On Sarah Wolfe (1975-2014)

Sometimes I write when I need to write. I’m sitting here finding myself acutely affected by a loss. It’s not new news, but the verdict came in today, and it feels like it’s new, raw, all there.

I went out with Sarah Wolfe twice. For several months each time. When we got together for the second time, I was all in. I loved her. I dove in completely. And then after several months I got scared again. My commitment issues. I broke things off awkwardly, not fully understanding why. I knew she was special. I know it still.

I keep doing this. It’s not unique to Sarah, which isn’t to say that our bond wasn’t unique. Sarah was an incredible womyn. A staunch helper of others. She was a really skilled psychiatrist and just loved working with children. And she was obviously really skilled at her work. She would talk about it, in a limited sense due to confidentiality laws and such, and it was just so obvious that Sarah cared so much for the children she worked with. And that she was so skilled at finding solutions that work for them.

Sarah was a vegan and it wasn’t just a dietary choice. She loved animals. She loved life and had incredible, meaningful empathy. And above all else she loved cat videos. OK, maybe not above all else, but it’s truth – She really fucking loved cat videos! And cats obviously. She lacked social confidence. Which was ridiculous because she was insanely witty. And creative. I have really fond memories of her wit and her company.

I’ve struggled to write about Sarah since her death. For one, things ended poorly between us and it was entirely my fault. I have not been super successful at relationships. And as the result of my own bullshit and her completely justifiable anger about it, we weren’t really talking. She had a new boyfriend and when she was killed (and yes, it is weird and difficult to write those words) I just felt awkward. I wanted to be there for her funeral and such and i’m sure I could have been. I just felt too insecure and embarrassed about being a shit boyfriend in the end. And I doubted my presence would be considered helpful to her family and boyfriend. So I kept my distance. And that’s fine btw. No one should feel bad due to my own lameness. But still, I’m learning that I haven’t fully processed her loss. And that is I guess the point of this.

The last time I saw her was in December of 2013. I still had a few of her things so we e-mailed and arranged for me to stop by her place in Sheridan for the age old tradition of swapping items with the ex. I remember her opening the door and handing things over. It was sort of awkward because I think maybe she intended to let the screen door close but I wasn’t sure. Maybe she wasn’t sure. So I sort of awkwardly held it while we talked. It felt invasive to hold it open but it was apparently too awkward to communicate clearly about it. So I did nothing but hold the door. She said that she had bought a house and was moving into Pittsburgh. I was so happy for her. It sounded like things were going well with her new boyfriend and, well, I always thought she was a bit isolated in Sheridan. She’ll be closer to work and I saw this as a positive step for her socially because she struggled with her social confidence.

I want to go back to that moment and tell her not to move. Or something. I know you can’t change events like that and I am sure that everyone she knows is having similar thoughts about similar moments. Of course, there was no way to know what would happen next. There is no three eyed crow to look into the past or future and potentially change it. It is what it is. It’s just hard to accept.

Most of all I think a lot about how Sarah would talk about Past Sarah, Current Sarah, and Future Sarah. She would look at her perceived flaws and say something like “But that is past Sarah, future Sarah won’t do that anymore!” It’s hard to get across, but the way she said it, how could I not smile? Maybe i’d re-assure her that she shouldn’t be so down on past or current Sarah. That she was great and wonderful. But how could I not smile with the way she said it?

There are some things that happen, where there is no more good news. I know it’s not exactly unexplored territory. Many people and stories have explored grief and how attempts to seek relief through justice often fall short. But still, I thought that today, with the conviction of her killer I would feel at least relieved. I knew the trial and details would be tough. But why is the conviction of her murderer the hardest for me?

It’s true that i’m not thrilled for the sentencing phase and for a possibility of the death penalty. And maybe I expected a conviction all along but it’s the sentencing that burdens me. But I don’t think that’s quite right. I think that when I think back to all of her wit and her intellect, and except for being entirely grateful for being able to get to know her and love her, what I remember most right now is her talk of “Future Sarah.” Obviously, we never live up to our future selves that we dream up. She didn’t need to be better than she was. She was a great person already. But I can’t stop thinking about those words and how much it would mean to me if there just could be the promise of a Future Sarah still.

I’ll always love you Sarah. Thanks for being such a wonderful human being.