From Seed to Cocktail–In Memoriam

I had just been talking with a co-worker about growing tomatoes, and how I was late planting the tomato seeds I’d gotten at a friend’s funeral back in October, when I found out that that friend’s wife, Jodi, had died.

As usual, I’m struggling with the appropriate response…both virtually and in the real world. I’ve been on her Facebook wall repeatedly, tapping out letters and words that I then delete, feeling confused about just what is the appropriate response in the time immediately following the death of a friend.

After all, Facebook is where you wish “Happy Birthday” to people you rarely, if ever, see face-to-face, right? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with posting an RIP message on somebody’s Facebook wall.   But to honor the person in this case, there’s a need for something other than drive-by (surf-by?) condolences. And, no, I’m not considering this piece to be the adequate response.

The message I kept reworking essentially came down to this…

Jodi had been battling that vicious monster since before I met her, over 12 years ago. She fought with such grace and tenacity that I was sure she would outlive us all. And if the kindness one unleashes in the world, and the reverberations of that kindness, count in the tally of one’s years, then I’m sure she will.

In case there’s any question, the above isn’t one of those bullshit eulogies, like when Richard Nixon died, and suddenly everybody remembered what a great guy he was, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary.  Everybody who met Jodi loved Jodi.  And I’m pretty sure that would have held, even if she had been tied to some ridiculous scandal that led to a widespread loss of faith in American democracy.

Jodi was just one of those people who was funny, warm, and fun to be around. She could slap you with a sarcastic comment that made you instantly feel like a part of her family. She seemed to have a bottomless well of good will and giving. She was the kind of person who lived her life, with cancer, better than most of us live our lives in good health.

A friend of mine from college, Jared, had a semi-serious theory that when a person dies, that person’s soul explodes into a whole bunch of little pieces, which blast out into the world, and attach themselves to the souls of all the people who ever loved that person, becoming a part of all of those people. Jared’s evidence for this was that, when his grandfather died, he was suddenly taken with the urge to go out fishing—something that he had never done, but his grandfather had done religiously. Jared described a beautiful, solitary day out on a lake, where all the love he had felt for his grandfather resolved itself into a sense of peace in regard to his grandfather’s passing, and the meaning of his grandfather’s life, and the lives of us all.

Now, I can’t say that I subscribe to Jared’s theory of exploded souls.   But a weirdly similar sense of “exploded soul attachment” hit me shortly after I received the news of Jodi’s passing. Of course, I was knocked off balance. I wondered if I should leave for the rest of the shift, out of concern that I might be overwhelmed with the demands of assisting people through crisis situations. I gave my co-workers a heads up, essentially enlisting their help in ensuring I didn’t make a mess of things.

But instead of the feared distraction and destruction, I felt imbued with a sense of caring and connection with the clients, which is often difficult to engage. That is, as something of a survival technique for the job, it’s necessary to avoid getting caught up in the drama and emotion of the lives of clients, while also being able to convey a sense of empathy. It’s a difficult balancing act to keep an appropriate sense of distance, without disengaging. But all I felt was calm, a sense of presence with the clients that can be difficult to maintain while also staying on top of the other elements of the job.

Supposing for a minute that the theory of exploding souls is true, my piece of Jodi’s soul manifested itself in the feelings of calmness I experienced—an ability to connect and remain in the moment. Even my exchanges with clients I have spoken to hundreds of times were a bit more ‘in the now.’

I’m going to try to hang onto that little piece of her soul.

And for now, I’m going to get those tomato seeds in their pots, and think on how glad I am to have had the opportunity to craft and share a few lakeside, breakfast Bloody Marys with Jodi.

bloody mary


49 thoughts on “From Seed to Cocktail–In Memoriam

  1. The important thing is to say something. Too many people remain silent in fear of saying the wrong thing. Well done.

  2. What a perceptive piece of writing, a loving appreciation, an interesting theory of exploding souls. Thank you. You’ve extended my appreciation of the life of a friend of mine who lost his fight just a couple of days ago. I will think of his exploding soul next Thursday at his funeral.

  3. I’m sorry for this loss…just from what you have written it is obvious that your friend Jodi is a wonderful person.

    I’ve just happened upon your blog, but the words you wrote with are powerful. And I have to admit, the exploding souls theory is gripping and thought provoking in many ways.

  4. I love your exploding soul theory. This makes death seem a tiny bit more manageable, and for something that is never easy, that’s a start.

  5. We all owe a debt to Jared. It’s a lovely theory that rings truly. So truly. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to a woman we glimpsed through your eyes. Maybe we get a little bit of her, too.

  6. I’m sorry about Jodi. Jared’s theory is so lovely. I’d like to believe it — I mean that seriously. So glad Freshpress brought me here today.

  7. This is my first read of your blog. It’s excellent and heartfelt. Personally, I think social media is the worst place to offer condolences. How about a phone call or print this out and mail it to her family along with a brief note. People need to HEAR from others at times of loss.

  8. Thanks. Several friends and family have seen the post, and they put together a wonderful memorial for Jodi just this past weekend, and we all got to touch base for just a bit.

  9. Lovely. I’m sorry for your loss. We all hope people will say such positive things about us when we pass. In that, she was fortunate. Thanks for sharing something so personal.

  10. Beautifully written, and introspectively expansive. Was a bit skeptical regarding Jared’s theory on it all, til I read the word “blast” and heard a single thunder clap (the only one in the entire day, mind you,) and recalled my own sudden fetish-like fascination with a particular shade of purple after my mother died. I come from a long line of purple-loving women, and as a result my older brother and I simply can’t stand the color. He says it actually makes him sick to his stomach when he sees it. My mother, aunts, grand aunts and grandmother didn’t just like the color, they were purple-pushing fanatics. Of course, what was my daughter’s favorite color: purple. What was the equally fanatic team color of the city I moved to: purple. A week or so after my mother passed away, I found myself suddenly tripped in my tracks transfixed, in the middle of a department store, in front of a mannequin sporting a particular shade of intense violate purple sweater, they used to adore above all other shades. Instead of my normal recoiling revulsion, I could barely take my eyes off damn thing. I haven’t purchased anything in that colorway as yet, but for the last six years, anytime I see it and other hues in the purple range, I’m drawn up short and think: “Yeah, that really is an exquisite color.”

  11. Sorry for your loss…
    Thanks for sharing something so personal and close to your heart with everyone…

  12. This is a beautiful recounting of your friendships and the shared thoughts, and of your own struggle that so many of us recognize. You certainly did manage to speak beautiful words in tribute in the end too. What a privilege to have been able to read this post, you’ve given me so much to think about and I deeply appreciate the path of those thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  13. I happened to chance upon your blog, and I am really glad I did. I connect with your exploding souls theory on a personal level. My dad passed away in 2010 and, now that I think of it, my sister and I unconsciously listen to all the songs and artists that he used to like, something that we didn’t really do when he was there. So I guess the theory you’re talking about really does work in mysterious ways. 🙂
    Thanks for the lovely post.

  14. I love the exploding theory. So when I die I will explode and parts will attach to others. I definitely like that.

  15. I don’t believe in exploded souls either, yet my love for the Detroit Tigers suddenly magnified after the passing of my grandfather. Hmm…

  16. I truly believe this!!
    “When a person dies, that person’s soul explodes into a whole bunch of little pieces, which blast out into the world, and attach themselves to the souls of all the people who ever loved that person, becoming a part of all of those people.”
    Congrats on getting pressed!!

  17. Exploding souls, I like that idea. I had a coworker die his senior year of high school. He loved The Nationals, a band I never would’ve been introduced to if it weren’t for him. I rarely listen them, but when I do I often think of him and how maybe some of his musical soul fell on me. Thanks for the post.

  18. Your blog made me pause to consider what piece of my father’s exploding soul had come to rest in my life. Fishing? Nah. Sports? Not so much. Then I remembered him telling the story of how he always needed to keep the woodshed full when he was young, and how that need persisted through his life. Yes, that’s it.

  19. Very nicely done. And if the ‘exploding souls’ theory is true, then you can take comfort that she will always be in your life, in everything you do.

  20. I love the thought of “soul explosion” … and since I believe I’ve experienced it sooooo many times, I won’t call it a theory 😉 Thank you for sharing your story, it’s just more confirmation as I had yet another experience of it early this morning as I was writing. The words didn’t sound like mine, they sounded exactly like the way a dear one of mine use to talk to me. And I thought, what if ??? Coincidence that I come across your story today? I think not…

  21. Reblogged this on Kamille Torres and commented:
    This is the first time I’ve reblogged a post from WordPress, and its because I can’t take my mind off your friend Jared’s exploding soul theory. Even though you said he was ‘semi-serious’ when he mentioned the so called theory, I can’t help but think that it must be one of the best theories I’ve ever heard. All of us have lost someone important to us, and to imagine that a piece of our dearly beloved clings to us until our own souls explode to cling to another, is more than enough of a reassurance that we will always be close to them. And that they will always be a part of us. Im glad I happened to read your blog.

  22. What an absolutely delightful post. Idk if Jodi Is watching or if her soul exploded but she will certainly live on now that you have shared her in writing. Thank you

  23. Exploding souls. What a great way to remember people. I’m sorry for your loss but Jodi is in a happier and less painful place. Plus the sentiment has touched so many more lives because of you sharing this story that perhaps Jodi now lives on in all of us. Even just for a little bit….

  24. Thank you for such a heartfelt post. My good friends mom just passed away and I have struggled with how to answer any posts about her on FB. I have settled for just putting a heart ❤

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