Wednesday, April 3, 2019

What It Was - Chapter 28


Chapter 28

After I had notified my work place of Jordan’s death, I took some more time off. I was still healing physically and I had a lot of healing to do mentally. Matt sent me a heartfelt and kind message telling me how sorry he was about the encounter with Jordan at my apartment and how he didn’t know what to say about my losing Jordan. He offered that he would be available if I needed to talk or just have a friend at my side. I appreciated Matt’s offer and condolences. I hoped we would be able to reconnect as friends again, once I would go back to work.

My coworkers and supervisor sent me a condolence card; everyone had signed it. No one, except for Matt knew who Jordan was and why I had been connected to him. I assumed with time passing, people would learn about Jordan and how much he had meant to me. I wasn’t going to hide how big of an impact he had had on me and how much I had loved him.

The same was true for my friends; I informed my closest friends that I had lost someone who had meant a lot to me and I needed some time to grief. Everyone was understanding and curious and when they asked, I told them, I would let them know eventually.

Thinking about work though I knew I needed a change. I couldn’t see myself pushing six- or seven-digit numbers around anymore, when it came to real estate in Seattle. It went against everything I now knew and I started looking at other jobs and a possible different career path.





As I sat at home one night in the middle of December, I looked over my social media and one of my friends had posted a link to some volunteer opportunities.

I clicked on the link and it opened the directory to all the shelters and missions in Seattle, offering volunteer positions to help over the busy Christmas holidays. I remembered the day I had picked Jordan up downtown at the Union Gospel Mission. It seemed so long ago. I remembered how good he looked and how happy he seemed when he came wheeling around the corner as I had waited for him in the alley.

The Union Gospel Mission had several volunteer openings and without thinking about it further, I filled out the online form for volunteering, making myself available on weekends. 

I clicked the Send button and sat there taking a deep breath. My eyes travelled across my living room and there was Jordan’s wheelchair in the corner with his back pack on it. I had taken it home with me from the hospital. I remembered how the EMT had looked at us funny when Charlie had asked to stash Jordan’s wheelchair into the ambulance like he wouldn’t really have a need for it anymore.

The EMT had been right, Jordan never needed his wheelchair anymore. Wherever he was now, I knew his legs were working again and he was walking. The thought of it made me smile and I had a tear in my eye.

I went over to his wheelchair and unzipped his back pack and pulled out the hoodie he had worn when I had first seen him out on the street under the Rite Aid store front. It had all these holes and stains that hadn’t come out in the laundry.

I slipped it on and wrapped my arms around myself and closed my eyes. I imagined Jordan with me and I cried. On the couch I lay down and thought of him. I could still smell him on his clothes even though they had been washed in my laundry. The wheelchair was like a connection to Jordan still, he had been in it for so long and it was what I had seen first. The moment I had met Jordan, my life had changed forever.

As I lay there, silently crying with my eyes closed, I saw Jordan in my mind and it hurt. I had been thinking a lot about how his last moments may have been, before he fell unconscious in the park in the sleeping bag; it tore me up inside, imagining how alone he possibly had felt. I had been trying to not think about this too much, but I often pictured how Jordan’s last conscious moments could have been. With my arms wrapped around myself, I cried lying there on my couch.  

I don’t know how long I lay there until I heard a soft female voice say my name, “Shay?”

I opened my eyes and looked into my living room. It was only dimly lit and my eyes travelled around, but I didn’t see anyone.

I heard the voice again, “In his last moments, he thought of you and how much you loved him. He was okay.”

I sat up and I was scared. I was afraid I was going crazy and my eyes travelled over to the window front of my living room. I saw something and slowly got up and walked to the window. It was dark outside and only the lights of my apartment reflecting in the window. Outside down on the street, cars were driving and street lanterns lit up the roads and the sidewalks. My eyes focused and I was stunned when next to my own reflection I saw Jordyn, the woman I had seen appear twice since I had met Jordan. She was an apparition right next to my reflection in the window and she smiled.

Tears were still running over my face and I stared at the reflection. I turned my head to check if she was actually standing next to me, but there was no one next to me. Jordyn was merely a reflection. I could see her green eyes in the window and her face framed by her red long hair. I was stunned and stared at her, waiting for her to say something.

She didn’t say anything but she smiled at me and I eventually said her name, “Jordyn with a “y”?”
She now nodded and said, “Yes, Jordyn with a “y”. I know you’re thinking about him, Shay.”
I wiped over my eyes, “Every single moment of the day. It hurts so much.”

Jordyn nodded, “You were the only thing on his mind always - from the first moment he saw you. You were also the last thing on his mind when he passed. And you are in his heart forever. I was hoping very much that you could save him. And in a way you did; you showed him that love was a real thing. And even though he left you that night, he had only love for you in his heart. You were a good thing for him. You were a light in his life, Shay. Just know that he loved you very much and you were on his mind in his last moments.”

I stared at Jordyn’s apparition and she smiled at me. I didn’t know what was going on, I once again didn’t know if I was imagining things or this was real.
At her words, tears had slowly kept running over my face.

“How am I going to keep on without him?”

Jordyn seemed to take a breath, “You’ll find love again, Shay. But you will always have Jordan in your heart. He’ll live on inside of you forever, but you’re strong and you’re going to be happy again.”
I sniffled my nose, “Who are you?”

Jordyn now looked at me for a moment, pressing her hand on the window. I put my hand against the palm of her hand. All I felt was the cool window pane but I saw her apparition still. My hand was the exact size as her hand.

She said, “Shay, I am your heart and I am your soul. I am your mind and I am your body. I am your guide and your path. I am your conscience. I am with you at all times, whenever you need me, and I will have any name you give me. I am you and you are me.”

With that her apparition faded and slowly disappeared. I stood there by the window and Jordyn was gone.

I wrapped my arms around myself again and stared down to the street. I took a deep breath and as I stood there, I saw Jordan’s face appear in my mind, it was right there in the same spot I had just seen Jordyn’s face. Jordan smiled and he put his hand on the window and I put my hand on the window and just stared at his spirit.

I smiled under tears and said, “You will always be in my heart Jordan. I loved you so much.”

Jordan’s ghost nodded and smiled and he disappeared. I stared down at the street and for a few minutes I just watched the cars drive by, saw people walk on the sidewalk, and looked at the lit-up windows in the buildings across from mine.

A type of peace had overcome me and I smiled at my own face in the window and drew an invisible heart around my reflection, telling myself, “You got this Shay.”

It was going to take a long time to not cry when thinking about Jordan, but I had become content because I knew that his suffering was over. And I wanted to believe that the short time we had spent together, had given him hope and joy and had made him feel loved.

Jordan’s ashes were in an urn on a dresser in my bedroom. I was going to keep them there until I would find a worthy place for him to be buried. It would also have to be a place I could always go to and visit. For now, Jordan’s remains were going to be with me in my apartment.

The next day, I had a call from the supervisor at the Union Gospel Mission and was invited to an interview the same day.

I drove downtown and parked in the same alley I had parked the first time when I had picked Jordan up. Inside I was greeted by an older lady at the front desk. I told her the reason for my being there and she pointed me to the administration office. I knocked softly and heard a voice telling me to come in. My interview was scheduled with Theo, who was the one of the supervisors at the shelter.

Theo got up from behind his desk, “Hi there, Shay, nice to meet you.”

He reached his hand out to me and I took it and smiled.

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you.”

Theo offered me a seat. We exchanged a few friendly words about the weather and parking before he explained to me the mission of the organization and how much help they needed, especially over the Christmas holidays.

He finally asked, “So what brought you here and wanting to help us?”
I had my hands on my lap and looked up at him, “Honestly, I recently lost someone whom I was very close to and he would come here sometimes. He was homeless and we met by coincidence but we became very close.”

I paused for a moment, debating if I should tell Theo how close we had really been.
Theo’s expression was curious but also compassionate.

I added hesitantly, “He died of a drug overdose. Coming here I think could be a way to deal with my grief about his death. He was very special to me. We were actually together.”

Theo sat there and his expression had become weary, “Shay, I’m very sorry for your loss. May I ask what his name was?”
I cleared my throat, “Yes, his name was Jordan Blanchard.”

Theo now took a deep breath and nodded knowingly, “I know exactly who you’re talking about. I knew Jordan and yes, he did come here because it was easier for him…for him to use the facilities here because…”

He stopped talking and seemed lost in thoughts.

I finished the statement for Theo, “Jordan told me that he came here to shower because it was one of the shelters that was disability accessible.”

Theo now nodded and sounded slightly proud, “Yes, we are…we are the only one downtown actually. There are other shelters, but for the homeless population downtown we are the closest with accessibility for our disabled patrons.”
He then lowered his eyes, shook his head, and looked back up at me, “So Jordan…I’m so sorry to hear about his passing. I really can’t believe what you just told me…”
I nodded, “Yes, he passed away on November fifth at Harborview Medical Center.”
Theo shook his head in disbelief, “I can’t even…” He took a deep breath, “I’m so sorry. Very sad news.”
I swallowed the oncoming lump in my throat and tried to contain my tears, “It is.”
Theo nodded again, “Shay, I’m very happy to have you on our team. You’ll be a great addition I’m sure. Jordan was a good guy dealing with a tough life.”
I nodded, “Thank you.”

Theo and I were talking about Jordan some more and he then showed me around the shelter and introduced me to the staff that was there at the time. I was scheduled to start on the following Saturday.

When I stepped outside it was snowing and several homeless made their way into the main entrance of the Mission. I was looking forward to do something that would honor Jordan and I knew he would be so happy. I looked up and watched the snowflakes fall into the city amongst the skyscrapers and the cranes and construction sites. I didn’t have to worry anymore about Jordan being out on the street in the cold weather. I knew he was warm where ever he was. He didn’t need a thicker coat and I knew his hands were not cold anymore.

I spent the following weekends at the Union Gospel Mission and learned everything that was to do there from cooking in the large kitchen, serving meals, taking care of the dining room, and making sure the beds for people to have a warm place to sleep, were clean. I also made sure the bathroom and shower facilities were always clean and up to the task. I worked at the Mission every weekend but it wasn’t really work; it was fulfilling and I enjoyed every moment there. Jordan was on my mind all the time and as I got to know some of the regular patrons, I realized that people had known Jordan and Charlie.  

Christmas, I spent with my family and I was relieved that I made it through it okay. Being surrounded by the people who loved me and whom I loved helped, and I was looking forward to the new year.

At work I was doing okay. I took care of my clients but I was always on the lookout for something else. Matt and I talked, but not too much. He had expressed his condolences face to face to me as well and I had thankfully accepted but we didn’t really hang out. Some things were left unsaid.

I had told a few close friends about Jordan but since no one had known him, it was difficult for people to be compassionate about all of it. So, I kept to myself a lot but stayed busy with work and volunteering on the weekends. I wasn’t ready to live like nothing had happened. I couldn’t go party or go out with friends like before, my grief was still too deep and I needed to take my time to get better.

I was looking forward to Chad and Amber’s wedding in August. The planning had started soon after the beginning of the new year. Amber included me in all of her ideas and it was soon decided that I would be her maid of honor. There was going to be a lot to plan and to do but this event was something positive and kept me distracted from thinking about Jordan too much. I had fun helping Amber with all of it and the planning was exciting but also stressful at times.

Throughout January and February, I had basically worked my way up to being Theo’s assistant on the weekends at the Mission. I helped in bringing new volunteers on board, taking care of some of the financial decisions that needed to be made and overseeing the financial donor roster, citizens that helped keep the Mission in operation. Sometimes I scheduled the various groups of churches or other organizations who wanted to offer their time for a weekend or a day. I was always busy on the weekend.

I had put my social life on hold after Jordan’s passing. I just couldn’t hang out with friends like nothing had happened. A lot had happened to me and I was still in a lot of pain over Jordan’s death. I regularly cried in my bed at night, his hoodie was a constant in my bed and sometimes my tears saturated it.

There were moments when I was angry that we didn’t get a chance for a future together, sometimes I was angry that Jordan didn’t have a fair chance to get a life he deserved. The problem was, that I had no one to get angry at; life had not been fair to us and I didn’t know why Jordan and I had had to go through this. I was angry that we didn’t have more time. At the same time though, I was glad that I had met Jordan after all and that at least we had spent a short time together that had meant so very much.

My mom always said that things happen for a reason no matter how much they hurt and she always believed that God had a plan for us with anything he put on us or anything he put us through, no matter how difficult it seemed at the time. I couldn’t all the way get on board with her when she said those things but deep down inside, I hoped that there was maybe some truth to it, that maybe all of it had been or was part of a bigger plan. Even if it wasn’t though, it had been something that had touched me and my life and Jordan would live on in my memories and my heart.

Sometimes I thought about how it would have been if Jordan would have survived and maybe gone through Rehab. I wondered if even though I had wanted to support him and be there for him, I possibly wouldn’t have been strong enough to help him through it. I had loved him so much and I still felt all the love for him inside of me but maybe love would have not been enough.

Lots of thoughts ran through my mind when it came to these things and it didn’t matter how many questions arose and how much I wondered about the “What if’s” and “Could have’s” and the “Should have’s”, I didn’t get any clear answers.

It was on a Saturday in March when Theo had me in his office in the morning and discussed the daily schedule of everything and went over the volunteer roster with me.

He informed me, “We’ve got three new volunteers come in today at noon. I want you take them under your wing, give them the run down, the policies, and show them around. Depending on the availability of these people and what they would like to help with we can then decide where we want to utilize them. And you can mark them into the calendar if they’re committed.”

It was the normal process when new volunteers showed up. I knew what I had to do and Theo was always thankful that he was able to put this off on me. I didn’t mind; I enjoyed meeting new helpers and showing them what we did at the Mission.

At noon, Theo called me on the internal phone. I was in the warehouse looking through some of the supplies.

“So, I put the three newbies in the conference room. Maybe you can take over Shay.”
“Yeah sure, I’ll be right over. I’m just in the warehouse.”

Theo thanked me and I finished up what I was doing.
I used the bathroom quickly, and in the mirror as I washed my hands, I made sure I looked presentable. I had lost some weight over the last months myself and my face was somewhat pale. I didn’t look exactly like a ray of sunshine on some days. At work I did enough to look professional but at the Mission on the weekends I didn’t care too much how I looked.

I hurried over to the conference room.

As I stepped inside the three people sat at the table, two women and a man. My eyes right away focused in on the man. He was not sitting on one of the chairs at the table but actually sat in a wheelchair. He smiled at me with a friendly expression. From my first impression, he was an attractive guy.
Seeing him in a wheelchair, a nervous tremble travelled through me, but I quickly focused and greeted all three of them with an introduction of myself and a welcome. Now I wished I would have looked a bit more like a ray of sunshine but it was what it was.

I greeted the two women with a handshake. Their names were Carrie and Mai and we engaged in some small talk for a moment.
I turned to the man, and my hand trembled when I reached out to him, “Hi, welcome to the Union Gospel Mission.”

I noticed bright blue eyes in a natural tanned face with a three-day shadow over defined cheek bones. His dark blonde hair was long on top with a side part, the sides faded and shorter, a trendy cut for an attractive young man.

He had wrinkles in the corners of his eyes as he introduced himself with a warm smile, “Thanks. My name is Tobias. Most people call me Toby, it’s easier.”
“Nice to meet you Tobias...Toby.”

I explained to the three of them what we did at the shelter and even though they were mostly familiar with our mission, they listened attentively. I was nervous looking directly at Toby, but I did make out a matte black frame and teal colored spokes on his sporty looking wheelchair. I didn’t know what brand it was yet. My body had gone into a constant vibration at being close to him, the wheelchair had once again triggered every emotion I harbored pertaining to a man as he was.

When I asked him why he wanted to volunteer at the shelter he explained, “I’ve some personal reasons why I’m here, I guess. I want to give back to the community and I know there are lot of people out there who need our help so I’m here. Homelessness and addiction hits close to home for me. And I heard that this building is accessible for wheelchairs.”

At his last few words, a smirk brushed over his face.

My heart raced in my chest at listening to him and I brought over my lips, “Your reasons sound familiar to me as well and that’s also why I came here a few months ago.”

Toby’s eyes were on me with a curious expression. My hands were sweaty and I smiled nervously. His fingers were locked on his lap. He triggered everything to bubble up to the surface again. My brain was rumbling with thoughts; my body was overflowing with sensations, and my heart was beating with admiration.

I showed them around the Mission and with Mai and Carrie staying behind the serving line and helping already, Toby and I were left in the dining room.

I inquired, “So where do you think you want to help?”

He tipped his head and shrugged his shoulders, “I could also do the serving line, or the dining room. It really doesn’t matter to me. I also know a lot about computers so if there is a need for that, I’m game.”

I thought about a practical spot to put Toby. He explained that he would be available on Saturdays and I discussed with him that the store adjacent to the building or the linen room could be a fitting opportunity for him because we needed some extra help on Saturdays.

We inspected the two spaces for best accessibility and Toby decided that the store would be easy for him to work in. I introduced him to Anne, who worked in there on that day.  The store connecting to the Mission consisted basically of a large space that offered essential items like toiletries, snacks or beverages for free or a very small amount or donation. It was like a smaller version of a drugstore and usually open from eight to six every day. I stood in the store and watched Toby wheel behind the counter.

He smiled from behind the counter, “Does this suit me?”
I laughed, “It suits you perfectly.”

Anne finished tending to some people and she was going to take Toby under her wing for the rest of the day and show him the ropes in the store.

Before I left to get back to my duties, I turned to Toby, “Well, we’re happy to have you here Toby. If there are any questions or anything, please let me know. For now, I guess I’ll jot you down in the calendar on Saturdays in our store?”
“Yeah, I’ll be here.”

I was about to turn around and leave him with Anne when he said, “So, where do you usually work here Shay?”
I smiled, “I’m all over the place but mostly you can find me in the dining room and at the front desk, sometimes in the admin office.”
He seemed to always smile, “Cool, so if I need you, I’ll find you there?”
“Yeah, totally.”

I walked away but my knees were weak. Toby had stirred everything inside of me. Contrary to me, he seemed like a ray of sunshine with a friendly and upbeat personality. I had tried to guess his disability. His hands were fully functioning. He sat with his back straight in his wheelchair. His legs were positioned with knees side by side and his feet underneath him on the foot rest. He was wearing joggers, Nike training shoes and a hoodie. A small back pack hung on his wheelchair handles and I still hadn’t seen the wheelchair brand.

Toby became a regular volunteer at the Mission. He showed up every Saturday. He was a joker and funny; everyone liked him; he was friendly with all the people coming through on the weekends. I found out he lived in the city and worked as an IT guy for Amazon. I was looking forward to Saturdays and was filled with excitement at seeing him wheel through the doors.

Being around him, my hands were always sweaty and my heart skipped beats constantly. I didn’t know if he had someone or not but I didn’t really want to know. I indulged in seeing him and swooning over him. Toby made me feel good and I enjoyed checking him out. A few times he caught me looking at him, and he just smiled at me but he never said anything about it. Toby was a light in my life and I was once again awakened in all the right ways.

It was in late April when I came across a job opening posted on the board at the Union Gospel Mission. This was for a position at the Low-Income Housing Institute of Seattle, assisting in running the finance department for all the Tiny House programs in the city of Seattle. I took down the information and made it a point to look at this that same night.

I sat at my dining room table in front of my computer and looked through the position online. I filled out all the information they needed and typed up my resume and cover letter and attached everything. I sent everything off at almost midnight.

I was still working at Emerald City Bank but I was unhappy with my job. I had become tired of seeing the high prices people paid for real estate in and around Seattle. Most of my clients were wealthy and I couldn’t unite anymore doing this job and what I had seen and experienced with Jordan. I longed for a rewarding job on an emotional level, not only on a financial level.

My volunteering at the Mission rewarded me on the weekends and I usually felt at peace after working there knowing that I did at least a little something to make it better for some people. Jordan was with me every second of the day. I saw him in my mind, I sometimes pictured him rolling through the door at the Mission, and sometimes I talked to him at night when I was at home. I would sometimes just get into his wheelchair and close my eyes and talk to him about everything that had been going on at the Mission or at work during the week. I also told him about Toby. Jordan was always with me.

A few days after I had sent off the application for that position, I received an invitation for an interview. On the day of the interview I was nervous but also excited. Before I had met Jordan, I had not spent too many thoughts on the tiny house communities popping up all over Seattle. Now I saw them everywhere and I hoped so much that they were a good thing for people who wanted to get off the streets. I was interested in the concept and curious at how all of it worked.

During the interview, I was nervous but after I came out of it, I thought I did well. The interview panel made up of two employees and two supervisors seemed very interested in me and when it came to qualifications, I had everything they were looking for. The lady they were hiring an assistant for was one of the interviewers and we seemed to connect well. 

My instincts had been right when a week after the interview I had the job offer in my email. I accepted and right away called Chad and my parents.
The next day I gave notice at Emerald City Bank. I was going to start my new job on the first of July. I had about two months left.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for the new chapter! Something in me sensed that the next wheeler could be a volunteer worker! :)

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it 🙂

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  2. Dani, one more week and you can touch me with this story. Thanks for sharing, I'm so happy for Shay. Jordan will be with her forever and that is comforting. I hope that Shay can be very happy with Toby and we can follow more of that happiness that he managed to bring to her again. The enlightening encounter with Jordy and also Jordan was the apex of the chapter; I hope next week will arrive soon.

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    1. Hi Ana, thanks for your sweet comment and I am so happy you are still enjoying the story, it means a lot to me 🙂

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