My Jennie

My Jennie. She had a radiant smile. You know that smile! Smile so big you can see all of their pearly whites? A smile so big their eyes glitter?

That laugh!!! Her laugh echoed throughout a room drawing attention. Curiosity of her laughter drew you right to Jenny.

Our own love language. Phrases and inside jokes that we only understood and would end with us bursting into laughter.

Porcelain skin, never seen with a blemish. The last time I saw her, I gently wiped tears from her eyes feeling her soft skin for the last time.

While this is titled “My Jennie”, I always called her Jennifer. “My Jennie” was part of our greeting, whether it be on the phone or in person. She would call me “My Lisar”. (Yes, with an “R”) Laughter would erupt.

While Jennifer & I worked for the same firm, each in separate buildings, we had only casually met. What I consider to be the first time we really met (and the beginning of our friendship) was on a Friday night in a movie theater in 1997. At the time, my children (Katy & Nicholas) were six and two years old. It was a Friday night, my husband (Steven) encouraged me to go see a long awaited movie – Evita. Why? I LOVED Madonna, and my anticipation was building up as the press relentlessly advertised the upcoming release. Never afraid to go anywhere alone (hey, we have to be our own best friend don’t we!), I ventured to the movie theater. Popcorn & drink in hand, looking around for an available seat in the packed theater, Jennifer was there with a group of friends. She cheerfully invited me to join them. Yes, I actually remember it as vividly as I describe it. Jennifer’s southern hospitality was shining through.

And so our friendship began, right then and there in the movie theater watching Evita.

Evita musical drama film produced by Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber starring Madonna & Antonio Banderas

From that point on, Jennifer was known as “movie” Jennifer to my kids (I had multiple Jennifers in my life!). We had countless movie dates, and even though they became few and further apart through the years, she once came to New Orleans to see a movie with me after I left Baton Rouge in 2007. Thinking back, there are two more movies which made a statement in our friendship.

Titanic was a HUGE movie for us. We couldn’t wait for the premiere 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 If you remember this epic, action-packed movie on the “ship of dreams” in 1997 which won 11 of the 14 Oscar nominations at the 1998 Academy Awards, you remember the theaters were packed for a long time. Well, we were there!!! More than once… And every single time it came on TV in years to come, we would call/text each other sometimes watching it together over the phone.

James Cameron’s “Titanic”, starring Kate Winslet & Leonardo DiCaprio

City of Angels was another standout movie for us, which premiered in 1998. We felt every emotion of this movie starring Nicolas Cage & Meg Ryan. Having no idea how it would end, we left the theater speechless. We went to Barnes & Nobles afterwards for coffee and were both in our own little worlds, still soaking in the movie. Jennifer was a member of her Church’s choir, and a few of them were also standing in line for coffee. We were together “alone” as she introduced me to her choir friends before quickly sinking back into our deep thoughts. As we would recall for years to come, “that movie was devastating”. Dramatic? Yes, of course. But we sure did take our movies seriously 🤭

American romantic fantasy film starring Nicolas Cage & Meg Ryan

ROYALTY…

Another love we shared was that of the Royal Family. From the untimely death of Princess Di on August 31, 1997 to the wedding of Prince William & Catherine Middleton on April 29, 2011. We mourned and celebrated the sorrows and joys of the Royal Family. Jennifer & I talked incessantly about it once we were on topic. We often joked about taking a trip to England and having tea with Prince William & Kate, along with their children. 🥰. OK, so we had wild imaginations.

CONCERTS…

Callin Baton Rouge, Friday, April 23, 1998 💃 Our FIRST concert together and our FIRST time seeing GARTH BROOKS on his World Tour. Figuring the phones would be jammed on Ticketmaster, Jennifer went in person to purchase our concert tickets. She stood in line FOREVER, and called me with excitement after scoring our tickets – which were in the nosebleed section. But who cares, we were going to see GARTH BROOKS!!! The same day she got our concert tickets, we went to the movie (don’t remember which one!), and the only seats available were front row. We laughed saying God had our prayer request mixed up. We wanted front row Garth Brooks and last row movie, not the other way around 🤣🤣🤣

The last concert that I recall us seeing together was Justin Timberlake in 2013 for his 20/20 Experience Tour. Jennifer came to my house since JT was performing in New Orleans. Another night filled with laughter, screaming, singing in dancing. We were on such a JT “high”, we were practically hyperventilating when we got home an hour later. Not being dramatic here. Nicholas was awake when we arrived and I swore to him that we hadn’t been drinking, we were just super excited as he was looking at me with that “Are you OK” look. Jennifer & I were walking on air!!

So many shared loves – from movies, concerts, COFFEE, countless unnecessary trips to Walgreens during work hours 🙊, celebrity gossip, etc – the list goes on, I would have never predicted how it would end.

Fast forward to October 2016. Thanks to Steven generously giving us club level concert tickets and club level Saints football tickets, our weekend was carefully planned and guaranteed to be fun. Jennifer arrived at my house on Saturday and we had lunch at my favorite lunch spot. Afterwards, we drove to New Orleans, unpacked, and settled in with great anticipation of our weekend plans. Dinner reservations at the iconic Antoines, New Orleans oldest restaurant were made. Baked Alaska was pre-ordered. We were going all out on the New Orleans experience. We never made it to Antoines. We never made it to the concert. We never made it to the Saints football game. The plans ended before we walked out the door.

Every story has two sides. With respect to Jennifer, I will not get into the details. As everything began to unfold, I felt numb. In a state of disbelief, I immediately turned to my family for guidance. I stayed by Jennifer’s side at the hospital and comforted her until it was time to go. The last time I saw her, I wiped tears away from her face. I gave her encouragement with compassion, but I knew in my gut, I’d never see her again. Have you ever had a gut instinct THAT strong? It literally scared me. I walked backed to my car in the wee hours of the morning and drove back home feeling empty.

I was distraught. The friendship was over. My family and friends saw me through it. I shared at my AA meeting that the loss was so deep, it felt like a divorce or death. The loss deeply impacted me. So the years went by.

In January 2020, I received a message from our mutual friend to see if I heard about Jennifer. She was hospitalized in the Critical Care Unit on a ventilator with organ failure. Unfortunately, my instinct was right and I never saw her again. She passed away a week later.

The rollercoaster during that week was almost unbearable. The friendship may have ended in 2016, but that didn’t mean that I stopped caring. I’m heartbroken that her life was lost at the young age of 49. I sincerely wanted the best for her.

Have you ever grieved the death of an estranged friend? It’s complicated. It’s confusing. It’s indescribable. The only road map to this type of grief is faith, family & friends, all that I draw from.

I recently came across a stack of cards she had sent to me over the years. It’s a reminder of once was. I pray for the family Jennifer left behind. I look back on these wonderful memories we shared. Jennifer loved being a member of her Church’s choir, I have no doubt she is singing with the choirs of angels and resting easy in God’s hands.

A beautiful reading from Jennifer’s funeral.

Imagine with all your mind ~ Believe with all your heart ~ Achieve with all your might

Life With Lisa 💕

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