A Letter To The Departed

Memorial Pool
WTC Memorial Pool

Typically I leave the relationship and family stuff up to Suga to write but this week marks a major milestone in my life and I don’t quite know how I feel about it. I figured I would share with you all since I know we all deal with loss of life differently. On September 11, 2001 I lost a friend of mine in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Then a few years later I lost my grandmother on September 11, 2004. This marks 10 years that I have been trying to deal with a loss that is so profound there are no words. 


WTC Memorial
WTC Memorial

I didn’t know Lisa very long. She lived in California and I was writing her to find out about going to school out there. Basically we were pen pals. I had gotten to know her thru the tried and true form of real written communication. Lengthy letters about life and education. We wrote about everything and nothing at all. I told her about my desire to leave Milwaukee and spend my days in Southern California. We talked about love and the craziness of the heart. We talked about jobs and money, scholarships and financial aid, I was able to open up to someone I didn’t know but I was also looking forward to meeting the person I was building a friendship with. When I told Lisa I was joining the military instead of going to college her first response to me was how she would one day be able to visit me in different places in the world. Lisa and I never got that chance. I was in the MEPS (Military Entry Processing Station) when we were attacked on 9/11 and I had no clue that the friend I was waiting for a letter from had died when her plane flew into the towers. It wasn’t until I was out of bootcamp and able to get online that I saw her name on the list of casualties from flight 175. I will never forget the way my heart sank and the way I just wanted to yell and curse and scream and just hit someone. I thought back to the day my grandmother told me they needed me now more than ever. I knew that what I was doing now meant more than anything in the world. See I was a Cryptologist. I analyzed communications and decoded them. I went to classes to supplement my Cryptology classes. I went to school for an additional 12 weeks to learn Combat Direction Finding and how to be a Direct Support Operator (meaning I could locate signals and if needed I could go to other locations and help them out if they were short handed). I went up to Fort Meade and went to work at NSA so the rest of my journey is classified 🙂 But I did it for Lisa. I wanted to make an impact.

Flight 175
WTC Memorial for Flight 175

A few years later on the same day I lost my best friend, my rock, my solace. Her great grandson was barely a year old. He didn’t understand the magnitude of the loss that he was witnessing. And I didn’t understand just how much of my heart I was losing that day. I had discussed her passing with her before and she had always told me the same old cliches everyone tells their loved ones. You know the ones… “I’ll always be in your heart”, “I will always hear you”, or my favorite one “I will always be watching over you”. She always told me I had to be strong that when it was her time to go she would be going to a better place and I couldn’t be sad that I should be happy. Well 10 years later I am here to say that is a crock of shit. I know it is really selfish of us to want those we love to stay here with us but come on they really do ask the impossible of us. There is no way we’re gonna do cartwheels when someone we love passes saying “hey they’re in a better place”. Even as diverse as music is, there is one thing where they all come together with the same message and that is when it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one. They all talk about the sadness it brings and the void they feel.

So with that I want to share with you a letter to those who have departed many years ago this week. Maybe it will help you if you are dealing with a loss. Maybe you will write your own letter to the departed. Sometimes writing a letter to those who are no longer with us helps us to deal with their being gone.

My Friend, I am sorry we didn’t get to see the world together. But I make you this promise from here on out to travel. To show my kids what you didn’t get to see. To take them to the places you didn’t get to go. The far away places we talked about in our wildest dreams and keep your memory alive thru them. Every time we make it to a new place, let them know how much we would have liked to go there when we were teens beginning our journey into life. But you will never be forgotten and we will leave your mark around the world.

me and granny
My Grandmother and I when I graduated bootcamp Nov 2001

Granny, there are no words to describe the void I feel. Seasons change and days come and go but it’s still not the same. I don’t have those every day phone calls. The kids don’t know what it’s like to get woken up in the wee hours of the morning to hear you sing happy birthday. And I can say I know you’re watching over us but the truth is I really don’t know. I don’t feel you here anymore. But there is a favor I need to ask. If you are around please watch over my new god son who is due to make his debut next month. I have been waiting for this baby for so long and I know that if you are watching over my kids you will watch over him too cuz after all you considered Janeen one of the family. Please give me a sign.

grandma letter
From one of the letters I got in bootcamp.

If there is anything I can tell you from my loss its that you need to tell the ones you love everyday that you love them. You never know what will happen in your life that can pull you away. So today and this week we take a moment to remember the lives that have been lost on 9/11/01 in the attacks that devastated so many. Please kiss your children, your spouse, significant other, mother, father, whoever you can and tell them you love them. Don’t wait to write a letter to the departed.



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