Monday, June 6, 2011

"A letter for Jasmine, and for those who loved her."

At Jasmine's memorial service on April 23rd, our guests were touched and consoled by Lauren Wiles's memories of running on the beach with Jasmine years ago. Lauren carefully reconstructed a memory of Jasmine that everybody will miss deeply. For those of you who want to enjoy the story again, here it is courtesy of Lauren. We are so appreciative of her comforting and creative prose, and we will continue to honor Jasmine's memory with our actions and our initiatives.

One of Jasmine's favorite mottoes was: Work Hard. Play Harder. I remember she told me that after we took the last final exam of our sophomore year at Dreyfoos. And with a devilish laugh, and a Missy Elliot dance move, she said to me, having not slept in days due to studying: "It's party time." A perfect balance of steadfast, unshakable work ethic and fresh, indefatigable playfulness, Jasmine knew when it was the right time to be serious and when it was the right time to let everything go.

A true night-owl, I knew that if I called Jasmine after midnight, chances were good that she would still be wide awake. "Sleep is for the weak", she would say. I remember there would be times where I would call and she would be at the gym--in the middle of the night--on a treadmill, reading for AP world history and somehow still had the time to talk about our unusual but strikingly-parallel infatuations with goofy, long-haired music-majors. Jasmine's sense of humor was the first thing that I noticed about her. Her bold, frequently sarcastic jokes made it easy for us to get a long right from the start. I remember when I first started to spend time with Jasmine, I picked up on her eclectic, Persian beauty-bohemian meets M.I.A. gangster--meets indi- foreign film fusion-taste in things.

To me, anything Jasmine suggested was cool; even Kava. I remember it was Jasmine's bright idea to walk over to the Purple Lotus after school one day to drink some. So we 15 year olds made the trek with our oversized backpacks--some of us still in braces-- into the shady area of Clematis…

"This tastes like a mix of shit water and turpentine, Jasmine" someone said.

"Just wait. It's very relaxing--you will see," she said. And so we listened. Yes, Jasmine could even make overpriced brown water cool. I remember so clearly the sleepovers we had at her house--all of us girls would try so hard to be quiet so that we didn't wake up Jasmine's parents who slept in the next room. Trying to stay quiet was one of the most difficult things to do when Jasmine was around because we would be too busy laughing hysterically. When we would actually try to fall asleep, Jasmine would only have to say one word to break the silence and send us cracking up all over again.

I think it's fair to say that my relationship with Jasmine was mostly a silly one--but sometimes, it would go the other way too and we would end up having the most profound discussions about life, meaning, the future, our mothers, literature, and our fears. I remember laying in bed with her on some nights, being moved as I would listen to the way that she would talk about things. She told me about her Outward Bound experience and about the night she spent a lone in the woods. That night ended up falling on her sixteenth birthday. When I asked her to tell me what happened that night a lone amongst the trees she said "you know, I don't know what it was- i just sat there and cried. I cried for hours out there. I just cried simply because I was in awe of the beauty of nature; the beauty of everything. I was at such peace out there". That was the thing about Jasmine, as tough as she was--she could really FEEL. I always felt that she knew something about life--a secret--a recipe--to life…that I did not. And this was something that fascinated me so much about her character.

We receive this news and our hearts stop. It's as if time comes to a halt and the world stops spinning. Suddenly, flashbacks, images and memories start surging to the forefront of our minds. I am sure that if we were all to get up here and list the most beloved and intimate experiences we have shared with Jasmine, we would be here for a very, very long time.

As these memories start to come back, I recall one--quite simple--that stands out.

One summer evening, before a sweet-sixteen that would require bikinis, Jasmine suggested that we go for a several-mile run heading south on the beach until we couldn't run anymore.

"Our abs have to look good tonight, Losh," she said. And despite the fact that i hated running with a passion, i agreed. Naturally, Jasmine never felt that it was necessary to start to warmup much, but rather she charged ahead right from the start. I didn't want to admit it to her, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep up. I could already tell because she was much too enthusiastic for a run. But not wanting to look weak in front of her, I kept up my posture and ignored the fact that my thighs were screaming at me.

"Come on, Losh. you can do it. You can do it," she said…stop holding your breath. You can do it..". She wasn't showing any sign of slowing down; if anything, she started to pick up the pace a little. Just when i felt like i was going to collapse, she said,

"Alright, let's go a little faster now". And I had to laugh because she was singing a rap song at the same time that she was essentially sprinting.

"You are crazy", I told her. "Just don't give up, Losh. We can rest at the yellow sign." Relieved, I looked for the yellow sign ahead and i instantly became disillusioned when I noticed that that yellow sign she spoke of seemed to be million miles away. Finally, I gave up.

"Seriously, girl…you go. I think I am going to throw up. "

"Come on, just another 2 minutes," said Jasmine.

"No, seriously, Jasmine…you go." And I dropped to my knees and crawled towards the water. She hesitated but then said to me, "Okay, i'll be back in a bit".

I sat and found a comfortable spot next to the shoreline and as the sun started to fade into the west, I watched my friend Jasmine run off into the distance. Watching her from the back, I remember admiring the way she ran. She was so strong. Disciplined. Purposeful. Resolute. I watched her legs moving at a consistent pace. I was imagining the drum beat that was going on in her mind to keep her focused on the end. I was watching her get smaller and smaller--the whole time, I imagined Jasmine as the warrior. I imagined Jasmine as a hero that was sent off for a mission--and that she couldn't stop running until she got to her destination. I had a lot of thoughts going through my head as I watched Jasmine fade off into the distance and I remember thinking--you are so cool, Jasmine Jahanshahi. I remember thinking to myself, I wish I could be more like that. I remember thinking--that girl will never give up. And as I watched Jasmine's silhouette fade as she moved further and further away from me, I had a thought. I thought--this is how Jasmine is. She will never stop running. And she will ask you to run with her. She will stop, but only to motivate you--not to pity you. But she would still ask you to run with her. Because she believed in you. Because she believed in everyone. Her momentum in life was always fueled by her desire for progression and stopping was not an option.

Jasmine lived the way she ran. She lived with such an intensity that often, it would have been difficult for any average person to keep up. Beautiful lives cannot be reduced by the brevity of time. The love and influence that Jasmine has brought to the world is everlasting. May we not only learn from Jasmine's limitless passions, but also carry with us forever the meaning of her life.

Though my heart aches that I will never be able to embrace you again, it occurred to me the other night that you are very much a part of who I am--you have bound us all together forever. You are nestled in the heart and soul of everyone who has ever known and loved you. All that you are, Jasmine, is right here today and it will be that way always. And next time I ever feel like stopping the run, I will think of you, my beautiful friend, dust the sand off my legs, and move forward into the direction of all that you are.

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