Jody Ann Elden 02/16/1985-09/17/2017
Memorial Reading – Thursday, September 21st, 2017
I am Kyle Heyesen, Jody’s oldest sister. First, on behalf of my family we express so much gratitude to all of you for being here, for loving us and supporting us through this difficult time; we could not get through this without all of our friends and family walking alongside us and lifting us up.
This is for our sweet Jody, who will always be the precious little baby in our family as the youngest (even if only by 5 minutes after her twin Andy). She will forever be deeply & eternally loved by us all, and her love lives on in us eternally as well. She is unforgettable in a million ways, many of which make me laugh out loud just thinking about!
From John O’Donohue, on the memorial flyer, the first stanza reads:
Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or might or pain can reach you.
This is so fitting because we are all weeping and grieving deeply to have tragically lost our precious little Jody to a drug overdose. And yet as we reflect on her life we know how much pain she was in, all of the storms of trauma and difficulty and struggle she endured for so many years. She was such a sweet sensitive soul overwhelmed with life to the point she couldn’t bear being in this world without being high. We know that the reason she used was to find comfort and release from all of her suffering. And now we know she lives eternally safe in our hearts and at peace in the loving arms of God, returned to the source of life where that pain can never touch her again…When our family had the opportunity to say goodbye to her body this week, she looked beautiful and peaceful, and we found solace in seeing that all of her suffering has lifted.
We cannot stand here today and talk about Jody’s life without talking about addiction. Addiction ravages lives, is a destroyer of light and truth and relationships. Although we lost Jody officially this week, in many ways we lost her and have grieved her life long ago and over and over to addiction. She walked away from us slowly, her leaving a gradual disappearance into shadows….a fading of color and light...we watched, reached out to her, tried to love her and hold her close, but she turned away.
Everyone in this room has likely been touched by addiction, whether your own struggle or that of someone you love. And for those of you who have overcome addiction, including my own mom and dad, this is one of the BIGGEST VICTORIES accomplished. We are so grateful to be gifted our parents as whole, beautiful loving people in our lives. Who both were there for and supported Jody wholly until the very end!
For our family, for such a long time it felt like Jody was in a prolonged hospice. We saw her sick and withering away. She dangled at the edge of life, staring into death every time she used. Daily, it was in the forefront of our minds and hearts that we could lose her at any time. We experienced many false worries and days and hours of anxiety where we feared this could be the day we would learn she died from an overdose.
Addiction makes people crazy, not just the addicts, but often those close to them. I have a memory of one of those many moments for me…on a particular dark and hopeless day for Jody she reached out to family, to me indicating that she no longer wanted to live. I rushed from work calling law enforcement and the Crisis Response Team. I finally found her on the beach at Park Point, where she grew up, spent her childhood and loved to be, and where on that day, she said she wanted to go to die where she was born. By the time I found her however, she had figured out a new way to make money and she said she was heading out of town with a friend to work and she wanted a ride to her apartment. On the way, desperate to save her, I thought maybe this could be the moment we could get her help, turn her life around. I tried to talk her into going into treatment, into getting admitted to the psych ward. That we were all concerned for her life, we loved her…but, she got pissed at me and ended up jumping out of my moving car and running away from me screaming profanities. I quickly pulled over and dialed 9-1-1 telling them to come quickly…and ran off after her in high heels down the streets of West Duluth screaming, “You think you can beat me, you think I can’t catch you! I run marathons!!” The police came, she freaked out, I hoped that she would be committed, admitted, saved...but, they took her to the hospital and she was released...nothing happened.
We experienced so many of these moments that are so ridiculous and crazy there is almost nothing our family could do but cry and laugh through our tears at the scenes that unfolded. You can’t make this stuff up!
Even just at the end of August, this year...she disclosed she was suicidal, called to say “goodbye and I love you!” to each of her sisters...tried to kill herself a couple of times taking pills...to no avail, she said, “I’m such a pill head I can’t even kill myself!” We tried to encourage her, asked her to get help...told her we would do anything...she should go to treatment...but she said she was fine now and she called Nystroms, had an appointment for an assessment in a couple of weeks, thinks she can get back on Suboxone (which NEVER worked for her - the many years she was on it she used the whole time...worked the system, used heroin, sold pills for drug money). We tried to explore getting her committed - if we could only capture her, save her from herself...we felt her pulling away even further, spiraling downward quickly….she wasn’t in her right mind...there are so many more details, dark and devastating, but NO a commitment wasn’t possible (even if a person OD’s, is saved by Narcan, is in ICU to stabilize for 13 hours, that isn’t enough for a commitment, they are released right back to their lives, back to the drug that brought them there to begin with, with no skills or ability to recover)...so, we couldn’t do anything to prevent the inevitable...hands bound as we watched the destruction of a beautiful life.....
Mother Teresa said, “If you are busy judging people, you have no time to love them.” And this is what we tried to live by for Jody: to simply love her and show her compassion in her sickness. This is sometimes the only thing you can do for an addict.
And yet, there were also many moments of hope. Windows back into our sweet Jody. Periods of sobriety, going to treatment multiple times (7 total I believe), or less heavy drug use…when she was present again… there was a whole summer a few years back that she was in a such a good place we trusted her to watch her niece Adley and nephew Elias – we will always treasure those precious times -- and while we do lose many people to addiction forever….also, we see so many people recover and return to whole and beautiful lives…reaching their potential. We always held faith that Jody would find that path. We have all prayed that she would find peace here on earth, but she was unable to due to the destruction of addiction. And although it is not what we wanted, we know she is now free from that terrible suffering of her addiction.
Jody had a husband. We didn’t know much about him or the situation (maybe it was arranged, she was paid to marry him) but we knew he did help her financially recently when she was being evicted. Jody often found ways to get what she needed, however unconventional. And he, Jordan is his name, a sweet smart man from Tanzania, Africa, a college student, reached out to us and came to meet us and be with us following her death. He was kind and generous to our family at this time. Gave money to Jody’s son Ethan’s fund. We thank him for the ways he helped Jody. He is a part of her story, no matter the circumstance, and played a role in helping and supporting Jody.
And to all of the friends and family in her life that were there for her in many ways – we thank you. And don’t you feel bad if your relationship with her had to be severed or you needed to have boundaries…that is what happens with addiction. We all did everything we could to help her. No one here need sit with any regret. Instead, fill yourself with the goal to act towards others with love, compassion and kindness no matter what.
Today we have arrived and our worst nightmare is true, that she died from an overdose…but, it would have caused us greater pain if she were alone as she transitioned from this life. She was with a friend, Derek, and they spent the day together. My mom called Jody in the afternoon and he answered her phone. Jody was in the background babbling and bubbly, bouncing off the walls and sounded happy. We have come to find she also used Meth before her overdose, and had been up for days with her friend Patrick. That day, Sunday, she was with a kindred spirit –he understood her suffering and was struggling with the same things himself. Derrick told me, they shared that they had complete mutual infatuation and need for being needed and wanted. To fill the big sickening hole they both possessed, created by drug addiction and horrible past relationships…lost adrift…but that day they felt lucky to have found one another and promised to be there for each other and band together and do better for one another…it was a wonderful day for them….but, they did use heroin, for her layered upon Meth (no sleep, not eating, not drinking water)…and fell asleep high, cuddling, feeling hope, seeing a brighter future….but, Jody didn’t awake...she slipped away, her breathing slowed to nothing….floating into unconsciousness...below the surface of life, wrapped in a warm opiate haze...as if underwater, weightless….pulled down to the bottom of the lake, laid on the sand of death, way beneath the depths of life above...resting heavy, & she knew it was her time to leave this human realm...I imagine she was lifted up above the surface, above this earth, into complete love, peace & light…...……..and when he awoke, her head in his lap, just before 11pm and realized she wasn’t breathing he tried to revive her, gave her Narcan, called 9-1-1 and was there, distraught, until the very end….Paramedics worked on trying to revive her for nearly an hour before she was pronounced dead. Our family is grateful that she was not alone, that she felt love and connection with another person, and that she died in the arms of someone she felt safe with.
But of course, this is not the whole story of her life….she will always be remembered for her huge and caring heart. She accepted and loved everyone with open arms. Even in her darkest moments she would remember important details about others or have a special gift for the kids in her life. She gave my daughter Stella many things including a coach bag and sunglasses, make-up, and Victoria’s Secret Pink clothes. I see Jody’s light & spunk in my little girl Stella.
In the memorial flyer O’Donohue’s second stanza urges us….
…May we learn from you (Jody):
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.
Jody was the most honest, direct, raw person you’ll ever meet. She would absolutely tell it like it is. She would do anything for those she loved, including threaten to kick someone’s butt if they hurt a person she loved – which she offered to do for me on many occasions when I was in pain. She was hilarious and crass and swore like a trucker. Often she’d call me and say “what’s uuuppppp my Biiiiaaaccchhhh!” “Ha, Ha! You know I say that cuz I love ya’!” She was wild and crazy – the life of the party! She was everyone’s go to for braiding and doing hair – she was tremendously good at it, I will never live up to the way she could do double French braids in my daughter’s hair, or how she could paint her nails with awesome designs in ways I never could. She dearly loved her nieces and nephews and they adored her. She was the one while our family was at the beach, who would sit and build sand castles, dig holes, make the kids into mermaids or other creatures out of sand, splash in the water with them, push them around on a kid kayak. She was the one who was at her twin sister Andy’s house just before her son Elias was born, scrubbing and cleaning to help prepare for this new baby. She was the one who came to our house when we sold it in 2014 and scrubbed the bathroom cleaner than I’ve ever seen it. She didn’t give me a Birthday present or even a Happy Birthday this year, too far gone, but in 2016, she didn’t have much money, but she found the most beautiful mermaid card (knowing I love mermaids) many days before my Birthday and made sure I felt loved and special. The inscription: Happy Birthday to someone who is a treasure to know, a joy to be around, and beautiful inside and out. And, in her looping, scribbled handwriting she wrote “Well doesn’t this card fit you so good. Love you, have a good day! Love, Jody & Ethan” -- even amidst her addiction overwhelming her, she left these gifts scattered across all of our lives, leaving her mark on us, forever...
The best thing she ever did and the greatest joy of her life was her son Ethan. She loved him fiercely. She’d do whatever scheming, wheeling and dealing, even if flat broke, to try and get him an Xbox for Christmas or or an iPad for his Birthday. She was tremendously proud of him and the amazing young man he has become. Sadly, even though her love for Ethan was the most abundant thing in her heart -- her addiction won out, robbing this boy, the most important thing in her life, of a mother……..She loved hard, lived hard, fought hard, and forgave quickly!. She had a beautiful shining soul in a million ways! She has touched us all….
Lenord Cohen said:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
Just like today, Jody’s death is a HUGE crack….and it can be so easy to become overwhelmed and get swallowed up whole by this very real darkness (which is what happened to Jody)…but yet there is a coming together of this amazing community of people…the LOVE in her, for her, from all of you to her, to each of us close to her grieving. The prayers, well wishes, support, meals, flowers, generous donations…all of this light and love that is larger and more powerful than any crack. It transforms this awful thing, into something beautiful and life giving…
That is the lesson we can take from Jody’s life and her death…there is nothing perfect, there are often difficulties and devastation we all face, no human walks this earth without the experience of suffering --- of cracks in our lives….yet, if we can acknowledge these cracks, come to terms with them, and allow the light to come in, to shine through, we can clearly see the incredible beauty and potential before us…we can open ourselves to the love, grace and joy that is available to us in this life. We can be fully and wildly alive.
In the bible it states in Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others.”
We all have this beautiful light within us and our purpose here on earth is to recognize that WE are the light of the world, each of us…and we are meant to shine!!
Jody sadly didn’t know her own beautiful light and it was extinguished too early at only 32 years old, too soon….many of us tried to tell her in a million different ways the potential we saw in her, the life that she could’ve had, show her the love that surrounded her….and what the poet Hafiz says so perfectly:
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
So we will forever honor and remember you Jody and know your astonishing light now shines brightly, completely unobstructed, and that you rest in peace. We LOVE you!!