? As a young twenty something year old mother, coming home to you kept me from making bad decisions. Day in and day out, I just wanted to be the best mommie for you. When you were six you asked me what Reincarnation meant, asked if I believed in it, and asked if you could come back as an animal. You told me if you were ever reincarnated, you’d come back as a butterfly so you would always be beautiful and would bring beauty to me whenever I was sad. I said, “But daughters don’t die before their momies, silly”. Maybe you knew.

I know I failed you in many ways. Perhaps if I hadn’t, you’d still be here. Maybe if I’d told you one more time how much I love you. Then maybe you would have shaken the addiction. Then maybe you wouldn’t have given up. Then maybe you’d have come home to me. I recited the 4 C’s so many fucking times over the years: I didn’t Cause it, I can’t Control it, I can’t Cure it, and I can’t Condone it. It became my mantra. That and, “You won’t love my child to death”. Jesus, what if my mantra had been more positive?

What if I’d known when I saw you last, on Christmas Day, that it was the last time I’d ever see you alive? When you removed Marah’s necklace with her ashes and asked me to put it in my safe, I was worried. I asked you what it meant. You told me it meant “put it in your effing safe”. But Sweetie, if I’d known, really known… I would have held you longer. I would have asked you the hard questions; the ones you hated talking about. I would have asked anyway. I would have said I’m sorry. I would have told you how much you inspired me. I would have told you how proud I was to be your mom. I would have begged you to stay longer.

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve – that’s what I’m left with.

Honestly, I expected a phone call from a hospital or a morgue many times over the years. I WAS NOT PREPARED. I’d been in Thailand less than two hours when I got the call. There can be no preparation for THE CALL. “Your daughter was brought in as Ursula Doe and is on ‘Maximum Life Support’. Her heart stopped at least two hours before an ambulance was even called. Sarah as you knew her will never leave this hospital. Your daughter is brain dead. We can’t declare her dead until she’s warm and dead. We’ll keep her body warm for you until you can get here. ”

But I didn’t get there in time. For 36 hours I watched your body via video chat with my sisters. I watched our whole family say their goodbyes. I said my goodbye over video chat. Over fucking video chat! Who does that?! We turned the machines off and within 5 minutes your body was dead. 10 minutes later I left for the airport. Thanks to the freak snow storm and a back-up at the Medical Examiner’s office, it would be another 8 days before I could see your body and say goodbye in person.

I had 15 minutes with you. I looked at all your tattoos, hoping they weren’t yours. Selfishly wishing that was someone else’s dead 26-year-old baby girl lying there. I begged the Universe to take somebody else’s, anybody else’s child instead. When my deal with the devil didn’t work, the memories of you as a little girl with stars in your eyes came flooding back. I had 15 minutes to stroke your hair, your forehead, your eyebrows and your nose, just like when you were little and would drift off to sleep. It was almost like you were sleeping then. Since I didn’t have your body embalmed, when I held your hand, your fingers fell over mine. We were holding hands. Sweetie, did you know I was there? Did you hear me say it was okay to go? The hardest words I’ve ever spoken.

We had four Thai Buddhist Monks bless your body before cremation. They chanted the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard, helping you to transition to your next life, if there is one. They told me to make “happy wishes” so you could transition in peace, knowing I’d be okay. But Sweetie, I’m not okay. Sarah, I don’t think I’ll ever be okay.

The rest of the world is walking around, living their lives, oblivious to your absence. I want to scream at them. I want to make them remember your name and shout at the top of their lungs, SARAH, SARAH, SARAH! Maybe if we all scream your name at the same time, you’ll come back. But you won’t. I want them all to know about the great black, gaping, cavernous hole your absence has left in my very being. And I know I’m not the only one. Your brother, your oma and opa, your aunts and uncle, your dear friends, we’re all shaken. We all love you so much. We all had hope.

But hope is gone. My reservoir is empty. My heart is shattered. The Earth’s axis is off! Nothing is aligned properly. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. Parents shouldn’t bury their children. This is wrong! I’ve joined the secret club of parents who’ve outlived their children. I never liked secret clubs.

The words ringing in my ears these last six weeks are the end of the poem Funeral Blues:

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I know life will go on. I know I’ll eventually get used to the pain. Like stomach ulcers, you just get used to it. But I don’t believe “Time heals all wounds”, “It was God’s will”, or any of the other absurd things well-intentioned yet incredibly naïve people say out of their desperate desire to be comforting. For now, I’m just going to feel this pain instead of burying it. Remember burying it? That thing we both perfected over the years? That stops with me. I’m changing it now.

According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in the final bardo you see all these people making love but there’s one particular couple you’re drawn to. As you approach them, there’s a bright light. This is the moment of your conception, the moment you’ve chosen your parents for your next life. This is your rebirth.

My therapist reminded me of the final bardo and said she believes you chose me to be your mother. That no other woman could have taken this journey with you, while setting healthy boundaries, without ever giving up on you, without ever losing hope, and yet still loving you the exact way you needed to be loved. Who knows, maybe it’s all complete bullshit. But I take great comfort in thinking how completely and utterly lucky I am that I got to share this journey with you for nearly 27 years. I’m out of hope but I’m not out of love. I will love you eternally. And I promise to never forget you.

Thank you for allowing me the great privilege of being your mom. Thank you for choosing me.

Jen Troyer ~ March 2019

Why

This was placed in the casket with Sarah for her cremation:

Tell me why

I’m begging you to explain it to me

Tell me why you had to go. Why was it your turn?

Tell me why I couldn’t save you

Tell me why you suffered

Tell me why you had a void that could never be filled

Tell me why I can no longer hope for your future

Tell me why I’ll never know what you could have been

Tell me why I’ll never hold you again or caress your hair when you’re hurting

Tell me why I’ll never walk you down the aisle

Tell me why I’ll never see your face light up when you have your own child

Tell me why you were alone when your heart stopped. Was your heart so broken that it just couldn’t beat anymore? Mine is.

Tell me why you gave up

Tell me why you didn’t ask Oma for boots at Christmas, as you’ve done every year

Tell me why you weren’t wearing shoes. Were your feet cold in the snow?

Tell me why we’ll never have another Christmas together

Tell me what to do on your birthday in a few weeks

Tell me how to heal

Tell me how to help your brother’s heart heal

I wish you would have come to Thailand with me. I think it would have calmed you the way it’s calmed me. You’ll be with me now wherever I go.

I love you dearly, my sweet little girl. I love you more than you ever knew.

The Buddha said,

Life is a journey.
Death is a return to earth.
The universe is like an inn.
The passing years are like dust.

Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp – a phantom – and a dream. *
*Vairacchedika 32.

Jen Troyer ~ February 2019

Sarah Jordan Troyer, 04.14.92 – 02.10.19

Sarah was a beautiful soul with a compassionate heart, a fierce dedication to family and friends, and an incredible love for animals.

She was a daughter, sister, niece, grandaughter, great grandaughter, cousin and friend.

Sarah’s body passed Sunday, February 10, 2019. On Monday, February 18, 2019, surrounded by her family, Sarah’s body was blessed by 4 Thai Buddhist Monks before cremation.

Sarah’s favorite poem:
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)
EE Cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Sarah,

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be,”

I love you, Sweetie.

Mom

Airport Aorta, January 2019

this is what I wanted

THIS IS WHAT I WANTED!

said through smoke rings

the smoking room at the airport

my VIP club

the broken hearts club

the airport my aorta

sending oxygenated blood to the two main chambers of my heart

thailand and seattle my ventricles

pieces of myself scattered around the world

leaving is losing

~ Jen Troyer, January 2019

Post War, September 2018

Post War

Turns out five was not my magical number
Perhaps just evidence of life spent in slumber
Of doubts and fears proven true over the years

Hook, line, and sinker, I fell for the con
Withdrawn, tired of being your ex-wife’s pawn
Didn’t take long, realized it was time to be movin’ on

Red flags, all of ‘em I chose to ignore
We killed it. There’s nothing left to restore
I got tired of being the prisoner in your inept war

Oh, you were tired of swimming upstream?
Thought it was time to step on my life’s dream?
Well get in line, buttercup. Shit only floats downstream

You tried taking what wasn’t yours. Something you never even worked for!
Thought I’d be your money whore? Well I’m broke now and to quote Poe, never fucking more

I’m no lifesaver. Not the creator or your savior
Not putting up with your lazy-ass behavior
Get out of my way. I’ve got my own dreams. My own demons to slay

I went along for the ride, witnessed the dark side
Watched as your entitlement was amplified
This bitch, she does not abide, no longer willing to be somebody’s bride

The intensity of my reality
That thing about me you so crave
Thought you’d ride my epic tidal wave
Step off babe, I’ve only got myself to save

No longer coupled, You and me
Don’t need to be livin’ in treachery
Return to your basement of lies
There’s nothing left to agonize

Welcome to the new me, the Phoenix, watch as I rise
It took a while, but I saw through your disguise
Not bathing in love or baptized. A ship wrecked, marriage capsized

You had it all, so content
Lazing on my couch, satisfied with my lament
Thought you’d watch my descent
Hey, that $80K you stuck me with… money well spent

Welcome to the Post War

~ Jen Troyer, September 2018

Saving Myself

So… I’ve had a recurring dream since I was 12 years old. I have it whenever I’m extremely stressed out. There are 4 versions of the dream, but in each scenario, there’s a big wave that takes me out to sea and 1 specific person who can save me, if only she’ll reach out her hand and try.

20 years ago I consulted a dream interpreter, who explained that waves are emotions and said I felt like I was put into a situation I didn’t deserve (as a teenager) and am resentful that I wasn’t rescued. She suggested that each time I have this dream, I stop trying to be saved. That’s when I really got into dream interpretation.

I’m currently at the apex of my stress level. Selling my big home, building a home in Thailand, moving to a live/work space and floating a rental home in another country, all while having work done on my house, going through a surprisingly nasty divorce, totaling my car, and now re-homing the loves of my life, Humphrey and Bogie. That’s a lot for the average Joe, but it’s even a lot for bad-ass me.

Cut to early this morning just before I woke up. I’m having another wave dream, but this time, it’s a little girl I see swept out to sea and drowning. I run into the water, swim way out to the blue to get her, pull her up to the beach, do CPR and I save her. I saved her! That’s when I realized I was looking down at myself. The little girl was me. I FINALLY SAVED MYSELF. 30 years of therapy and I’ve finally saved myself.

This is for all the warrior women. May we become our own heroes.

~ Jen Troyer, July 2018

Digression, May 2018

Digression

Only hurt people hurt people
That’s what I keep saying… in this bed where I keep laying
Waiting for the pain to stop or the other shoe to drop
Waiting for the tears to decrease or maybe for my heart’s beating to cease

“Love”… We carelessly throw it around or vainly wear it like a goddamn crown
We so desperately put up with its bullshit, being thankful we even have it
Our heart’s very betrayal is purchasing the fairytale portrayal

True love is unconditional? Bullshit, it’s predictable and fictional.
Romeo and Juliet can kiss my ass. The thing about dying is not living with the past.
Except I believe in Karma so maybe losing love or quitting it is my Dharma.

I’ll move away, you can’t/won’t ask me to stay
Just old history, fading into the periphery, free of love’s misery
Gone is the allegiance now we can be strangers with secrets

Instead of hate, let this heart once again palpitate
I’m a cat with nine lives, my heart resurrected too many times
I absolve you. You are free. This time love, The Phoenix, she is me.

Anymore I’m not even sure who I’m writing this for
Maybe it’s for me, maybe for you, all my loves swirling around in a mystery stew
The loves of Jen: of mice, women and men

I digress. Love suppressed.

~ Jen Troyer, May 2018

Little Girl Lost, December 2017

Little Girl Lost

I knew as your mother at twenty-three
My job was always to choose you over me
I sacrificed so you could be free
Little girl, heroin is NOT your destiny

Remember wanting to be a fire fighter
Your life was supposed to be easy and lighter
Tables have turned, you’re unconcerned
The fire you fight is with yourself at night

Denial so vile, the heart can’t reconcile
Selling your self-esteem
For tar in your bloodstream
This is NOT the American Dream

The addict’s con requires participation
Hope springs eternal
The desperation of trepidation

Didn’t sharing my pain and struggles
Absolve my children of future troubles

The sermons I gave urging you to be brave
Not heroin’s slave
Little girl it’s time
Stop digging your grave

You’re twenty-five now, should be grown
These choices you’ve made all on your own
It’s not too late to atone.
Little girl, just pick up the phone.

The present and the past, the feelings so vast
My baby girl lost
MY HEART’S HOLOCAUST

Treason for no reason
The lying, crying, trying…
Watching my little girl slowly dying

“Where did I go wrong?” “Didn’t I teach you to be strong?”
My heart’s questions an interrogation
My love not enough to resist temptation

The confusion of my illusion
The frustration of the situation
My pain. Your agony. Be free of this tragedy

My love a flotation device; not enough to suffice
Help yourself, choose to be free
This time, baby girl, YOU choose you over me.

~ Jen Troyer, December 2017