Warning: This will deal with a lot of spiritual issues that are personal and important to me. It might not be to everyone's liking.
Rest assured, it's still a CJ story, though, and there will be W/J, too!
They call them "flashbulb memories."
I could explain it to you in scientific terms...something about the amygdala firing neurons onto the hippocampus. During times of tragedy or shock, the brain seers the event into your memory like images on a photographic negative. You forever remember where you were, what you wore, how you felt.
We all have those moments...JFK assassination, Challenger explosion, 9/11.
Or the death of a loved one.
I remember it was a Sunday morning in April. I had the windows open. It had rained, and the smell of ozone filled my apartment. I had just brushed my teeth, and I remember how bad the orange juice tasted.
I planned to go for a run and had set the alarm for seven. Many, many hits of the snooze button later, it was heading on nine.
Seven had been too unrealistic, though. I'd been out late with Woody the night before. Just a friendly thing...meeting for beers and greasy food at some faux Irish pub. P.J. O'Toole's or Maggie McGuire's. You know the kind of place.
He said he had to cut out early. The next day was Palm Sunday, and he wanted to go to the 6:45 AM Mass.
"Oh, yeah….I forgot. Palm Sunday." I drank down the last of my beer.
"How could you forget about Palm Sunday? Don't you remember when you were a kid getting your little palm cross you could take home?" He spoke with nostalgic excitement, and I could picture chubby little Woody Hoyt in knee pants and a new haircut getting his palm cross from the priest. "You forgot about Palm Sunday." He shook his head. " A nice Catholic girl like you?"
"Nice, Catholic girl? What makes you think I'm much of either one these days?"
"You don't consider yourself a Catholic anymore, Jordan?" he asked in genuine surprise.
"I'm sort of a 'recovering Catholic.' Like a recovering alcoholic, but without the twelve-step program."
He raised his eyebrows and shrugged humorlessly. Fine. Don't laugh at my jokes. See how far that gets you, I thought to myself.
Then of course, I felt guilty. It was wrong to be flippant. I really did admire his faith, even if I had lost most of mine along the way.
Now here it was pushing nine. I was standing in the kitchen, I remember that, trying to be creative and wondering what kind of breakfast I could whip up with the opened jar of salsa, bacon, O.J., and leftover Chinese take-out that made up the sole contents of my refrigerator that Palm Sunday morning.
Then the phone rang.
It is all etched so vividly in my consciousness. I can hear the woman's voice, the smell in the air, the feel of the phone in my hand.
"Hello," the woman said. Her voice was calm and measured. With an accent. Southern, maybe. "I am looking for a Jordan Cavanaugh."
There was a brief pause. She chuckled nervously. "Oh. I was expecting a man."
"Yeah, I get that." Probably a telemarketer. I almost hung up on her.
I could hear her take a deep breath in. "I'm calling from Mercy Hospital in Glendale, Arizona. I'm an ER nurse here." She hesitated, a brief pause, almost infinitesimal, and I knew in a heart-sickening instant what she would say next. "I'm afraid I have some very bad news..."