return an email already, woman!

I kinda just want to email someone and ask. That’s how much I don’t believe it. Yes, denial is a stage of grief, and I suppose that’s where I’m planted now. I don’t even know who to email.

I was mildly annoyed that my friend Jess hadn’t emailed me back. The last time I saw her was April 12, 2006. She had a mixer to attend downtown, and we’d arranged to meet up beforehand.

To Jess
April 11, 2006
Okay. I’ve got a perfect spot, right nearby. It’s called FIVE POINTS. It’s a restaurant/bar (secretly, I love their oyster and drink happy hour)… and it should be quiet for us to catch up. It’s address:
31 Great Jones Street (bw lafayette st & bowery). It’s 4 blocks from where your event is…cool?
Just give me a time, and I’m there

From Jess
April 11, 2006
cool. see you around 5:30/5:45. can’t wait to see you!

To Jess
May 2, 2006
HOW ARE YOU?  Did you ever make it through the Martha Beck cds?  What’s going on with you?
I miss you.  I love you.

To Jess
May 12, 2006

Through the years I’ve continued to email her, hoping that she hadn’t switched emails on me. The mail was never returned “undeliverable,” so I assumed she received them. That, or she was traveling again.

Jess had started up a company for authentic travel experiences. If a region was known for goat cheese, say, she’d hook you up with a family who’d teach you how to milk the goats and make the cheese. She had a passion for it. In January 2006 she had emailed:

Ok, my friend, this is it.  You remember a while ago
(actually less than two years, yes? but to the mind an
eon) when you were unhappy and life was shit and “Oliver” [from Straight Up and Dirty]
was a perpetual heartache? Remember how we talked
about your needing to do something for yourself,
really FIND yourself – spend time to learn about, and
learn to enjoy, yourself?

Well, here I am.

Fortunately for me, it’s a positive, happy place. It’s
a place I’ve found myself in after months (if not
years) of prolonged struggle and dissatisfaction. And
it’s like it all came together at once – the
continental divide of myself, backwards, in hyper

Anyway, so it’s all good. Or most of it. But I may
have some opportunities in the near-horizon (like next
2 months) that would require me to act, and act fast.
And I need your help to prepare.

I’m talking total makeover, prepping me for public
relations and self-promotion, the whole nine. Girl,
I’m becoming the Oprah Winfrey of Social Enterprise.
Oh dear, please let me pull this off!

So, please, old friend, won’t you be part of my next
transformation, back into myself, into womanhood?!

I really want to share this with you (I also know
you’re uniquely qualified – honestly, you could start
a lifestyle makeover business! – and so I’ve selfish
motives, of course). (And I’m bringing a camcorder, so
you’ll be in your element, dahlink!)

Tell me when. My schedule is ridiculously flexible
(more on that later), but it might also be fun to make
a weekend out of it? My wheels are turning…

What’s your brainstorming yielding?

So tell me when, tell me when. Let’s start planning
this. I’m going to Israel Feb 16-26 with my Mom
(YAYA!!!) and Steve (phfluchhhhh), so it needs to be
before then. I’m also going down to New Orleans on a
sort of a relief mission — that’s a whole ‘notha
story!–at the end of this month.

Please can you squeeze me in, huh, huh? Hey, alumna
connections are supposed to hold sway…!

Then on March 9, 2006, Jess’s mom passed away from breast cancer. I didn’t have her address and her phone had been disconnected. I had reached out and tried to pay a shiva call, but I didn’t hear from Jess until April.

From Jess
April 3, 2006

I’m sorry that I didn’t get your response – I would
have loved to have seen you. I did become much
stronger in the process, but now I’m at a crossroads.
With her gone, there is no reason to stay in NJ. I
have parted with my job, and now need to come up with
my next strategy, but am having a hard time figuring
out where and what. Quite frankly, your plan of
writing, photographing is sounding quite appealing.
I’ve thought of a book about me and my mom. But then
I’m also pulled towards supporting the field of social
enterprise (not-for-profits starting businesses) and
social-purpose business. And of course the call of the
beyond has a great pull – right now, it seems that Sri
Lanka is calling me. I’m lost right now.
How are you?

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the conversations
you and I had regarding “Oliver.” Ben is back in the
picture (he left me during the worst time in my life),
and he’s offering me the love he never did, says he’s
thinking about marriage, wanted to move in this
summer, etc. Part of me feels like I should be alone
to grieve, to figure out who I am and where I’m going.
The other part thinks is silly to turn away love, when
it’s something I wanted so much from him, and now he’s
giving me what I had dreamt of. It’s silly to turn
away support during a time when I could use all the
support in the world.

But then, will my love for him keep me in NJ, where I
don’t want to be? Or, is staying here right? God,
Steph, I am a seed on the wind – I just need to decide
where and how to sprout.

To Jess
April 3, 2006
At least you’re a seed looking to grow, girl.  Oh how I wish I could hug you right now.  I am moving to Austin, TX on April 15, and I would really like to see you before I go.  Just the two of us.  Warm mugs of tea or coffee or cocoa.  I want to take care and catch up with my good friend.  I went to a conference yesterday called “Being Fearless.”  I have so much I want to talk to you about, what I learned there.  Sweet girl, the beautiful thing is you have all the answers inside you right now.  Deep down, do you think you know what is right for you right now, but you’re just scared you’re making a mistake?  I will read up on this feeling.  I have an excellent book that helped me through my hardest times, and it speaks about how to tell the difference between fear (even though you know it’s the right thing to do) and fear (when it’s telling you to pay attention).  Sometimes it’s so hard to know what our gut instinct is…  and how to live with that decision.  Let’s chat.

From Jess
April 10, 2006
Yes, chatting sounds very good. Somehow, it seems like

you’ve wound up with all the answers, and here I am,
looking about me like a timid child, not even knowing
what questions to ask.

TEXAS??? What the heck are you doing?!

I am coming into the city tomorrow for a mixer, or
could come in this weekend, though I’m sure you’re too
jammed right before your move

I made the time. I saw her two days later, on April 12. Then, I emailed her once I moved to Texas, on May 2 and again on May 12, where this blog post begins.

When we met on April 12, I gave her 20 CD’s I’d copied from the Being Fearless conference I’d recently attended. When I’m lost, I listen to self-help CDs. I figured they couldn’t hurt. I love my friend, deeply. I wanted to help in any way I could. She was grieving her mother’s death, a little over a month ago, and I let her know that I was there for her.

I assumed all this time that Jess was off traveling. But the other day, after sending her yet another email, I googled her ass. And I found zero. Nothing on social media. Nothing on people finder sites. So, I then googled her mother Lillian, whose date of death I knew. Finally, I stumbled upon possible relatives and saw Jessica’s name. It listed her as deceased.

No. It couldn’t be the same Jess. I met Jess during orientation week, BEFORE our first year at Columbia University. I knew how she introduced herself, knew her strong purposeful handshake, knew how she liked her eggs. I knew nearly everything about her, slept in bed with her, strategized outfits and nights out together. They’ve got the wrong Jess.

I googled further, then read, “Committed suicide one month after mother’s death,” and I gasped, frantically checking my email chains for dates.

This is all so new to me, this news, and yet, it happened so long ago. According to the records I’ve found, Jessica died 4 days after my last email to her. I’d sent it on May 12. She died on May 16, less than a month since the last time I saw her on April 12. I want answers. I have the email addresses of all of those she contacted when her mother passed, and I’m tempted to email some of them, wanting so much to find out what happened. But that would be weird, right? It’s just so fresh for me, and I have no one with whom to talk about this. I realize that there aren’t always answers, and often we are left to live with unanswered questions, still I’m left shaking my head.

She was gorgeous and funny, whip smart and deeply connected to making change in this world. I’ve missed her all these years, and I miss her more now, knowing that I’ll never receive one of her insightful emails again, feel that handshake, or see that smile. This is a photo from my 28th birthday party. I cannot find more recent photos yet.

jessjen jessjensk taj yasmin


Jessica Anne Gordon


  1. I am so sorry. How devastating to lose a friend to suicide, especially to not know for almost 10 years. I am sure you are asking how you were not informed of her death at the time. But since her own next of kin, her mom, had already passed, and maybe her boyfriend had left, I can see how it could slip under the radar. That was the time when Myspace was dying and Facebook was just starting. I lost track of a lot of people at that time. But still, despite the time that has passed, this is devastating and you have every right to ask questions and find resolution. And process your grief. I recall hearing of a friend’s death a couple of months after the fact and feeling like the rug had been pulled out beneath me. I’m so sorry for the loss of what is clearly a special woman.

    1. Stephanie, I watched you since before getting married. You were such an inspiration. :) Then, suddelny, life got on me, got complicated. It’s been 7 years withou not knowing anything about you. I even forgot your name… Tonight, suddenly, I remembered: Stephanie Klein. The Greek Tragedy. I so much missed you… How are you? I will see that by being next to you from now on :) Happy to read your blog again…

  2. Can you reach out to your mutual friends? The other ladies in that last photo?

    My grandfather committed suicide when my father was 22. The ripples of that action reached down into my generation and continue to hurt our family today.

    I do know that when my own mother died, it rocked me to my core. I do not remember entire MONTHS. There is something just so primal about the pain of losing one’s mother. I am so sorry that your friend may not have been able to see her way through that. I have no doubt that learning this has rocked your world, set it off kilter.

    I am so very sorry for your loss.

  3. Stephanie,

    I am so sorry for your loss, and sorry to hear that you found this out the way that you did. If you have a connection to any of the people that your friend contacted when her mother passed, I don’t see anything wrong with reaching out to one of them. That seems like a very natural reaction.

    Take care of yourself,

  4. This is so heartbreaking, I’m so sad for you, and for Jess, who was clearly such a cherished friend. My grandfather committed suicide a few years after my grandmother passed away. No note. No indication of how badly he was hurting. The pain of his loss slowly turned into a dull ache that has never gone away.

  5. Condoleante, Stephanie… That’s saying sympathies in Romanian… I am with you from far, far away…

  6. I’m sorry for your loss. I had a friend from college commit suicide a few weeks ago. It was haunting me daily for the first two weeks after. And I wasn’t close to him like you were to Jess. But we were FB friends and I just expected him to be there. He was a realtor and he posted almost daily home decor stuff. I would always mean to get in touch to talk about lighting stuff and to goof on some of the lighting in the photos he’s posted. But I just never did.

    Not that I thought I could’ve been the one to save him or something. I was just haunted by the thoughts of what he was thinking or who he spoke to an hour, 30 min, 15 min, 1 min- before he did it. Then all kinds of other morbid thoughts I won’t go into here.

    Being the ones left is hard. Having no answers is hard. My friend was 39. He had his whole life ahead of him. He had beautiful children that I know he loved immensely. Just thinking he had to be in the darkest worst place possible in his head just hurts my heart.

    You just can never know what’s really going on with people. That’s the only consolation- my mom always said that if someone really wants to do it, they’re going to do it. There is no “attempted” if they have made up their mind. Again, I’m sorry for your loss.

  7. The thing is, you can’t stay alive for someone else. You have to want to live for yourself. You can’t want to live because a friend who’s busy with her own life wants you to be around to email with once a month or get together a few times a year. That’s just not enough. And it’s not your fault that you don’t want more, or can’t give more because you’re busy with your own life. It’s just how things feel.

  8. Stephanie I’m very sorry for your loss. I think there are always a lot of unanswered questions after suicide, especially when it is so unexpected. I hope you get to connect to someone who was in her life and can process some of your feelings that way. I hope it’s okay to ask on this post, can you share what the book you refer to in your emails here is (the one about fear)? Sounds like something I could really use. Very sorry for your loss.

    1. Author

      It was a Being Fearless conference I had attended. At the Omega Institute they recorded all of the sessions, so the CDs were all recordings of panelists at the “Being Fearless” conference. I hope this helps.

      1. Thank you Stephanie, I’ll see if I can find any info on that. Would love to read a post on this topic if you ever are up for it and remember what you learned. It’s something I’ve given some thought to as well.

  9. Thank you Stephanie. Just starting to read the first link and it looks helpful already.

  10. Oh how this breaks my heart. I met Jessica when she was 17 years old. We worked a summer job together. After a several years we drifted apart, but I never forgot her. Every so often I would do a Google search or check on Facebook to see if she finally was on there. I must have searched differently today because after years of looking, I found your Facebook post and then I discovered your blog. I can’t imagine the pain she must have been in the end her own life. It has kept me in tears for most of the day thinking about it.

    And Stephanie, thank you for writing such kind words about her. She was such a smart, beautiful soul.

    Rest easy Jess.

    1. Author

      I know it Kara, it still makes me so sad. I just saw photos of her the other day when I was cleaning a random drawer. So smart and so beautiful! Than YOU for reaching out.

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