We were about 5 and 4 (I am older) and we would go into our neighbors beautiful rock garden that had all these different colored pebbles and stones. We would love to play with them, mixing the colors and messing up the pattern he so meticulously planned. We would then take handfuls of the pebbles and put them in his bird bath. Playing and splashing each other with the slimy water. We climbed the tree of our other neighbors house to see in the birdhouse that was up there. There is always the argument of who actually knocked it out of the tree and broke it. No one will ever know.
We were about 13 and 12. We were going to the Springfield mall. This was something we did a lot. There are 2 trolleys that go the same way. One was the 101 to Media, which is the one that stops at the mall and the other was the 102 to Sharron Hill. We were waiting at the stop and the 102 pulls in. She promptly got up to get on. I very matter-of-factly said that that was the wrong one. She rolled her eyes at me and said that both trolleys went to the mall. We argued in front of the open trolley door and she proceeded to get on the trolley, knowing that I would never let her get on and ride by herself. As we sat on the trolley, I am pleading the facts of the case. She never let facts get in her way, though. She was only convinced when the trolley came to its final stop and the driver walked back to us and said, “You 2 have to get off now.”
We were 14 and 13 and she had a plan that we would steal my parents car under the cover of night and go for a joy ride. I was all for it until I realized that the plan had a few flaws. We were able to get permission for her to sleep over. We tried to figure out how we would start the car without it being heard. She said we could just put it in neutral and push it down the driveway until we got it into the street. Then there was the problem of getting the car out of the garage, but even before that problem we had the problem of getting out of the house. My mother was no dummy. She probably knew, or was always on alert, that when we were together and had too much time on our hands, there was going to be something mischievous going on. When it was about 2am we got dressed and snuck out of my room. That is when I started to panic. Wait! This is MY parents car. She wanted me to drive, yet I don’t have a license. If this all went down and we got caught, I would be assuming all the risk. She would just be, along for the ride, literally. I started to plead my case to Alexis. She used every trick she could. She tried reasoning that we could never get caught. She tried saying that we never did anything really fun or daring and needed stories to tell about ourselves, when we got older. Then she pulled the “I knew you would never go through with this.” “chicken” card. When that didn’t work, she tried to appeal to my mothering nature by saying she would just do it without me — knowing full well I would have been a wreck if she got hurt. The scheme ended, abruptly. We had been arguing so much that we woke up my mom who, dog tired, came downstairs and told us if we didn’t get back upstairs and in bed, she would take Alexis home right that instant. Alexis was furious with me. She did not understand my hesitation. I was almost as stubborn as she and pleaded the facts of my case. She never let facts get in the way though.
There were many other stories of when we were in our teens and 20s. most of which are probably not appropriate for telling in church. Some may have involved illegal substances between her garages. Some may have involved an after hours club called The Black Banana in Philadelphia. Some may have involved an Irish pub in London on St. Pattys day. Some definitely involved trips down the shore. But all of the stories seemed to follow the same pattern. Grand idea’s followed by my second guessing and her pleading and ultimate trouble. And in-between all of that was a lot of fun.
This was part of her lure. She pushed the boundaries and when I joined her as a partner in crime, she was overjoyed. Giddy and so happy. I loved seeing her happy. We had fun and laughs. Lots of laughs.
She was really smart. Not normal-smart but advanced-smart, on-a-different-plain smart. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Loyola University. She won awards for her journalism at The Daily Record. Things started to change. As most of us, when we are in our late 20s, things start to come together. She was very put together on the outside. Great job, fun times with friends, young, beautiful and a career she loved. But her mind was not put together. She was trying to self-medicate and fix it on her own. She was in denial of it at first and then conceded.
She got help and her parents took care of her and her illness. It is not a simple solution though. Some drugs work and others don't, some doctors are great and some are horrible. Some rehabs help and others hurt. Sometimes you find the right combo of drugs and therapy and you are good. Until you are not. She fought the battle to find the piece that was missing inside her. The PEACE. She needed quiet and peace and her brain did not allow that. There was constant whirring and thoughts and plans and schemes and lists and they all fell on top of her and she was drowning, for so many years. She struggled and fought. Clare and Nick were in the trenches with her. They did everything in their power, every day, to help her. There is no guide. There are medical professionals who are educated in mental health and they were not able to help her either. She knew this and she needed peace.
When a person has heart disease or cancer, and they try different therapies and different medications and ultimately do not make it, is there ever a question as to why? No, not really. Diseases kill, mental illness is no different. There but for the grace of God I go. I have mental illness. I was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 26. I am on medication and may be for the rest of my life. I still see a therapist and am acutely aware of the signs of upcoming panic attacks and anxiety. There is a part of me that still thinks that makes me weak. But when I look at the will and perseverance it took for Alexis to go on every day, I see nothing but strength. Her final act was not one of selfishness. She did not do it to force guilt. She did all that she could and it was time for her to move on. She and I shared a lot of the same beliefs in the after life. Knowing that what is to come next is going to be an adventure. I keep asking her to reach out to me and see if she is able to cross over from the other side to communicate with me. I know she will and I am sure she will try to convince me to do something fun and a little reckless.
No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”