Leah: What a whirlwind! I was in Portland, Oregon for my girlfriend's beautifully perfect wedding, flying back to Denver at noon on Sunday, July 1 only to depart for Houston at 10 a.m. the next day. The combination of wedding emotions, more goodbyes and supreme exhaustion meant that I’ve more or less been a blubbering, snotty splotchy mess for a few days straight, but nonetheless I eagerly awaited our planned overnight layover in Houston. For those who don’t know, one of my closest friends, Jayna Murray (“J” to me), is buried there and her family lives nearby. We’ve all lived through the horrific reality of dealing with her murder and the ensuing trial the last year, so it’s only now that we can start remembering her joyous life and celebrating J as she should be; Steve and I had been looking so forward to seeing the Murrays.
Jayna’s parents picked us up at the airport before we all shoved our faces full of glorious Mexican food and caught up on life and travels while reveling in the fact that we were together this time to celebrate, not mourn. Afterward, they headed home and left us with a car so we could visit J at her burial site; it had been 16 months since I was last there and on a muggy Monday afternoon the cemetery was deserted and peaceful. As a cicada cadence swelled and the tallest trees near her plot swayed ever so slightly in the cooling breeze, I talked to her.
Once back at the Murrays, we spent time chatting some more and getting to know Hobo, Jayna’s cat, with whom Steve and I both agreed we felt an extraordinary other-worldly presence. Despite not being cat-lovers, we instantly felt an affinity for this sleek gray kitty; rubbing his belly while knowing that had cuddled and loved J was simply wonderful. Jayna’s brother and his family then joined us for dinner at a local pizza place and I had the pleasure of meeting her two vivacious nephews, ages 5 and 7, who idolized their “Tia T” and were a joy to talk to. We all swapped stories, jokes and laughter, which continued well into the night back at the Murrays, as the adults chatted about everything under the sun and the boys ran around upstairs, their giggles floating down the stairs.
We're now in Guatemala City, happily ensconced in Steve’s buddy’s incredible high-rise home and plotting our next move. I’m so grateful that we were able to start in Houston and the Murray’s hospitality was truly above and beyond. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t still lingering trepidation and bouts of thinking oh-hell-what-are-we-doing?! (and I may have cried upon departure and landing), but I know that Jayna is and will be my “power up” moving forward. Here’s to you baby girl, I (pine tree-tree) (7-3) you.