Is it possible to mourn the loss of someone you’ve never met? I’m not completely certain, but I do feel a deep sense of loss and regret when I think of Jennifer (Jenny) Anne Sehenuk. Tragically, Jenny died in a motorcycle accident on October 1st, 2010 in Valencia, California. She was on her way to her mother’s home for a family gathering when the accident occurred. Jenny was only 29 and her passing is something I think about almost daily.
I truly regret the fact that I never had the opportunity to meet Jenny. I’m certain I would have liked her. Everyone did. She was an attractive, outgoing, confident and deeply caring person. Jenny also had a daring sense of humor and adventure! The 1,200 friends and family members in attendance at Jenny’s memorial service are an undeniable testimony to her uncommon popularity. She was blessed. Without debate, Jenny was blessed. Her large, tight-knit family loved her deeply every day of her life. They still do ….
While I didn’t know Jenny personally, I do have the honor of calling her twin sister, Becky (pictured above), my good friend. Since the time of Jenny’s passing, I’ve watched my friend drift through the painful, lonely process of grieving and reluctant acceptance. I don’t have a twin sibling, and I can’t imagine what Becky and her family are going through. Honestly, I’ve tried, but I cannot begin to intellectually reconcile something so emotionally overwhelming and painfully surreal. As a friend, I often feel helpless to do anything but quietly watch and pray for recurring mercies. [pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”right”] As a friend, I often feel helpless to do anything but quietly watch and pray for recurring mercies.[/pullquote1]
In the days that immediately followed the accident I wondered how my friend would deal with the loss of her beloved twin sister. How does anyone deal with such a thing? I wondered what Thanksgiving and Christmas would be like for Becky and her family that year. I wondered what Becky’s future birthdays would be like. Having a twin brings implications most of us don’t understand or even think about. It became clear to me that even generous bereavement policies are inadequate.
In the months that have followed, I’ve developed a much deeper respect for my friend Becky. She’s gracefully handling something we all fear – the death and loss of someone very close. I constantly try to put myself into her shoes. As her friend, I should. As much as possible, I want to understand what she’s going through. I’m certain she suffers moments of blinding anxiety and unannounced heart-squeezing pain. I know she sometimes feels like dying inside. Somehow, Becky remains outwardly brave, but each new day demands further proof of her resolution to cope. I wish I could shoulder the burden she carries every day. I want to keep an eye on her. I want to protect her. I also want to give her the personal space she needs. I admire her strength and resilience. I’m grateful for it. I’ve learned from it. I don’t think I would handle things so well. I quietly hope I never have to find out. Statistically speaking, I know I will.
Jenny’s passing made me realize that death has been largely absent from my life experience. Perhaps Jenny’s passing served me a much needed wake-up call. We’re all vulnerable to the same human frailties. Our fragile lives are subject to radical change without notice or negotiation. If you want to sleep better tonight, embrace your relationships in the most positive way you know how. Do it today.
I believe there’s a purpose in God’s plan for our lives (always). Sometimes, His purpose is revealed to us over uncomfortably long periods of time. Sometimes, His purpose is never completely revealed. Finding peace under these conditions is more than arduous. It can challenge our very faith. I’m certain there’s a myriad of life lessons we can learn (or be reminded of) from our loss of Jenny Sehenuk. Perhaps, reliance upon God’s daily grace is the most significant lesson we can learn. For me, it is perhaps the most difficult lesson to embrace.
Ultimately, there’s very little I can do for my friend (or her family). I deeply wish this were not the case. To help honor Jenny’s life, Becky granted me permission to document this difficult time in her life. I’m not completely certain what that will eventually look like, but it’s an honor to help in any way I can. I’ve started putting the pieces together and I plan to post the finished piece here when it’s complete. If you were fortunate enough to know Jenny, I hope you somehow find peace with your loss.
– charles mcpadden