Written on 8/28/10
In Memory of JT Rex (Jerome Terrance Roberts)
“These are the days life is made of. We are all fairly free in each day to do as we choose but there are also those days that life chooses for us” – Jerome Terrance Roberts, 3/20/1986 – 7/28/2010
One month ago today, a very close friend of mine passed away. When I received the phone call informing me of his passing, I was in shock, complete disbelief. This is one sick joke, I thought. I asked my friend if she was serious, how could this have happened. There is no way a person, with as big of a presence as JT, could all of a sudden be gone.
JT had a serous heart condition and on July 27th (the day before his death), he celebrated the one-year anniversary of receiving a new heart. Happy Heart day, we called it. The last year of his life was filled with ups and downs, good days and bad. But, all in all, he was doing well. JT would often pull out his huge zip lock bag of medication and comment on how ridiculous it all was. He never wanted his heart condition to dictate who he was going to be and what was going to do. He planned to live his life how he wanted to, and would not be a victim. JT often questioned how he wanted to spend his time, he longed to be different, to do something amazing, but all the while, did not wish to draw attention to himself. JT is one of the most humble people I know and his drive to be someone he was proud of is an inspiration.
We all saw the statistics of survival for transplant victims. The possibility of loosing JT due to complications during the first year was likely. It was something some of us choose not to think about, and something that kept some of us awake, late into the night. JT was well aware of the chances of surviving the first year. Often questioned how he would want to spend that year of his life, if he indeed, only had one left to live. Did he want to spend it finishing up college? Or did he want to spend it with his family and friends? But, being young, we all think of ourselves invincible. I cannot speak for JT but in spite of the fact that the stats were not promising, I choose to believe that the worse was over. That JT was here to stay.
So, as I said, his death completely floored me. JT is one of my closest friends. Someone I could depend on to sit and listen to me, no matter the hour. We would debate politics and policy at 3 am. He would sit and patiently listen to the dramas of my love life over cranberry and french toast. Would politely tell me when I was being crazy and needed to focus on the positive. Always encouraging me to be honest and to take chances and to not doubt my intelligence and abilities.
JT was proud of me for pursing my dream of joining the Peace Corps. I often felt unqualified for PC service. I was scared to take the chance. Worried I was not smart or experienced enough. JT would always sit and listen to my rants, then calmly point out why I was wrong. Why I was right for this job, and why I would succeed. I would not be sitting here, in this twin bed in the Dominican Republic, if it weren’t for his support.
I have spent a lot of time over the past month, thinking about JT, about friendship, about life and death. I wish, more then anything, he was alive and well. I wish I could share with him this experience. I witness things on a daily basis that I know he would appreciate. In the past month, so much has changed. I have lost a dear friend, I have left a job that I absolutely loved, I have had my heart broken, I have left the comforts of my life in the US for a foreign land. It is crazy to think that all that happened in less then 30 days.
I hope that I can continue to live a life that I am proud of. Be brave enough to take chances and fail. Brave enough to get back up and try again. I hope I find love and happiness. I want to be more like JT, and not let circumstances decide my life for me. I want to live my life the way I choose. Do what I want. Be who I want to be, even when it is scary or painful to do so. I have always been someone who, when told I couldn’t do something, did it anyway, just to spite those who didn’t believe in me. I hope that is a quality that works for and not against me.
JT taught me a lot over the last three years, and I have brought a part of him with me to the DR. I was one of the lucky ones, I got to have JT as a friend. I am a better person because of him, and I plan to only get better. I miss him greatly every day and cannot imagine the pain his family is feeling on this anniversary of sorts. If you did not know JT, you have to take my word for how amazing he is. His presence alone demands respect and forces you to evaluate yourself and your beliefs. For those of you who know JT, you know what I am talking about. So today, a month and a day after Happy Heart Day, I will enjoy a cran and coke in memory of a true friend. And thank him for all he has taught me. Here’s to you JT. I miss you.