Makayla Myers to Jayden Lucas

Makayla Myers to Jayden Lucas

Jayden, nothing in this world can separate us. Not even if we’re in two different- technically- dimensions; there is nothing that is going to stop me from loving you. And even after you’re gone our relationship is still evolving, and my love for you is still growing. I cherish you forever and I thank you for all the times you motivated me. You pushed me when I felt like I couldn’t push myself.

I’ve had rough days (I’m very busy) and whenever I would see you, you would make the whole week good- you would light up my day. And we could be together and just be in each other’s presence, and that was enough for me, all the time. It was enough for me. We didn’t have to say a word. It was just us being in that moment; it felt like, kind of, the world stopped. Time didn’t mean anything and whatever was stressing me out the day of, the day before, any upcoming engagements, it was like it wasn’t there. When I was with you, there was nothing on my mind but just enjoying the moment. I’m glad I got to share that with you and I feel like a relationship like that is very rare and it’s not easy to come across, so I just appreciate everything…everything.

When I think of you, I think of you as my light in the tunnel, or my glistening moon in the dark night; it sounds corny to say, but you light up my world. Losing you physically… I lost one of my best friends first. My partner. My confidant. My teacher, and the many other roles you played- And you can believe I grieved individually for all that you were. That’s what’s interesting about it: I’m grieving you and I feel as though the measure of my grief measures the love I have for you. At this point, it’s been a year but it still seems like yesterday… and then it feels like forever, also, because I’ve never been apart from you for this long. I cherish all the memories, so even now, after you passed, I radiate with love. I have so much love to give and I can’t share it with you anymore so I just find other ways to translate that. You were very loving- not just me, with everyone. Your family- you adored your mom. And so I try to live how you would want me to live… With intention, with purpose for the both of us.

I give this a lot of thought: I always use the word “rare” when I’m talking about you, but you are a very rare soul. You treated me like fine china, you were very gentle with me. And sometimes, especially teenage girls, we’re not always gentle with ourselves. Being a Black woman is not easy and of course, I’m not perfect- but you always treated me like I was. You were always delicate with me even if we were arguing- as couples do. You were very gentle and soft-spoken with me. Even in my own family, I’ve never experienced a connection with someone like that, where even though you’re mad you could still hug me and tell me that you love me. You could still treat me with the utmost respect. It was amazing. So I’m deeply indebted to you because I feel like I would not be in the place I am if it wasn’t for you, Jayden Lucas.

I love your family. I’ve gotten closer to them after your passing. I’ve noticed that your wonderful personality is a reflection of both your parents. So basically everything I loved in you, I see it in your family and know where it comes from. I love you- you’re my heart- and I love your parents for giving me you. I felt like at first I was alone without you, but then I realized that I will never be alone because they carry you like I carry you. You’re always going to be with us and we have more in common than we know. It’s like that example of collective healing, you know? You were like my backbone…but now I have your parents to help pick me up. I was ready to do that for them, but it’s been an exchange really.

You know how they say you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone: it’s not that I ever didn’t appreciate you- I always appreciated you and I always made sure you knew that- but after your passing, it’s like, WOW. I didn’t really understand the magnitude of our connection until it wasn’t there anymore. You actively pursued me, so I didn’t have a chance to forget how well you treated me. You never failed to tell me how beautiful I was or how much I meant to you. It meant a lot. That’s one of the things I really miss- I could always talk to you whenever. Anytime I needed you, you were always there, or you were offering your listening ear. 

Middle school. We met when we were about 10 or 11. We were friends. You knew you liked me ever since the first moment you saw me. And I, being a young girl, was like, “what are you talking about?” I didn’t understand it until years later when you were still saying the same thing, so you were my childhood sweetheart, and then my high school sweetheart, and then coming into adulthood. I remember you telling me when we were kids (back when I thought you were insane for wanting to be girlfriend/boyfriend) that one day you’d get me, and you told me to watch and remember you said that. I laughed it off and now I realize you were right. You used to meet me at my train stop. You would get on the sub at Girard, and then go all the way to City Hall and wait for me to get there. After that, we would go on the train from City Hall to Frankford Transportation Center, and then we would get on the bus- the 67- together. And my stop was actually after your stop but you would ride past your stop, so I could get to my destination, and then get back on the bus and go home. And this is an 11, 12-year-old boy doing this. Eventually, when we got to high school, you stayed in the same area and I went to Girls’ High so I ended up in Olney. You got out of school some days before me and then some days after me, but you would come and pick me up from school when it was raining, or when you didn’t have practice and I didn’t have practice. You would pick me up from school and take me home, or I’d meet you at your school and then we’d go home together. That was kind of the dynamic of our relationship.

You definitely taught me how to love. I feel like it’s crazy to say because I’m very young, but I feel like you taught me to love and to be a better woman, and I’m just coming into my womanhood.

A lot of the time I cry happy tears because of the love we shared. It was so strong and powerful. And it conquers all; it’s stronger than hate and stronger than grief! You made me believe in love and that’s all I can kind of say. Now, I tell people “Jayden’s my muse”. I never really used to draw as much but now I draw…I sing love songs, and I paint pictures of you. I even have started to dress like you; your colors, certain brands you would wear. You’re my muse. I’ve even started writing poetry about you, that’s how powerful you were:

I wish it was that simple to name the things I love about him. It would probably be easier counting each grain of sand at the beach tbh. I could go on and on. From his pearly white smile to the way his eyes shine amber in the sun to the way he walks, talks and dresses. Even the most imperfect parts of him were beautiful to me.

What makes me love Jayden is the way he makes me feel. He makes me feel like gold. Precious and Irreplaceable. Valued and Worthy. He lifted me up when I was down. Like Whitney Houston would say he makes me feel like a Million Dollar Bill. He always treats me with care, even the way he speaks to me is gentle but not too delicate. He helped reveal scars I never knew I had and helped me nurse them. I love him because around him I was always myself. My best self, at that. I was never afraid to show him the ugliest parts of me and be judged. He accepted them too.

Your death was my first death experience and the fact that it was someone so close to me was heartbreaking. It was devastating to me, and I didn’t know how to even start to process any of it, so it took a while. I felt like I was going crazy because I didn’t know what to do. I DID know that you made me happy, and still make me happy. So I would look at your pictures- I just love looking at your pictures- and I’d be crying and it would turn to smiles. It would turn to joy! It was like a revelation. I surrendered to love.

Jayden, smiling
J&M heart in the sand
Jayden art by Makayla
De Anna Omana a Luz Marina Mendez de Arellano

De Anna Omana a Luz Marina Mendez de Arellano

Y mi amiga se fue…

Una vez te dije nos volveremos a ver 

Pasaron los años y así fue…

Pero una mañana fría con tu hijo hablé

Y llorando me dijo: Mi mamá se fue

No podía creerlo y jamás lo haré

Amiga te fuiste sin volverte a ver;

De aquellos días solo me queda tu hermandad, tu alegría, tu sonrisa, y la promesa que algún día te abrazaría.

Quien diría que esta terrible pandemia te sorprendería en la forma más triste que alguien lo haría. Llevándote lejos un sombrío día para regresar nunca a tu morada vacía y dejar a tu gente en tanta agonía deseando verte noche y día.

Y asi fue…Adiós amiga mía.

A photograph of Luz Marina Mendez de Arellano, smiling
Karl Zimmerman to Craig A. Newton

Karl Zimmerman to Craig A. Newton

Letter from Karl Zimmerman to Craig A. Newton

Craig:  You have been a constant & enduring blessing throughout most of my life. We were friends for 49 years, longer than I knew my own father. I was a painfully shy history major from the sticks and you were an urbane & approachable history professor. I can’t, to this day, put my finger on exactly what it was that drew me to you; your ‘openness’ is the best way I can express it. I only knew that as far as my limitations allowed, I wanted to be like you. I guess I was lonely; I had few friends & I found that I could talk to you. And bless you, you were kind enough to listen to me. You had much to do; you were writing a book, had classes, curated the local historical society and yet you made time to listen to my ramblings–even about girlfriends. I followed you from class to class like a child following the Pied Piper, even though most of your lectures were over my head. I loved military history; you hated it & skipped over it– a constant source of frustration for me, but still I followed you. You helped me become more tolerant. You were patient & understanding; when I let you & the History Department down by abruptly dropping out of grad school, it was you who gave me a second chance for the Master’s degree by supporting my efforts to obtain it during active duty in North Dakota. On the day of my orals, my car broke down; you drove miles out of your way to get me there. Without your help, no Master’s, no ROTC assignment, & no Air Force Academy professorship; in other words, any professional happiness & fulfillment that I managed to achieve over the years would have never happened had it not been for you. What I most loved during my military career was advising cadets; I was merely giving them what you gave me. Your friendship to me as an undergraduate led me to pursue a second degree in academic counseling–all of this was my attempt to be like you and pass on what you gave me to others.

After you retired from teaching, you continued to serve others by becoming a pastor and a volunteer hospice chaplain. You retired for good at 80. Little by little, you slowed down. We spent our last years together watching Philadelphia sports–which aged us both considerably (you were born the year the A’s won their last pennant). I let you down sometimes over these last years; I’m sorry I didn’t do better. You rescued me from the rural working class. You were my second father.

So, farewell for the present, my friend, my father. I’m sure you remember that Biblical verse about the mansions. Find one for me? Make sure it has a garden, OK?

love, Karl