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JamBios Memory Gallery

The JamBios Memory Gallery showcases user submitted memory stories from around the globe.

Each month selections are hand curated by Annie Cusick Wood and the JamBios creative team. They are chosen based on how the memory touches our heart, makes us laugh or inspires us.

To submit your memory story, start your free JamBio and invite the Memory Gallery to read one of your Chapter sections. Select Reader "Memory Gallery" at MemoryGallery@JamBios.com.

JamBios Featured Section
By Kimberly

My life began on the day I tried to end it.

 I was 39 years old and had recently moved to Virginia.  They say sometimes you don't realize what a mess your life has become, until you are out of the mess.  That was me.

In the years that preceded that fateful day I had become pregnant with my then boyfriend's child.  I was already a single mom with four children from a previous marriage.  That failed marriage had left me with no other choice than to move back in with my parents, and my relationship with my mother had never been healthy.  I had received a much fought for promotion at my job but that required more hours away from my children. I was struggling in the balance, or lack of it. I eventually made my boyfriend my husband and became a step-mother to two more children.  With the baby on the way, that made us a family of 9.  We moved from Texas to Virginia a week after that baby turned a year old.  I didn't realize it then, but depression has already taken a firm grip on my life.  I thought it was just the stress of the move.  Little did I know.

I was thankful that I was able to transfer to another store in Virginia.  But shortly after I arrived it became clear that while I was still working for the same company by name, the culture at my new store was very different.  My new manager seemed threatened by me.  She did not share the company's vision for my position, nor did she recognize me as a vital member of the management team.  I would soon discover that she had lied to the previous manager about the budget, and had been misappropriating funds to finance other programs.  Confronting her on that matter took things from bad to worse.  I had loved my job in Texas.  I was successful, respected.  It was the only place that I was simply known for who I was.  It had nothing to do with whose daughter I was, whose wife, whose mother.  And though I valued all of those roles, having an outlet for authentic expression was important to me.  Now, even that was taken from me and thus began the downward spiral.

I had panic attacks in my late teens and a few in my early twenties but I'm not sure I even realized that was what was happening.  But after moving to Virginia they became a regular occurrence.  I realized shortly before we moved that something wasn't right. I thought maybe it was postpartum depression, and looking back, I'm sure that was part of it.  No one survives the childhood I lived, finds themselves a single mom, pregnant and unmarried, gets married and takes on two more kids, gives birth to yet another and moves and changes jobs a year later without falling victim to a bit of stress.  At least, that was what my counselor had said.  She prescribed a mild anti-depressant.  It never really helped much, but at the very least, it made me too drugged to care.

By the time I dropped my daughter off at daycare and drove up to my favorite overlook on the mountain that day, I had been on that medication for over a year.  By then it felt like I was eating candy, so I threw Benadryl into the mix, and chased it with wine to give it a boost.  But the panic attacks  kept coming.  That morning I had the worst I'd ever experienced.  It wasn't a stretch for me to believe that it wasn't worth fighting this battle anymore.  I'd been trying to be "good enough" for someone since the day I was born.  Yes, I loved my children, especially my baby girl, but that day I convinced myself that I was a failure and would fail again. The words ran on repeat through my mind.  "She is better off without you."

My memories of that morning are pretty foggy.  To this day I don't know how I drove her safely to daycare, much less how I ended up on the mountain. It makes sense though. Then as now, they have always been my sanctuary.  My first clear memory is of pulling into the overlook, my favorite one.  I had refilled my prescription for my meds the day before and came equipped with a full bottle of chardonnay.  That's the last thing I remember before I saw his face.  One minute I was looking at the bottle of pills and the wine in the console, and the next, he was there.

"Can you tell me your name?"  He was digging through the vehicle now, I guess looking for my purse.  But no matter, I was speaking, I answered all of his questions, told him everything he needed to know.  "Stay awake, I need you to stay awake", he said.  He told me an ambulance was on the way. I could hear the sirens in the distance, but it's a long way up that mountain, so he did his best to keep me talking.

In the ambulance it was more of the same, "What is your name?  Do you know what day it is?  I need you to keep talking."  I looked down and realized someone had started an IV.  I'm terrified of IV's because of a bad experience during my first delivery.  I hadn't even felt them put the needle in.  It would be a decade later before I realized what I saw next.  On the day I called an ambulance for my mother.  As I watched them lift her in, I was astonished by the cramped quarters and the single paramedic that accompanied her.  I sought him out at the hospital and asked, "Are all ambulances set up the same as yours?", I asked.  "Yes, pretty much", he answered.  "And is there typically only one other person in the back with the patient?" I asked.  "Uhm, usually, sometimes two.  But most of the time it's just me and the driver."  But that wasn't the case on the day the ambulance took me down that mountain.  Yes, there was only one person speaking to me, but there were twelve others there with us that day.  That sat around me, four on each side and four at my feet on a bench that I realize now doesn't even exist.  Some will claim it was just the drugs, but I know better.  My other memories are too clear.  I was able to recount conversations and other things that took place that day to both the paramedic and the park ranger who found me.  They were all just as I recalled. So why would this one memory be any different?  For me, there is only one explanation. I was surrounded that day, on every side, by angels.

I came through. In spite of my best efforts to the contrary,  I lived. The park ranger stayed with me until my husband arrived.  He came the next morning to see me again. "I was talking to a dead woman." he said, "You are a walking miracle. You shouldn't have been coherent, but you were. You answered all my questions. You shouldn't be alive"  And then he broke down and cried.  We both did.  I later learned that he had been patrolling an area miles on the other side of the parkway when he suddenly had a vision of the overlook where I was at and he knew something bad was happening.  Gene Parker saved my life.

It feels odd to live in the aftermath of knowing that a power greater than you could ever fathom literally reached out and snatched you from the grips of death, but there is no other explanation.  Like Gene said, I shouldn't be alive.  I wish I could tell you that it was easy. That I was miraculously healed from the pain, delivered from the demons that had I came to realize had haunted me all of my life.  But it wasn't.  It was hard. The hardest fight I have ever fought.  It meant retracing memories from my life that I had buried in an effort to forget.  It meant walking away from relationships and people that I loved, that I still love, but that were not good for me. The voices didn't stop immediately.  There were days, so-many-days when once again I heard, "They would be better off without you."  But I wouldn't test fate again.  For reasons I am still discovering, there was and remains a purpose for my life.  A purpose far beyond even what I understand. Just as there is for each of us.

Gene Parker died from stomach cancer in 2008.  I went home for a couple of years to take care of my mom before she passed away, but I returned to this peaceful little valley a little over a year ago.  I drove to that overlook within the first forty eight hours after I arrived.  October 11 will mark 18 years since that fateful day.  The mountains remain my sanctuary.  Three weeks ago I returned from my first hike on the Appalachian Trail.  Now I'm giving serious consideration to a thru-hike.  I walk in these mountains weekly, averaging 15-20 miles each week.  The distance isn't significant, but it's not able the miles I walk, it's that I still am.  They are the best therapy and anti-depressant I know.  I no longer have a need for any other.  I leave it all on the trail and it fills me back up.  I am at peace, content, happy and alive.  I think Gene would be proud.  That's the goal, anyway.

"With folded hands and bruised knees, I build cathedrals of these ruins." - Tricia Sarmiento

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Category: Memory Gallery Selection

We were touched by this poignant, hopeful memory of a critical turning point: the saving of a life.

JamBios Featured Section
By Kristen Jaccodine

It's All About The Footwork

At least that is what one of my former coaches told me. I was five years old when I first stepped foot on the soccer field. (I later learned the sport is called football in Europe and South America and the field is the pitch.) Before I pulled on shin pads and cleats, I wore tap and jazz shoes. I even played the part of a doll in The Wilton School of  Dance production of Annie. The funny thing? Where I enjoyed dancing, I preferred jazz over tap. At the time, I was not permitted to just study jazz, so I stopped and opted for soccer.

My love for the game was immediate.

Of course at 5, the game is not much more than bang ball. You know, a group of players are stuck in a tiny circle (we are little bodies after all) and kick the ball around, each fighting for control, until someone finally finds the golden boot and gets the ball released. Only for the swarm of players to chase after it and create a new circle further down the field. In 1980, soccer was around in the states, but, females were not necessarily part of the picture. On my first recreational team, I was one of two girls who played. I had a huge crush on my coach, who was and still is gorgeous. Looks aside, he knew the game, had a passion for it and that passed on to me.

The first professional game I attended was the then NY Cosmos. They played in Giants Stadium (which is in NJ, not NY!). We had a rain delay and for a time, it appeared the game would be canceled. The fans around my parents and I were getting restless. My dad began to worry when various arguments broke out, with the fans not seeming to care or respect the fact that there were children around. Sound familiar to today's world of sports? Eventually the rain stopped, tempers settled and the game began. I do not remember who won, but I remember watching the pros move the ball around on the field as if they were dancing. I then fully understood why the great Pele described the sport as a beautiful game. 

I continued playing recreational soccer until I aged out at 12. I then could either play on my grammar school team or try out for a boys traveling team. Playing with boys as a young girl was fine, playing with adolescent boys who by that time were bigger and stronger than  me? No thank you. I had no interest in getting hurt. So, I stopped play for about a year. By that time, more girls were  playing and there was talk of starting a girls travel team for our area, which happened. I played travel soccer for four years and then took another year off during my  freshman year of high school. 

Again, there was a boys team, but no girls team. With a season off, I opted to play tennis (well, let's say I practiced tennis. I was never given the opportunity to take the court). By my sophomore year, my younger teammates from the travel team were now in high school and we had enough to field a JV team.

1994 marked the first time the World Cup was hosted by the  United States. I was lucky enough to attend the Ireland vs Italy match at Giants stadium. I am of both Italian and Irish decent, so I did not care who the victor was. I do not remember if I wore my own soccer jersey to the game, but I do know that I remained neutral when cheering, especially when I saw that the group in front of me were Italian and the group behind me were Irish. My dad worried we would have a repeat of the Cosmos match. My mom and I told him everything would be fine.

And it was. There was no fighting! During halftime, mom and I discussed various plays from the first half. The Irishmen behind me looked at me like I was from another planet. They asked how much I understood of the game. I shared with them that I play the game and understood everything. He apologized, indicating that females did not yet play the sport in Ireland. I explained to him that the game was still fairly new to girls in the states too. Little did we both know that at the time I was playing, so were eventual American Greats Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Brandi Chastain, and Kristine Lilly. At this time, both Italy and Ireland were powerhouses of European football. Ireland eventually edged out Italy 1-0 in regulation time.

I continued playing soccer with my school junior varsity team as a sophomore (and was in the marching band. I played the saxophone and at the time, my band instructor required that everyone in concert band had to be in the marching band). Imagine running around on a soccer field Saturday morning at practice only to then pull on a hot, stuffy wool uniform! Luckily, that only lasted one season.  According to league rules, schools could only begin with a JV team before moving to Varsity.  By the start of my senior year of high school, we had enough girls to field both a j.v. and a varsity team! And we were actually pretty damn good. We did come close to capturing the sectional title during my junior year, eventually losing to a much bigger and stronger team.

That's a funny thing about soccer. Yes, it is about the footwork, but it is also about your mental ability to stay focused, to see through the play, to pace yourself, and wait for the moments to pull apart the oppositions defense. My teammates at the time did not all agree on this fact. It was at this time where my love for the game was tested.

You see, I am not by nature a competitive person. I never have been. I played the game because I loved it. I loved the feel of the cool grass on my feet while dribbling the ball up and down the field. I loved the passing, the shooting, the outstanding goalkeeping, the thrill of going into overtime, though I could do away with penalty kicks! I loved playing in the rain, as crazy as it sounds. I liked when mud gathered beneath my cleats, so that when I kicked the ball, clumps would fly out and distract the defender! And although I did not score often, when I did, it made all the time and effort I put into practice worth while. There is something freeing about the game. About the ability to navigate this solid sphere using only your feet, legs, thighs, chest, and head. By this time in my life, you could still love the game, but you also had to deal with the competitive aspect of it. Healthy competition is great, but in my experience, it was not the case.

Honestly, I do not want to talk to much about those negative experiences because eventually, I moved past them. I will say that by the start of my senior year, I was at the point where I was ready to hang up my cleats. I was appointed co-captain that year. We were supposed to lead warm ups. One practice, the other captain agreed to the teams urging to run the cross country course. Yes, with our cleats and pads on, we were to run up and down hills. I'm not a runner, but I know enough about the activity to know that there is a technique to running up and down hills. As a team player, I swallowed my objections and took off. Close to the start of the course, one of my friends and teammates that I ran with twisted her ankle in a hole left behind by a ground hog. We were nowhere close to the field at this point. Another teammate and I helped her hobble back to the field. By that time, the rest of the team had already returned.  Since I did not finish the course, I and my other teammate were told to run laps.

That is the first time in my time as a player that I can honestly say I was livid. I refused to speak to my coach the rest of the practice for fear of what I might say. The same went for my co-captain who I believed saw what happened and honestly felt bad about it. She later tried to talk to me and I simply asked, "are we a soccer team or part of the x country team?" We never ran the course again.  

Up until this time, I was lucky that for the most part, I had good coaches. Nobody will ever beat my first and I was determined to not let what was to be my last make me turn against the game. You see, "coachie" had favorites. I was not a naive teenage girl. I understood favoritism, but what frustrated me was how it impacted the rest of the team. You see, there were a few girls that also held part time jobs. Which is fantastic, but when they miss countless practices, yet still start in games and people like myself attend every practice only to sit for full games was frustrating. Honestly, when I think back upon that time now, I am still grateful that I was injured during my senior year and could not play for the season.

I had fluid build up in my feet, making it painful for me to walk, never mind run. It allowed me to "quit" without really quitting. I stayed on as the team manager, keeping stats at games, things like that. By that time, I knew I was not going to play in college, so, to sit this season out was okay with me. 

My time ended as a player, but, that season off allowed me to regain my passion for the sport as a spectator and a coach. I first worked with five and six year olds, wanting to teach them how to love the game, like I was taught. I then worked with older kids, still in the recreational league, but due to politics, parental interference, and my own busy schedule, I eventually walked away.

The college I attended (Franklin Pierce in NH) had both an excellent men and women's team. In 1999 and 2003, I was lucky enough to see more World Cup games in the United States, only this time, it was the national women's teams! Giants Stadium hosted the opening games in 1999.  I was one of the 78,792 fans who attended the opening ceremonies featuring the United States and Denmark as the opening match. US Women's Soccer had finally arrived! It was a 3-0 victory as soccer greats Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Kristine Lilly scored! 

The last professional game I attended was last month. I hoped to see Carli Lloyed with her professional team - NJ Sky Blue - but she was called up to play in a friendly national game.  That was disappointing, but, I was still able to see the game live! 

And now, it is once again the World Cup. I've been glued to the television (and computer screen while I finished up my work for the school year). 

My love for the game is alive and well. 




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Category: Memory Gallery Selection

This user’s series of soccer memories are a tribute to her lifelong love of the game—paralleled by watching women succeed at it on a global scale.

JamBios Featured Section
By SunshineCowger

A Fun Day at the Beach!

It was probably May when I sent Heather a text. 


‘Ready to plan a beach day?' 


A couple of hours later she responded. 


‘You know it, last time it was freezing. Let's go in July instead of June this year.' 


‘Good point, let's shoot for the end of July. I don't want to go around the fourth, plus my birthday is the next day and I don't want to be at the beach when it will be so busy.' 


Late that night she texted back. 


‘I got it! Friday the 13th! We go to the beach in the morning and then we can go home and watch scary movies.'
 

It was a great plan. Suddenly, the day before all three kids start acting like they can't go.
Joseph: My stomach hurts.
Tyler: I'd rather play video games!
Heather: We can reschedule in August and that way everyone is up for it.
Me: I just spent three months quarantined in a house after transplant, we are going and everyone is going to have a great time! 


The next morning, we were up and in bathing suits, ready to head out at 9:30.
 

The drive itself was exciting, we were heading to Huntington Beach and Heather was supposed to be navigating. It is safe to say that it is a good thing that this is not a professional job for her. It was both terrifying and hysterical all at the same time.
She would scream, "Get over! Make a right!"
Of course, I would be like, "I am not going across three lanes of traffic. We will just have to turn around."
Joseph and Tyler were in the backseat and gave her the hardest time. However, they were punching her and each other while screaming, ‘Slug Bug!' I am pretty sure that all three of them are still hiding bruises from one another. 


We arrived at the beach two and a half hours later. We were like kids on Christmas morning, we all love the water. There is just something about it, knowing that you can breathe in the scent of the ocean, feel the heat of the sand beneath your feet, not to mention music playing and people laughing.

 
Apparently, there was about to be a volleyball tournament in the coming days and/or a surfing competition. We drop our bags and immediate all four of us head out into the water. It took about ten minutes before a lifeguard came and asked all of us in that area not to swim so close to the pier. 


About fifteen minutes later we end up at lifeguard tower three (this will come in to play later). Once again, we head out to the water. It was the perfect temperature, there were no kids screaming or crying, everyone was friendly and all three kids were getting along (If you are a parent, a boss, a person who has ever been in any type of relationship…..you know what a huge moment this was). The waves were perhaps the highest that I had ever seen (I'm all of 5'2") so they may have been completely normal. Anyway, I do digress. We were out there jumping waves, giggling and laughing, and generally just out there making memories. 

The waves had knocked all of us down at least once or twice (a dozen times if you are 5'2"). At one point, this large wave comes. Heather and I were standing mere inches apart, we make eye contact just as the wave crashes over us, we both become submerged. Heather decides that she is going to reach out and grab me so that at least we will know where the other one is when we come up and out of the water. Instead of grabbing my hand, she grabs my right breast and squeezes as if her life depends on it. We come up and out of the water and Heather literally just stares at her hand for five straight seconds before slowly removing it. 


This is funny because it happened once before when we were in her car and I was in the passenger seat when suddenly a car cut us off. Heather reached out that time as well and once again grabbed on and didn't let go. So, when we came up and out of the water, her mouth dropped open. 


"I have no idea what is up with my hands and your boobs, I'm so sorry." 


Two men nearby just kept staring at us, completely unaware that Heather is my little girl (she is about to be twenty-three, always my baby and all that). 


At one point another wave came, took my sunglasses off my head and sucked them out to sea. An hour after that, I lost my hair clip in the ocean. Does my day end there? Not a chance. 


The boys went up to check the bags while Heather and I went back to the water. Once again, we were jumping waves and that was when everything changed. I got knocked down once again by a wave that was clearly out to get me. I went under the water and was pushed about five feet closer to shore when pain radiated through my leg. 


I couldn't remember slamming my leg on the floor and yet, I was sure my ankle or the area between my ankle and knee was broken. Images come into my mind, surgery, stitches, staples, having to be confined to the house again, could this affect the new kidney?
I come up and out of the water and look back at Heather who is waving me over to her. Instead, I wave her over, she walked over to me immediately. 


"Are you OK? You look pissed (I always get angry when I get hurt, not sure why)." 


"I think I really hurt myself."

 
The closer we got to shore, the more my ankle began to hurt. I see Heather looking down at my leg. 


"I don't see any blood. Oh, wait! Oh man, you cut yourself good." 


A second or two goes by and Heather looks sick. 


"Oh, that is gross! There is a lot of blood." 


I finally look down, with every step I take, blood literally squirted out of my foot. Yep, it was gross. With all I've been through, blood and I have never become friendly. 


"What do you want me to do?" 


I pondered her question before feeling pain completely engulf my entire foot and leg. I can feel the tears beginning to sting my eyes. 


"Go and get the lifeguard." 


Luckily, we were right by tower three, I watch as she takes off. I can feel all eyes on me, no one asking if I needed help, just standing nearby and staring. Heather comes running back, her eyes full of concern. 


"Should I get the boys?" (This is a great time to mention that when Heather told Joseph and Tyler, she said, "She got stuck!" The boys thought I was lost in the water somewhere. They both came flying down to where I was. It is funny now but, in that moment, I thought Joseph was going to throttle his sister). 

"Yes." 


"The lifeguard is coming, she just had to radio it in." 


Suddenly, the lifeguard comes running down to me. Now everyone is beginning to watch. She asks me to walk closer to where the sand was drier. I followed, of course, all while limping to dry land. The sweet, young lifeguard kneels down and looks at my foot. 


"Ma'am, you were stung by a stingray." 


I could not have been more shocked. I mean you hear about that stuff on television shows or when reading about Steve Irwin, but, me? I was downright shocked, to say the least. The woman pours alcohol on my foot and I about came out of my skin, that hurt.
Suddenly, a truck pulls up. Two lifeguards get out and begin to help me. They were very kind and for that, I will always be grateful. 


"The only thing that is going to help is to put your foot in extremely hot water." 


I can go on and on about the pain of that, but, I won't.
 

I can't tell you how many people messaged me.
‘Only you could get attacked on Friday the 13th.'
‘Seriously, how do these things always happen to you?'
‘Way to wreck the day.'
‘Still going to make fun of me for not liking the water, Sunny?'
‘Let this be a lesson to you, always wear sunscreen to protect you from harmful rays.'
 

The pain ended after about ninety minutes. By the next day, I was back to putting all my weight on it.
 

With all that, I wouldn't trade that day for anything. I had the best time with Heather, Joseph, and Tyler. If anything, it just gives me a really great story to tell. Possibly a cool little scar as if I don't already have a bunch of those.

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Category: Memory Gallery Selection

Shocking twist and all, we enjoyed this story of Sunshine and her family catching some rays... and not the kind you think!

By Kristen Jaccodine

In the Wood

I remember it as if were yesterday. My parents took my sister and I to Vermont for winter break. We stayed in Woodstock, but spent some time in Stowe. Stowe is about four hours further north. This quaint Vermont town is home to Mt. Mansfield, the highest mountain in the state, peaking at 4,395 feet above sea level. Ben & Jerry's manufacturing plant is in a neighboring town, along with Cabot Cheese and the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory.  It's also home to Trapp Family Lodge - of the von Trapp Family. Baron von Trapp, his wife Maria and their children eventually settled in Stowe after escaping their beloved war-torn Austria in 1938.  The family chose this land nestled in the mountains, overlooking the village of Stowe because it reminded them of their home country.

On that trip in February 1985, as my sister and I sat on the floor, putting together a small jigsaw puzzle of the lodge, our parents purchased a time share. For the next 50 years, we would spend a week every summer (and eventually a week in the winter and eventually in the spring) in this beautiful place.  As much as I've traveled throughout the country and have visited wonderful places, it is here, that I return to year after year. The scenery is beautiful regardless of the season (although I will say that March, after the snow has melted and all that is left behind is mud? Not so pretty), but the sense of peace and calm that always settle within me while I'm here never changes.

Now, I can recount all of my adventures at the lodge, and maybe, one day I will. But for now, I want to focus on my last trip there.

It was last summer. While at Trapp, we have several traditions. We have ice cream at Ben & Jerry's, go to the Cabot annex store to sample the cheese and syrups they may have, bike along the rec path that starts from the base of Mt. Mansfield and ends in town, swim, and hike either on the Trapp property or elsewhere. Indoors, we challenge ourselves to complete a jigsaw puzzle within a week's time, we read, and play games. With the opening of the new bierhall, we eat lunch or dinner there at least once during our stay. 

These are all things we do has a family. I also take time out for myself. I will go for a hike or a bike ride. More likely, I will retire to the lounge in the lodge, drink in hand, and write. Sometimes the drink is Sangria, other times it is a glass of Helles (Trapp Beer).

Earlier that morning, we hiked to the chapel built by Werner von Trapp. It is a beautifully crafted structure made of stone. After the boys took turns ringing the bell, we continued our walk through the woods, working our way back to the lodge. Nathan and I stayed back, searching for leaves for his school project, examining the depth of the mud puddles, and tossing rocks into the natural streams that feed the trees and plants of the earth. We visited the sugar shack, checked out the trees tapped for maple syrup, and listened to the hum of the birds and other wildlife that call this area home.

I enjoy hiking and these casual strolls through the silent woods. I appreciate the beauty that is found among the rocks, trees, plants and streams. I allow the fresh air to fill my lungs, my soul, with the goal of erasing the toxins that remain behind, a result of a difficult year at work. When I shared this piece with Elliot, my older nephew, he asked where my inspiration came from. I shared that it was the result of various hikes we've taken along the way, but it all came together on this morning, as we walked through the forest behind the lodge. 

After settling in at the lodge, drink in hand, mountains in view, I began to write. I'm a bit of a traditionalist in that I often hand write my stories and poems before typing them. There is something about the feel of paper beneath my hand, the light weight of my pen against my fingers, and the ability to cross things out without losing them completely. 

The silent, mysterious wood
called to me
Beckoning me to discover its’
shaded path

This hidden treasure
Revealed itself to be a
Stretch of twists and turns,
That carried me up, over, and through
Mounds of secure and ancient granite
While blankets of pine mixed with varying
Hues of soil softened my steps

With the sun to my back
And a slight breeze on my side,
I absorb the warmth of the fresh air
Allowing it to cleanse me
And erase the stress and worries
That I carried far too long

 In the wood, you are free
To reflect and replenish your mind
And allow the peace and tranquility that thrive here
To fill your soul and set you on a new path
One that does not return you to the beginning,
But starts you in the middle, forgiving past transgressions
providing the courage to move forward and begin anew
Refreshed and awakened to the possibilities that await.

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Category: Memory Gallery Selection

This memory story reminds us that we can find more than beautiful scenery in nature.

JamBios Featured Section
By SunshineCowger

The Call that Saved My Life

On March 2, 2018, my day started off pretty normal. I woke up at 4 am and headed off to my dialysis treatment. I would sit for 3 1/2 hours while the blood would go through a machine, be cleaned and then placed back into my body.

I picked my son up from school that day, we got home and wrestled. That is just something a hyperactive boy has to do after sitting in school for seven hours. We ate dinner, goofed around some more and then settled in to watch a bit of television. I decided to go ahead and take my shower. And that was when everything changed.

My phone rang, it didn't say that it was coming from Loma Linda and I very rarely even check my voice mail. However, because it was a call from a '909', I thought it might have something to do with my uncle that I talk to each and every week. He is a darling man who is about to reach his ninety-second birthday. So, what does one do when they are fresh out of the shower and still have to brush their teeth? They check their voice mail of course.

Imagine my surprise when I checked my voicemail! "Hi Sunshine, this is Byron from Loma Linda. It is very important that you call me back." That was it! All that he said. I stood still momentarily as I tried to make sense of why he was calling. Appointment? Problem with my blood work? Possible Kidney? I prayed, I'm a praying woman and I learned a long time ago that prayer works.

I called Byron back. He said "We have a possible kidney for you." I suppose most would think a person would scream and cry in that moment, I didn't. I said very calmly "Ok". Then he hit me with the following, "You are not the primary recipient for this kidney." However, here is what I can tell you. Once you are on the transplant list, you have to keep all your tests up to date. Which is a lot. There is the stress test, mammogram, blood work, eye screening and chest x-ray. Apparently the first person didn't have all of their requirements finished. Byron said he would be calling me back.

He called me back less than forty minutes later, "We can't find your stress test." Let me tell you something, that alone was like my very own personal stress test. I told him so, he said "Well, does your chest hurt?" I laughed and said "No." He said, "Well, I will call you back."

Then another thirty minutes went by when Byron called again. "Sunshine, it is looking really good for you. When can you get here?" Now, I was getting excited even though, the kidney still wasn't officially mine. "I can get there about eleven. It was nine forty-five when I told him so. We literally got in the car at ten on the dot and started the one hour drive.

We arrived at Loma Linda University Medical Center at eleven ten at night. We walked through the rain and found our way to unit 4100. I met with a nurse name, Abby (If you are one of my fan fiction fans, yes, I knew that was a good sign. Never did meet a Kane). I was put in room 2 and immediately changed into an unflattering hospital gown, beggars can't be choosy. Then I was rushed out to undergo several tests. Yet, the kidney still wasn't mine.

We were told that the surgery was supposed to take place starting at one, so imagine my disappointment when one in the morning came and went. So, finally, I bit the bullet and asked. The nurse came in, "I called down to the OR, they still don't have the kidney here yet. Our surgeons went out to Los Angeles to start the surgery already. We will let you know." Then three in the morning came, I was still awake. Who can sleep at a time like that? Two nurses came running in, "You are getting the kidney! It is yours! You'll be going down at four." I cried, covered my face and cried.

The hour that should have passed quickly, passed way too slowly. In the end, they didn't come and get me at four, or five, or six...........no, they came in at nine. "Sunshine, they called, they are coming up to get you." Once again, I cried. I held Tyler to me who had been asleep at the end of my hospital bed. I kissed his head and told him over and over again just how much I loved him. I told him to be extra nice to my dog, because there was no way to explain to Mario just what was going on. Mario always acts like I've been gone on vacation when all I did was run to the grocery store. He laughed and said "Maybe, I'll see how my mood is." I laughed, because well, that is Tyler.

I was wheeled down to the OR, which is where I said 'see ya later to Bob and Tyler' That part is always so hard. I laid there for about thirty minutes before I was wheeled in. They put the oxygen on me and then injected me with something that burned, the IV had infiltrated. So, the doctor was trying to talk to me to take my mind off of it. "Where is one place you want to go, Sunshine?" I answered quickly, "Hawaii". The doctor smiled, "Well, when you go, you will love it. We give you the right medicines, so if you think about it, you will be there in a few minutes."

I woke up in recovery with my new kidney. The first words I heard was from a woman, "Your kidney started working on the table, you are doing great!" I was so happy. They gave me ice chips. I started bribing people for ice chips. Less that an hour in recovery, I was transported back to unit 1400. Now, when most people come through those double doors, they are lying back and passed out. Not so much with me, I was sitting up, I fist bumped the air and chanted, "I got my kidney! I got my kidney!"

The call came in on March 2, 2018. I received the life-saving transplant on March 3, 2018 and on March 7, 2018, I was released from the hospital. Not bad for such a big surgery.

My donor was a 46 year old healthy man. He was walking down the stairs when he slipped and fell, hitting his head and having a brain hemorrhage. His family chose to donate his organs because his aunt had recently received a kidney transplant.

I am beyond grateful to have a new lease on life. For the first six weeks, I can't be in large groups. Ugh, for someone like me, that will be difficult. However, it is a small price to pay. I look forward to traveling without having to set up dialysis treatments, I look forward to working without having to work it around treatments. I'm just so grateful and blessed. I thank anyone and everyone who has been rooting for me. I thank God for hearing my prayers.

You too can be someone who donates - www.organdonor.gov

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We were all jumping for joy at this very recent memory from our regular contributor Sunshine Cowger. Congratulations!

JamBios Featured Section
By Kristen Jaccodine

March 21st

Today would have been your 43rd birthday. Now, nearly 21 years after your death, I wonder, would we be in contact? Would we have  celebrated this day as we did when we were in college? Would you be upset about being in your 40's as you were when you turned 20? I remember that day.....we were in the hall of our dorm....you placed your hair in pigtails, wore overalls, and refused to admit that on that March 21st, in brisk New Hampshire, you were no longer a teenager. Despite your display of childhood antics, we celebrated your birthday, celebrated you, our wonderful loving friend, who made us laugh until we cried, who spoke your mind, taught us a thing or two about procrastination, who loved Les Miserables, and who absolutely loved to dance.  

About a month after your death, you came to me in a dream. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were in my high school locker room...why? Shit if I know. I grew up in NJ, you in Mass., and we did not meet until college. But, that was the setting. It was just after Thanksgiving and for whatever reason, I was in the girls locker room, prepping for a soccer game. A sport we had in common. I saw you and kept asking why you were there, how you were there. I followed you down the hall that led to the exit door, continually asking these questions, but you remained silent. Your hair was down and you were dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.  After exiting the door, you turned to me and said, "It's going to be okay Chicken, it's going to be okay." With a final smile, you closed the door behind you. I ran to it, tried to open the door only to find it locked. I searched for a way to unlock it, but it was hidden from me. When I woke, even though my heart ached, somewhere hidden behind that pain there was hope. Hope in these last words you spoke to me.

Your life was cut short at the age of 22 by a drunk driver, drag racing on the Mass Turnpike. You were on your way to my house for my graduation party. We talked on the phone a few days before that, reviewing directions to my house, and laughing about everything and anything that came to mind. You shared with me that your grandmother, two days before our conversation, was nearly hit by a car speeding down the street. We talked about just how quickly life can end and we should never, ever take anything for granted.  Now, when I think about how hard it was for you to turn 20, how you nearly didn't graduate from college because you feared what the future held, and you worried about leaving our home in the shadows of Grand Monadnock, I wonder if the ending to your life story was always meant to happen at a young age. Of course, it infuriates me that your death came at the hands of an irresponsible and selfish individual, but I do find comfort in the idea that wherever you are, your soul is still young and at peace.

I write this in memory of you, my dear friend Dennise, because I want you to know that I will never forget you or the times that we shared. I think of you every time I see a play. I literally scan the sets looking for a bench, smiling when I see one. Of course, it is not the one we built together in our first on campus job (after mastering the use of power tools. We should have taken our bench from the prop room when we graduated.) I smile and sing along when I hear one of your favorite songs on the radio, and yes, even though I was initially not a fan, I still listen to Jimmy Buffet.  And although there are many things that I'd like to talk to you about, there is only one that I'd like to share with you now.

When we met, we learned that in addition to applying to Franklin Pierce, we also applied to Roger Williams, (Tracy too). We always planned to study psychology and ultimately decided to attend Pierce because we chose mountains over ocean. We knew in that moment we were destined to be friends. I also believe in the circle of life.  In the idea that even though our loved ones are no longer with us physically, are still around us, and will reveal themselves in ways that are both beautiful and unexpected.  

In the years that you've been gone, I've lost contact with the girls. Sure, we tried to stay in touch after your funeral, even saw each other a few times, but as time passed and our lives moved on, we lost touch. During these years, I wavered between being furious at why this was happening, why did we lose you and then each other, to wondering if there was something more that I needed to do to keep our friendship intact. And then I thought, maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm not meant to have people in my life for the long haul, after all, that's how it had been for me up to that point (save for my best friend from high school). After a while I just realized that it is just life and that really, it was nobody's fault. Sometimes things just happen. 

That's where Liana comes in. Liana teaches biology at the same high school I work in as a Guidance Counselor. We started at the school 14 years ago. This morning, on our 9th snow day of this school year, I joined Liana, her husband and their son, and two other friends for breakfast.  Because that's what you do on a snow day, right? You go out! The white stuff had yet to make an appearance, (though it is falling steadily as I write this).  Although we've met for breakfast before on snow days, today we met to celebrate. You see, today is also Liana's birthday. Is it a coincidence that I have two friends, from different chapters in my life, that share the same birthday? Maybe. But I choose to believe it means something more. 

Like you, Liana loves to dance. She's incredibly smart, well spoken, organized, and yes, a bit of a procrastinator. Her hair is curly and she has kind blue eyes, though she is blonde and not a brunette. She also enjoys hiking and listening to music. Although there are differences between you, there is one trait that you have in common. She is an unwavering friend with a genuine heart. I learn from her, just as I always learned from you. Even though she is a few years younger than us, I do believe in this crazy circle of life. I believe that in a way that cannot be explained, there is a part of your spirit within her. And just like you and I, Liana and I were also destined to become friends.

As we sang Happy Birthday to Liana at breakfast , I was also singing to you. I hope that wherever you are, you are happy and that the music never stops playing. Thank you for being my friend and for all the things you taught me. Most importantly, thanks for letting me know that it would all be okay. 

Because it is. 

 

 

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Category: Memory Gallery Selection

We were moved by the bonds of friendship that span time and space in this memorial memory.