I'm sure by the time you read this you'll already know way more than what is written here, but I wanted to put it down just in case.
Many years before you were born, before Derrick was born, even before your daddy and I were married or even dating, I knew your name. Your name isn't something I picked simply because I liked it, it has a much deeper meaning to me than that.
When I was in third grade I met a girl named Jenny. Jenny and I had everything in common and we became fast friends. We spent the night at each other's houses almost every single weekend, talked on the phone for hours at the time...we were inseparable. We were together so much that I actually got an allowance at her house for a while!
Jenny was definitely the brains of the two of us (but I was the common sense! :). She was feisty, strong-minded, and clumsy. She loved gummy bears and maraschino cherries and hated all condiments except for barbecue sauce. She had beautiful, long, dark brown curls that always hung perfectly (that she usually hated) and huge dark brown eyes. She could remember all of the words to a song after hearing it only once or twice, and could rap quite well, which always made me laugh! (She tried to teach me, but my mouth just didn't move that fast.) She could always think of a story to get us out of sticky situations (or get us further in) but was always quick to come up with something, good or bad. We were quite the pair.
We had so much fun together. We often got in trouble at school for "giggling" too much during class...all the way up through high school. We loved writing songs together that were always ridiculously silly and often resulted in the pee-in-your-pants laughter that lasted for hours. (I feel sure that Ivory soap would pay us for the song we wrote for them! I'll sing it for you sometime Ha!) We took trips down to the creek on lawn mowers looking for Indians, "borrowed" Grandma Frick's car for drives around the yard (although crashing into the quail pen then the pool fence put an end to that), hid puppies in my closet to buy us time to cook up a story so our parents would let us keep them, made prank phone calls (that Jenny was SO good at) and the list goes on, and on, and on.
During our senior year in high school Jenny decided to "move out" of her house. She loaded up her car and moved into my bedroom. She brought all kinds of stuff! It was so much fun to have a roommate...for about two days. We drove each other nuts and she ended up "moving back in" with her parents after about a week. Ha! We were too much alike to share a bedroom!
While we had a great time together, we fought like sisters! We weren't afraid to let each other know that the other was getting on our nerves! We were competitive but a perfect fit. We had each other's backs no matter the situation and we made quite the team.
After high school we went off to different colleges. We weren't together as often and didn't talk as frequently, but we still kept in touch. When we did talk it was as if no time had passed at all. Towards the end of college (we were both on the decade program!) Jenny started coming home a lot more often, so we picked up right where we left off... having fun, laughing, gossiping, planning, playing detective...doing those things young girls do and loving every minute of it.
Exactly six years ago today, I got a phone call in the early morning hours that rocked my world to the core.
At about 4:00am on March 18, 2005, I received a phone call from Jenny's sister, Vicki. Vicki told me that Jenny had been killed in a car accident. All I can remember about that phone call was saying, "Are you sure? She was just here." I was overcome with a numbness that I can't explain. I was shaking so badly that I could barely make my way back to my room to get dressed.
Jenny had been at my house just hours before. I had been going through a pretty rough time and she had come to take my mind off things. We went to dinner that night and your daddy had come along too. The three of us had been together a lot for those last several weeks. Anyway, Jenny took me home and came inside to pick up her dog, Gracie, who had been playing with Andy while we were gone. She gave me a big hug and said, "Are you sure you're going to be ok?" I told her that I would, and she said, "Ok. I love you."
I let the door close, and I will never ever forget her standing there holding Gracie, giving me one last smile and wave before she walked away.
Apparently on her way home she ran off the road and her car flipped, killing both her and Gracie instantly. She was 23 years old, beautiful, young, and so full of life. She was weeks away from graduating from nursing school. She was a new aunt to a newborn baby girl that she couldn't get enough of. She was my best friend, the sister I never had, and now, somehow, she was gone.
I went with her family to identify her body and somehow helped pick out some of the details of her memorial service. At some point during that first day I looked down and noticed something on my left hand. I had forgotten that Jenny had written on my hand that night. (She was always writing on people!) On my hand, in her big bubbly handwriting she had written, "Smile! Jenny loves you!" I tried so hard not to wash that pen off my hand. I was so sad to watch it fade over those first few days after she was gone. It really did make me smile. It was almost like she knew I would need that.
I spent the next several weeks with Jenny's family trying to hold on to any piece that was left of her. We talked about her all the time, reliving all of the memories that we all thought of so often. It was hard to be with them, but hard not to be, because that was all that was left of her. They had become my family too after all of those years, but such a huge part was missing. As the months went on we spent less and less time together. I'm not sure if it became too much for all of us to bear, or if it was our way of grieving and healing on our own. I still see them, although not nearly as often as I would like. Maybe someday that will change.
I'm so incredibly thankful that your daddy had the chance to know Jenny. I'm so thankful that he had been with us that night because he was the only way I made it through that first year without her. It's funny how God puts the perfect people in your life at just the right moments. Your daddy knew how special Jenny was. He had the chance to know her and know why she was so special to me, and for that I am very grateful.
I still think of Jenny all the time. There are still moments when I wish I could pick up the phone and tell her about something that happened or ask for advice. I wanted so badly for her to be at our wedding, to tell her I was going to be a mother, to be able to call her when we found out about your brother's special heart, and again when we found out we were having you, baby girl. I can imagine how she would have responded to all of those important things, but it sure isn't the same not hearing her voice and her laughter.
My Jenny Kate, I pray that someday you find your own Jenny. A bunch of girlfriends are great to have, but you need that special friend too. The one you can count on no matter what kind of situation you're in, no matter how long it's been since you've last talked. The kind of friend who knows every single thing about you and loves you anyway. I want you to have that friend that you talk on the phone with WAY too late, the one you get in trouble with for laughing, the one who cries with you because when you hurt she hurts.
I want you to HAVE that friend and BE that friend. Because, Jenny Kate, girlfriends...best friends...are what make being a girl so much fun!
There is one friend in the life of each of us who seems not a separate person, however dear and beloved, but an expansion, an interpretation, of one's self, the very meaning of one's soul. ~Edith Wharton