( blackbird )

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly/Blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night.

Blackbird fly/Blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

- The Beatles, "Blackbird"

April 14th.

It was one of those days where it seemed that nothing could go wrong; a day that seemed perfect in a string of days that were usually blank, dull. It was a day I was personally looking foreword to, one of those rare days where it was a good thing to get up in the morning, to stretch and watch the sun rise in the kitchen while drinking a steaming mug of tea. It was a day where I actually smiled when I got out of my family's pewter-grey Bonneville and walked into school.

Who knew that it wouldn't last?

I knew as soon as I walked up to the second floor in my school that afternoon after lunch that something had happened. People were clinging desperately to each other; faces were buried in shoulders, arms were fumbling in clumsy, tear-blinded embraces. I could feel my heart begin to race, my breathing become short and ragged. My first thoughts were on Jordan - a classmate and close friend who, under unbelievably cruel and inexplicable circumstances, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 13. With an unstoppable personality, an always-present smile, an amazing, (but sometimes strange), sense of humor, and incredibly contagious laughter, he somehow pulled through those extremely tough months in eighth grade, and graduated a happy and healthy individual with the rest of his class - our class.

Questions began flashing before my mind's eye at a dizzying pace. What could have possibly happened? Only three weeks before, after four months of rehearsal and three amazing performances of the school musical, "The Music Man," the tightly-knit, family-like cast, myself included, was given the news that Jordan had fallen into a relapse. And now I had this terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, a nauseating feeling that made me want to vomit. I swallowed and turned to my cousin, who was leaning against the wall with an empty and glazed look in his eyes, and I asked him the hardest question I've ever asked anyone in my entire life.

"What happened?"

He suddenly looked up at me as if someone had shaken him abruptly from a dream. He looked at me, blinking once slowly, and then looking at me straight in the eye and mumbling. "I think Jordan passed."

All I could do was let my eyes widen. I stared at him for a moment, and then at two girls clutching each other and crying hysterically. I walked to English, bewildered, and stepped into a classroom full of girls. I glimpsed at the one empty seat. Jordan's.

It had always been strange, how my English class had been a class of all girls except for him. Whenever he was in class, though, he always fit right in; there was no sexual division at all. He loved to make us laugh.

I slowly made my way to my seat. There had to be some mistake. Just because Jordan wasn't in school didn't mean that he had -

"I don't know if you've heard," my English teacher's choked voice made my head snap up. Her face was flushed, and she held a crumpled tissue tightly in one hand. Her teary face looked naked without her glasses. "But...Jordan has passed away." Her voice cracked and she quickly made her way to her desk.

I gasped, my hand flying to my gaping mouth, and I too sat quickly in my seat. His face flashed before me - warm eyes, a confident smile planted happily between his cheeks. My heart sank as he faded. It was true. Jordan was dead.

The sudden sting of tears surprised me, and I buried my face in my hands as I cried. I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt that day - I remember feeling my tears soak into the worn, comforting sleeves. I heard sounds of sorrow all around me, and I looked up after a moment. Sitting in the corner with nothing but bookshelves full of dictionaries and thesauruses and several copies of "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" to my right, and friends in shocked silence to my left, I felt extremely lonely. The room was silent. And so, when I felt a new rush of tears, I didn't bother covering my face. I simply let my head fall against the desk, and sat there in denial.

It couldn't be real. It just couldn't be real. I had known Jordan for years, been in choir and band and musicals and classes with him. It couldn't be real. He couldn't be gone. All I could keep thinking was that it was unfair.

I couldn't take the silence anymore. I finally sat up and asked my teacher if I could go to the choir room across the hall. She nodded and I walked out of the classroom. A sigh escaped from behind my lips as I pulled on the metal handle of the door. The choir room - my second home.

I stopped short when I walked into the room. The entire cast of "The Music Man," as well members of the four choirs, who were usually extremely eccentric people, sat in complete silence; some were teary, and some were simply staring off into their own worlds, horrified, their eyes glazed over. Several of the male members of the music department were sitting along a wall of cabinets - Stu, Manoah, Harry, Jeremy, Drew, Ted, Robert, Keith - biting back unmanly tears. Ms. Boehme, my choir director, sat in a chair with a small, sad smile on her face, never letting a tear fall from her sunken eyes. I slowly walked over to where my friend, Sammi, was sitting, and sat next to her. She didn't look up at me. So I just put my arms around her and hugged her, even though I desperately needed someone to hug me. We sat in silence and cried together. We were a family mourning the loss of a brother.

Those two periods seemed to last forever. I went back to English to grab my books, and went straight back to the choir room. I felt safe in there. It was a sanctuary to me.

People were slowly filing out, seniors were offering rides to the underclassmen, and I saw that Keith was laying underneath the piano with his hands clasped over his chest, which rose and fell slowly. His eyes were closed and he looked like he was sleeping, but I knew he wasn't. I could see his hands shaking.

I scanned the room once more and was ready to walk out when I saw Manoah standing in a corner of the room with his head pressed against the wall. I walked over and put my hand on his shoulder, and whispered that it was going to be okay. He swallowed and turned to me, his eyes red and full of tears that he had been hiding before, and suddenly hugged me. I hesitated, then threw my arms around him. We stayed like that for a minute, and I felt tears once again sting the corners of my swollen, drying eyes. I could hear muffled crying as he leaned his head on my shoulder; I almost smiled. As pathetic as it was, this was all I had wanted all afternoon. Just for someone to hug me.

The services were the next day. They shipped us to the temple in silent school buses. There were at least a thousand chairs in the temple, and every one of them was filled. People even stood in the back, their hands clasped loosely in front of them. There were teachers, friends, family, doctors, nurses, even those who had simply heard of Jordan's struggle and had come to honor him and pay their respects. I had a wad of tissues stuffed in the pocket of my black coat, on which I kept my hand, so ready to grab one.

I listened to each family member speak: Jordan's mother and father, his 11-year old brother, Ross, and his older sister, Marnie, his cousin, Jesse. I listened to his best friends, Alan and Sarah - who sounded as if she were pleading as she said in a choked voice, "We were going to get married, Jordan." I cried harder than I'd ever cried. I couldn't bring myself to sing with the choir...I didn't want to have to see the casket.

The service was only two hours or so, but it seemed to go on forever. We left the temple in a solemn march, and rode back to the school on those silent school buses once again. I stayed in the band room that afternoon with my music teachers, (who the students of the music department lovingly call simply "Boemz" and "Slate"), and a few friends, making small talk. That night, a few other students and I got together, sat outside and lit candles. We sang songs. We tried to get our minds off of everything. Surprisingly, it helped; when I got home, I slept soundly.

The next day, my English teacher took us outside to write haikus on the sidewalk, attempting some sort of therapy session. When I had written my poems down with sidewalk chalk, I stood up to check my handiwork, and spotted a haiku not too far away from mine, written in a familiar scrawl:

I just want to know/
This is a rough time for us/
How are you feeling?

- Ben K.

I cocked my head to the side and stared at the lines for a moment. I knelt down with my stick of fat blue chalk and began to write, the sound of the chalk scraping against the concrete, firm, calm, and soothing.

Ben, I decided/
To answer you, and I say/
I think I'm okay

I stood up and wiped my hands on my jeans. I felt something lift from my shoulders, like someone was lightening a burden. Maybe it would take days, maybe it would take weeks, months, years for the pain of Jordan's passing to fade. But then, under the warm glow of the sun wrapping around me, and the calm breeze of the evanescent spring dancing about me, life didn't seem so bad. I smiled and walked back into the building, knowing what I had written was true. I was okay.

- Jordan Lee Fish -
06.01.88 - 04.14.03
You will not be forgotten.