Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Harry Potter and the Sisters Roark

Everybody has their "stuff."  The stuff that they obsess  over and are known for.  The stuff that, when Christmas rolls around and you're lost on what to get them, just resort to one of these categories and you're golden.  Jenna had a couple of these, but one that seemed the deepest ingrained was her love for Harry Potter.

Jenna always loved to read when she got time, but there was just something about that particular series that kept her coming back over and over again - In every single form.  There were four pillars of Jenna's Harry Potter indulgence.  The books, the audiobooks, the movies, and finally... the lifestyle.

(Oh and while you're here, look to your right, gaze upon my photoshop skills and WEEP!)

The Books

The last Harry Potter book came out while Jenna was visiting me in California. She bought it at a bookstore, and then proceeded to read in silence for the entire 5 hour drive from Newport to Fresno. She finally spoke when we made it back to my house.  - Amanda Sorensen
Right before the 7th movie came out she decided to re-read the book even though she was super busy with school and really didn't have the time.  She did literally nothing else for 2 days and finished it.  - Lauren Krauth

We had the whole collection of course.  As I recall, we may have had duplicates of a few of the books because we didn't have the patience to share.  No matter what she was doing, she always made time to read them.  And reread them.  And re-reread them...

The Audiobooks

She had all the books on her iPod and would listen to them honestly all the time. When she was studying, cleaned the house, did dishes, before she went to bed. She would set a timer on her iPod and fall asleep listening to them. I remember multiple times where she would fall asleep still listening and I would take out the earphones and move the iPod, and she wouldn’t even wake up.   I remember I asked her if it distracted her or how she can study while listening to it and still focus on her work or be able to fall asleep. And she said she'd listened to it so many times that it's pretty much just background noise to her.  - Dirk Van Rybroek

This is something Jenna and I had in common.  Our mother passed on a taste for audiobooks in general, but like their hard copy counterparts, we revisited these more than any other.  When music wouldn't do for one reason or another, there was just something about Jim Dale's soothing voice and having the stories to keep you company that always made them welcome white noise.

The Movies

We watched all 8 movies this past winter with my roommates Neil and Dave and Jenna. They had never read or seen Harry Potter so whenever they had questions, we would pause the movie and they would ask like 60 questions at a time and she would know every answer. Then they would try to stump her with ridiculous questions about Harry Potter that they just made up in their heads. She would know every single answer too no matter how ridiculous it was. One time, I think it was Dave, stumped her on some really random question: "How many wands did Harry use in all the books?" Ever since then, he would always say things like, ”If you guys have any questions about Harry Potter you can just ask me cause I know more about it than Jenna." - Dirk Van Rybroek

Not the answer to the question, but a relevant fun fact.
We would play this game where we'd turn off the sound and see who could remember the dialogue the best.  - Emily Scharpf

Oh those movies... "If we were going through the movie channels and Harry Potter was on we would always stop on it and watch it. There was no changing the channel if it was on." (Dirk Van Rybroek). She had almost every single one saved on the Tivo.  It took up SO much memory but she would never let me delete them.  It drove me CRAZY.  Even when we moved and all the movies we had saved were erased, she started stockpiling them all over again (curse you, ABC Family)!  So finally, I got her the deluxe DVD set for all eight movies.  It was definitely my proudest Black Friday snag to date.  Probably always will be.

We both went into post-Potter depression when the final movie came out. It still breaks my heart a little to know that she never got to experience Fantastic Beasts and I often wonder what she'd think of Cursed Child (probably "meh" like the rest of us).

The Lifestyle

Okay so this post may seem a little scattered, but so am I.

Jenna and Emily
Jenna enjoyed Harry Potter with pretty much anyone who knew her well, but her real Harry Potter buddy (in case you couldn't tell from her story about the little game they played whenever they watched the movies) definitely had to be Emily Scharpf.  Emily and Jenna have known each other since they were two feet tall, so obviously this isn't the only thing they had in common, but it was a big one:)

My favorite memory Emily shared with me is actually one that Jenna told me first.  They wrote and mailed each other acceptance letters to Hogwarts.

It was nice to go see Fantastic Beasts with Emily and her sister Mary. It felt right. But it did make me wish I had maintained a deeper connection with Jenna's friends over the years. They still have all these pieces of her that I'll never really know about.

Apparently Jenna also had a fondness for Argus Filch.  She thought he was hilarious and was especially fond of imitating his run when she'd had a few drinks.  I encourage you all to do the same.

On another note, Jenna always thought of herself as a Gryffindor, and I get it.  Gryffindor seemed to be where all the cool wizards were from. I am most definitely Gryffindor. And she was definitely not short on bravery.  However (and I truly hope she won't be offended by this), after thinking about Harry Potter so much over this past month, I actually think she belonged in Hufflepuff.

Hold on, Dumbledore!  Hear me out!

Now first off, I know Hufflepuff is often the butt of Hogwarts jokes.  It has a reputation for being the "losers but super nice" house. You know, the one where the rejects go.  But that's simply not true!  Just because Hufflepuff is WILLING to accept the students that aren't quite extraordinary enough for the other houses, it doesn't mean it doesn't ALSO claim students who ARE exceptional!

First off, let's look at the Sorting hat's verse about Hufflepuff:

Hufflepuffs are known for their value of fair play, their honesty, their loyalty, and their ability to work their asses off.  And, judging by their acceptance of the underdog students, it sounds to me like they are also defined by their lack of judgment.  If that doesn't fit Jenna to a T, I don't know what does!  Just saying.

Then again... if there's one thing I've come to realize over the years of hearing about my sister... She was never short on nerve.  She was reckless in a beautiful disaster kind of way. Something I (a definitely Gryffindor) definitely am not. Not to mention I'm sure Jenna absolutely would have pulled a Harry and chosen Gryffindor over Hufflepuff.  We all know the sorting system is slightly flawed.

I'll settle for calling Jenna a Gryffinpuff: Part of this good breakfast!

Side story: A while back, Jenna and Dirk went to a Harry Potter themed party.  At the party, they had a "sorting hat" with a bunch of slips of paper in it with all the house names.  You pick out a piece, that's your house.  Jenna drew Gryffindor, Dirk drew Hufflepuff.  Jenna proceeded to make fun of Dirk the entire evening.  A few weeks ago, I had a party with my friends for her birthday and stole the idea.  Dirk managed to make it and drew from the sorting hat again.  Sure enough... Hufflepuff.  Divine intervention?  I think so.

Anyway... We were supposed to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios last May as a consolation for the incredibly stressful semesters Jenna and I both had.  She was so excited.  Just one more reason I knew this was an accident, even before the evidence came together.  She would not have missed that experience for anything.  We obviously cancelled the trip, but I got the idea to reschedule go there for her birthday.  Not only would it be something distracting to get us through a very difficult day, it would be the perfect way to celebrate the 22 years we had her.  It would also give us the opportunity to spread some of her ashes there (which I will be talking about in my next post).

During a trip down to Orlando two years ago, Jenna, Dirk, and I did manage to catch a
glimpse of Harry Potter World mere months before it was open to the public.
Speaking of nerve... Jenna totally tried to slide through the fence for a better look but was stopped by security.

How Harry Has Been There for Me

"This pain is part of being human … the fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength." 
- Albus Dumbledore

I recently relistened to all the Harry Potter books.  Actually, I've been relistening to the Harry Potter books ever since Jenna died.  Not only has it made me feel close to her, but listening to these stories through the scope of one who has lost someone before they were supposed to has made these books more special to me than ever before.  JK Rowling examines loss and death on multiple levels.  Harry's lack of parents growing up and the resulting relationships he builds with other adult characters in the series is only the beginning.  As the series progresses (particularly in the last three books), Rowling goes into losing friends, family of all sorts, acquaintances...  All under a variety of circumstances - Deaths beyond Harry's control, deaths that Harry could plausibly blame himself for, deaths that the victims go looking for (self-sacrifices, freak accidents, recklessness), deaths that come with an endless number of unanswered questions, even deaths that affect him more because of their effect on those he truly loves.


There are great quotes about loss and death in all the books, but after Cedric dies, I think it's safe to say "shit gets real".  JK dives headlong into the effect death can have on a person and keeps getting deeper and deeper.  The last three books struck me in a very unique way.

The sixth book discusses the fear of death and eventually talks about what it's like to lose someone you never thought it was possible to lose (Dumbledore).  This definitely spoke to me.  I know I've said this before, but losing someone like Jenna did not even REGISTER on my list of possible fears.  It's one of the main reasons I suspect losing her will feel so painful for so long.  But I also, like Voldemort, used to personally fear death.  Before I lost Jenna, one of my greatest active fears was that I would die before I was supposed to.  Maybe it was a misread premonition, who knows?  Now... I must confess, I still worry about dying too soon, but for completely different reasons.  I used to worry about what I would miss out on, now I worry about those I might leave behind.  Especially now that we've lost Jenna.  But the biggest difference is that even though I still worry, I'm no longer afraid for MYSELF.  Dumbledore said in book one that, "To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."  Now I know there will always be someone waiting to travel with me.  I just hope she's not too lonely waiting for us on the other side.  I doubt it.  She's always been pretty independent and we're constantly sending her "owls" to keep in touch.  Plus she's got all the animals to keep her company.  Not to mention all the best Harry Potter characters (I don't care if they're fictional!  It's the afterlife!  Anything goes!).

The seventh book provided me with yet another layer.  Harry's feelings about the people he'd lost totally reflected the way I felt about the never ending questions that the person you love will never be able to answer and all the moments you never got to have.  The way they pile up can be overwhelming.  Having a mission helps.  When Dobby died, the way digging the grave gave Harry clarity made perfect sense to me.  Every drop of sweat was a "gift to the elf".  I think that's why I go on so many of these crusades for Jenna.  If she couldn't have been around long enough to live her dreams, I'll bring her dreams to life.  I just... want to give her something.  It's the least I can do.  Finding ways to honor those that you love has a cleansing effect.  It's like a fire burning away all the infection of a disease that's eating you alive.  Instead of feeling dead inside, you're so alive that it hurts.  I'll take that over cold numbness any day.

I also really appreciated the way that Rowling talks about death from a departed person's perspective.  She also does that in the fifth book, but more how it relates to those left behind.  Dumbledore has some fantastic insights at the "train station" that is Harry's in-between life, but the line that struck me the most is how Sirius responds when Harry asks him if dying hurts.  "Quicker and easier than falling asleep." I had to pause my audiobook and cry for a bit.  In those first few days before we found out the truth, I was so worried that Jenna passed scared or in pain.  I know I must sound like a broken record saying how relieved we were to find out the truth, but it was more than finding out that it was an accident.  Putting together the details also confirmed that there was no way she was scared OR in any pain.  Without getting into detail, Sirius's description is completely fitting.  I know this sounds morbid and really raw, but I feel like I have to share this.  I hope those of you who read this understand.

As I mentioned before, the fifth book talks about death more from the perspective of those who are left behind.  Maybe that's why that book hit closest to home.  This is Harry's first sudden personal loss.  I know one could argue that his parents were his first, but he wasn't old enough to process the shock of losing someone dear.  They were a missing element his whole life.   It was less having something, then having it taken from him, and more being doomed to never know it.  Cedric was next, but he wasn't close to Harry.  The trauma Harry felt from that loss was more about the idea of death than the person himself.   Sirius reminded me of my relationship with Jenna because it was someone who Harry didn't see all the time, but felt a deep and special bond with.  There was a feeling of protectiveness on both sides.  They built a friendship on their present, but its foundation was deeply rooted in the past.  Even though Sirius wasn't there for Harry's whole life like Jenna was for mine, it still bears similarities since Jenna and I didn't become close (and consequently start enjoying our relationship) until later in life.  It was also losing someone in his life who wasn't a part of his day to day routine, but a constant on the outside.  When he mentions to Dumbledore, "It's just hard, to realize he won't write to me again,"it rang very familiar to the way I feel about getting phone calls or Words with Friends requests from Jenna.  It's such a simple statement, but it really sums up this kind of loss.

The way Harry handles his grief at the end of the fifth book was like watching snippets of losing Jenna flash before my eyes.  Harry's desire to smash, to run, to shut it all down and just go away is how I've been feeling on and off for months.  His desire to blame Snape for taunting Sirius, putting Sirius in a mindset that made him more inclined to be reckless and vulnerable, reminded me painfully of the way my mom sometimes lapses into feeling resentful toward people that played a role in certain factors of Jenna's death.  There's a certain comfort in blaming, and letting go of blaming someone or something on the outside can be scary.  Because the next easiest mindset to jump to is blaming yourself or worse, blaming the person you lost.  Like Jenna, Sirius may have been influenced by others, but certainly had a lucid idea of the possible consequences or risks of certain decisions.  He made choices, and those choices resulted in his death.  But while these choices may not have been the safest and may have gone against the advice of those who wished to protect him, they were not especially stupid or careless.  They weren't even UNUSUAL.  They were scenarios that he had doubtlessly been in before, and choices countless people have made before him; all who managed to walk away unscathed.  As we mentioned in a previous entry of mine, we roll the dice every day.  It's part of living a full life.  But sometimes we make a risky bet at the wrong time, and we lose big.  And that fucking sucks.

The way Harry floats through the last week of term was also stunningly accurate.  He engages hesitantly and skittishly, finding the slightest misstep as a reason to shut back down.  I know I spoke of loss more freely than Harry did, but with me, there's a big difference between talking about what I'm going through and letting myself feel it WHEN I'm talking.  The cliches wash over you and you try not to hold anything against anyone when they just don't know what you're going through, but you can't help it in a way.  You're angry and sad and want everyone and no one to notice.  It's no wonder that you resort to feeble and deluded hopes of trying to get it all back.  When Harry takes the two way mirror and calls Sirius's name, it reminded me of how I would watch certain scary movies about communicating with the dead and vaguely wonder if that would really work.  His conversation with Nearly Headless Nick about Sirius coming back as a ghost wasn't something I ever really considered, but the feelings were still familiar.  I STILL have constant fantasies about time travel.  I rewatched Doctor Who recently to prepare myself for Halloween (I went as his time machine - aka the Tardis).  It's a show about traveling through time and space.  Boy, did THAT do a number on me.  At least certain episodes did.  I watched an episode about one of the companions saving her dad from the car accident that killed him (suffering major consequences as a result) and it ruined my whole week.  Because I could totally see where her head was at.  I even figured out how I could do it without it resulting in a paradox if I was ever in that situation.  But I won't be.  And that's just how it is.  I need to take my own advice.  Replaying the woulda, coulda, shoulda's, and especially the "What if's" do not change what is.  If anything, they just put you in a mindset to suffer the pain of loss all over again once you get back to reality.

The "What Is" can be extremely painful to deal with, but that doesn't mean there aren't pieces of comfort scattered in between.  It's all perfectly summed up by Luna Lovegood:
"Have you..." he began. "I mean, who ... has anyone you've known ever died?" 
"Yes," said Luna simply, "my mother. She was a quite extraordinary witch, you know, but she did like to experiment and one of her spells went rather badly wrong one day. I was nine." 
"I'm sorry," Harry mumbled. 
"Yes, it was rather horrible," said Luna conversationally. "I still feel very sad about it sometimes. But I've still got Dad. And anyway, it's not as though I'll never see Mum again, is it?" 
"Er--isn't it?" said Harry uncertainly. 
She shook her head in disbelief.
"Oh, come on. You heard them, just behind the veil, didn't you?"
"You mean..." 
"In that room with the archway. They were just lurking out of sight, that's all. You heard them."
They looked at each other. Luna was smiling slightly. Harry did not know what to say, or to think; Luna believed so many extraordinary things ... yet he had been sure he had heard voices behind the veil, too.
You can't undo.  But you can remember that you haven't lost as much as you think.  This goes back to one of my earliest entries about Denial.  As Luna adds in the movie:

I hope I've been your Luna during this time.  So many of you have been mine.

The main message of Rowling's take on death in the Harry Potter series is that love is the only true key to life everlasting.  Harry's parents, though we never really meet them, are just as prominent of characters as any other in this series.  The lives and deaths of loved ones lost are what drive a large number of the characters in this story: Dumbledore, Snape, Harry, even Neville (the loss of his parents is not through death, but through other means like what I mentioned in my Book or Roark post)... Just to name a few.  They're kept alive by those who hold them in their hearts.   Jenna and I always agreed that a life isn't measured by the stuff we have or even our experiences.  It's the relationships we build with others.  The memories of our experiences certainly enrich our lives, but they die with us.  Our stuff just gathers dust.  Don't get me wrong!  The purpose of our experiences is to help us grow into the kind of person that is capable of giving and receiving the best possible love.  They are therefore crucial.  The purpose of our success is to facilitate a wider range of said experiences.  It is therefore nothing to sneeze at.  But it all comes down to our relationships: The mark we leave on others and the mark they leave on us.  Look at Jenna.  We've commemorated her in so many ways already - This blog, her bench in the park she practiced tennis, and what will soon be a room in the Humane Society - and I sincerely doubt we'll be stopping there.  Her life here was unfortunately cut short, but now she'll not only influence us for the rest of our lives, her name will be remembered long after ours are forgotten.  ...That bitch.

"Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love."
- Albus Dumbledore


Click here to read about how Jenna's loved ones and I celebrated Harry Potter month and my family's experience at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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