I went through a rough time of being bullied in middle school. I ate lunch alone every day, until one day a girl asked to sit with me and that was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. We could make each other laugh so hard we would be literally rolling on the floor laughing as only pre-teen girls could.
Joanne and I grew up together through high school, lost touch through college, and reconnected after. We were two young hotties who would hit the Chicago bars, talk each other through bad relationships, support each other in our careers, and no matter what — make each other laugh. We each found our respective man, married, had babies — both girls, three years apart. Eventually I moved to California, and Joanne moved to Rhode Island. Even on opposite sides of the country, we spoke often and got together on holidays.
Then one night I get a voicemail from her husband. “Jenn, this is Greg, call me. It’s about Jo.” I got the message late in the evening and because of the time difference, thought it was too late to call back. So I set my alarm for five in the morning, with an ominous feeling in my heart. I knew it wasn’t good if Joanne wasn’t calling me herself. I barely slept that night, both wanting five o’clock to arrive — and not — at the same time. Finally, it did arrive and I called Rhode Island. Her husband told me that my best friend of thirty years had taken her own life.
I never knew pain like that, and I shut down. I shut everyone out. I didn’t want any more friends. The only person I did let in was Joanne’s sister, Suzhanna, because she understood my pain — if not more so. We forged a deep friendship from the loss, shared our memories of Jo while healing together. Sue taught me her art of jewelry making, and saw me through my big move to the mountains. She helped me let other friends in again and come out of the abyss.
Then two years ago I got a message from Joanne and Sue’s brother: “Hi Jenn, it’s Chris. Call me. It’s about Sue.” And just like that Suzhanna was gone, too. She’d had a seizure overnight and it was too late when a friend found her in the morning.
This time I didn’t shut down, though. I opened up. It made me want to get to know people on a more human level and really start connecting, because I realized we just don’t know how much time we have together. We just never know.
Jennifer Moss has been an Oakhurst resident since 2011. She is a writer, web developer, mother, and rescuer of beasts. She has one daughter, Miranda, three cats, and a dog, Roscoe, who has more Instagram followers than you.
This is Us is a series of local profiles with first-person stories, written in a way we can get to know the people in our community on a little deeper level. Click here more information about this series.