A couple of weeks ago I upgraded my iPhone 4s to a 6. I always like it when a capable Verizon employee transfers my contacts and stored information over to my new phone. It’s sort of like a security blanket. I know I don’t need to go on about our pathetic reliance on our smart phones. I also know that if I had to call any of my daughters on their mobile phones by recalling their numbers from memory, I would be screwed. Before upgrading I ensured that I backed my phone up to the cloud. CYA truly is a highly recommended standard operational procedure, in case you wanted my opinion.
After the salesman was done porting my info to my new phone, he asked me to review my contact list to make sure it looked complete. It did. All of my voicemails were there and my apps were in my settings, waiting to be repopulated to my home screen. I toggled over to my text messages and the folder was empty. I instantly panicked and asked the schmoozy Verizon guy where my messages were. He said they don’t transfer but that the messages were still on my old phone and I could download them from the cloud and transfer them to my new phone.
And I breathed.
See, the thing is, there was a text conversation between me and my friend Jude, who passed away almost a year ago from Stage IV metastatic cancer. I loved it because it was a conversation that took place over the course of a year, maybe longer. We chatted about theatre, her health, writing, my health, Olivia Pope’s white silk pajamas. Silly stuff. Important stuff. Not sure why I didn’t delete the message thread. I think it was because she was sick and there was no way to know when the last text would come. On May 16th, I think that’s the date, it did come. Jude had arranged home hospice and I was meant to go to Green Acres to have lunch that day. That morning, when I was confirming our date, her husband sent a message telling me that she’d had a rough night, would have to cancel and that I should make a point to see her soon. I said I would but I never did. Two days later she was gone.
It comforted me having that text conversation on my phone. I have yet to retrieve it from the cloud. I found some instructions online and apparently I am to locate a text file and then somehow move it to my new phone. This is presuming, of course, that I figure out how to do it so that I would not be overwriting any new data. Needless to say, I can no longer access that conversation with the swipe of the finger on a touchscreen. I miss having that piece of Jude with me; those frozen moments in time that I could just reference whenever I missed her. Something that was just ours.
There are similar pieces of the recent past that I have a hard time letting go of. I have two voicemails that came from the Danbury Public Schools alert system on December 14, 2012. It was a robocall alerting parents about a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I can’t delete those messages. Nor can I delete the message from an agent informing me that I was no longer going to be the book writer for an optioned show that I had co-written. Very different threads in my digital tapestry and each one so very important to me.
A friend of mine experienced something similar when a light bulb had burned out in her home. The last person to change it was her late husband, who she lost about two years ago. She struggled with changing the light bulb because it was almost like letting go of a presence that remained for her and her daughters. Yet another friend was so thankful that her husband purchased software for her so that she could download a treasured voicemail to her computer. It is a process, this letting go. This moving on. And damn it, it’s hard.
Of course, we do have the objects, the tactile reminders: the pictures, the sweater she gave you, the hat he wore, the furniture that they purchased when they were newlyweds. We also have the family recipes, the traditions and, oh, those beloved shared memories. I portend that it is the intangible things that are harder to let go. They are the things that, once gone, they cannot be retrieved. When you paint over the height markings on the door frame. When you delete the text message. When you change the light bulb. Something fades away. Even memories, the most personal and persistent way we stay connected to a lost friend or loved one, even they disappear.
Krysta Rodriguez, a young member of the Broadway community and someone who’s had a pretty enviable performing career at 30, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. When Krysta started her blog dedicated to her journey through a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy, it made me think of Jude. Jude wrote Breast Left Unsaid, a book about her battle with breast cancer and it is one of the funniest, most poignant and informative memoirs out there both about being a woman and about fighting this insidious disease. I typed in the URL for the book’s web site so that I could send it to Krysta and I got an error message. The web site had expired.
Again, another part of my friend, without a breath of warning, disappeared into the ether. Her Facebook page still exists, her Twitter feed is still there, I can still find her on YouTube, and I can read her blog, her Huffington Post articles and her book*. In many ways I can still hear her voice across space and time, loud and clear.
Letting go is the hardest thing to do. Those moments of missing come out of the blue and in different ways. They can hit you like a ton of bricks or like a soft feather, gently tugging at your heart and soul. It never leaves, that longing for just one more moment to share another word, another sip of wine or a knowing laugh.
If you never met Jude, I am sorry that you missed the opportunity to know a truly extraordinary woman. She will be forever and often missed, by so many.