Safe Travels, Jennifer Alicia Grant

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My friend Jennifer died the night before last. She overdosed on Sunday night and lasted on life support until Wednesday. I think I’m still somewhat in shock because I keep catching myself feeling annoyed and thinking- why is everyone insisting on being so dramatic. This is Jennifer. She’ll pull through. She’s the original warrior. At the end of the world it will be Jennifer and Cher and the cockroaches left alive. We’ll be visiting her in yet another rehab next week.

But we won’t. They donated her organs last night. They said she had a fantastically strong heart, to have survived a massive cardiac arrest and then to keep beating on its own.

Jennifer was a study in contradictions. She was equal parts feminist and fashion victim. At her best, Jennifer was adventurous and beautiful and possessed of a wild exuberance for life. At her worst, you would have crossed the street to avoid her. But even at her worst, Jennifer was compassionate and kind.

There was a time in our friendship when Jennifer was a Sadie married lady with a condo and a job at a law firm and a kitchen full of wedding gifts. This was right about the time that I met Scott, when I barely had four dishes from the 99cent store and I still had to look up things like how long it takes to boil an egg.

I knew immediately after meeting Scott that he was it. I decided to try to bring my game up a notch and I invited him over to my tiny Hollywood studio for dinner. Now, I had never in my life cooked anyone dinner, if you don’t count reheating. Jennifer was a fantastic cook. So I went to her house and she not only taught me how to cook a gourmet meal, she also wrote out a shopping list and foolproof instructions that were so detailed they included exactly when to garnish the brownies with a sprig of mint. Then she filled up a crate with table linens and candles and dishware and everything I’d possibly need to set a beautiful table. The dinner was a fantastic success.

Now I’m the one with the monogrammed table linens. And the thing that’s been nagging me is that she had never even met my son.

Truthfully, I hadn’t seen much of Jennifer in the past few years because I hit that point beyond which I could no longer show up for our friendship. I couldn’t hang around any more for the endless attempts at recovery and the endless lies. I know the story well because it was once mine. And when I was at my lowest, Jennifer was one of the people who showed up and talked to me and offered hope. And when I was miserable and newly sober and struggling to hang in there, Jennifer became my closest ally. For years we were the kind of friends who talked on the phone every day and got matching tattoos and made up names for our imaginary band. Which was all to say- we’re the same tribe, you and I. You are not alone.

And now I face the question every friend and family member who has ever pulled away from a drug addict faces. Did I do enough? Was I a good enough friend or was I lazy and selfish? And even if there was nothing more I could have done, would it have been worth it to keep talking to her if only to have a scrap of her voice to remember better now?

When I held her hand in the hospital, I looked at her tattooed arms and thought that I was holding my own hand. One different choice and that swollen hand would have been mine. I went home and curled around my sleeping child and soaked his jammie shirt with tears.

This morning someone woke with Jennifer’s heart in her chest. I wonder if she can feel somewhere inside her that she has been given a fierce and rare gift.

Jennifer was a passionate artist and a good friend and she tried like a motherfucker. She really did.

You were glorious, my friend. Rest now.

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34 Responses to 'Safe Travels, Jennifer Alicia Grant'

  1. Susan Lynne says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss Jillian

  2. Karin says:

    Oh, Jillian, I am sorry. What a sad end to a beautiful person who gave so much. I hope you’ll allow yourself plenty of time and space to grieve.

  3. Sharon says:

    Jillian,

    As someone who has lost someone close to me in the same way, right down to the need to pull away before the end, I am so sorry. Your writing shows her beauty and how much you loved her.

  4. Courtney says:

    Damn.

    Also? The story about the dinner she helped out with… beautiful.

  5. Gina Moorehead says:

    Jillian, I also was a friend of Jennifer’s and you have summed her up beautifully. She was an amazing person with so many gifts – photography, gourmet cooking, a wicked sense of humor and an IQ that was through the roof. Like you, I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years as she got back into using – I had met her in her clean and sober “Sadie married lady” days when we worked at a law firm together. She made going to work fun and we ended up becoming close friends. I, too, thought she was indestructible, so when I received word that she had passed away I didn’t move for a full minute. It felt like a kick in the stomach. She had a brilliant life force and I know I will never meet another person like her. In the end, that’s not a bad legacy to leave behind. Wherever she is now, her demons can’t hurt her. I absolutely loved knowing you, Jen. Rest in peace.

  6. Erin says:

    Hugs! I know the feeling.

  7. faith says:

    The disease of addiction is like no other. Your friend sounds amazing. She is on another journey now, one with less suffering, I am sure.
    Know that you did what you could. Like you said, it is all about choices. I know that doesn’t help the pain and loss that you are feeling. Do what you do to be at peace, feel the sorrow and let it go, hold on to every beautiful moment of your existence since you were reminded once again at how precious life is.
    Sympathies…..

  8. Melissa says:

    Thanks for sharing such beautiful words, Jillian. I too use to work with Jen and she always spoke very highly of you. I have such a heavy heart today. I miss my homie. I’m also pissed it went down like that. But everytime I think of her, it always ends with a smile. One day we decided to get creative and take photos of me dressed in pink, in the poppy beds in Sunset Blvd. We couldn’t stop laughing the entire afternoon. I will treasure my pictures and memories forever.

  9. Enisha Ligon-Garrett says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories of Jennifer with us. I am so happy to know that the best part of her, her Heart, lives on!! She was all of the things that you said I so much more. I knew Jennifer while working with her at a law firm. I ate lunch and shared so many things with her on a daily… for years. I too lost touch with her. I often wonder how that happens. How someone who was part of my daily life became a fond, but distant memory. She was an amazing and talented artist and I feel privileged to have known her when she was at her best.

  10. Patricia says:

    Jillian, thank you for sharing this story with all during your time of grief. I too have been affected by addictions. One of the most difficult things I have ever had to do was to turn away from my active ex husband. In the early days I spent a lot of time filled with guilt. However, I knew my survival depended on walking towards the light that is there for all of us. As it was put to me in the support group I attend for family and friends of alcoholics and addicts……recovery can be lonely sometimes and we need to step over the bodies to get there. It’s been years since the split and years since we have had contact. I have two beautiful sons created by us before his addiction took over. I am reminded everyday when I look at my boys that have NOT been affected by an active alcoholic/addict how right my decision was. I am also reminded by my boys that at my ex husbands core is a beautiful soul who took part in creating them but somehow got lost. Sometimes when I am alone and quiet I weep for him and wonder when the day will come when I am contacted that he has passed on. Yet, I have learned I too enjoy to have a life and am living it as I carry my own message of recovery. It is a legacy I wish to pass onto my boys. How beautiful it is that you can enjoy your son much like I enjoy mine and pass on a legacy just as powerful.

  11. admin says:

    Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences and your sympathy.

  12. jessica lawless says:

    jillian this is beautiful and so true of the amazing jennifer. thank you for putting many of the thoughts i’m having tonight, as i just learned about her death, into words. its helping me as i move through the first layers of tears and grief and sorrow and anger at losing her for the last time. even with having to let go of the friendship awhile ago, every single memory i have of her is compassionate and joyful and funny and i just freakin’ miss her. i’m glad to know her generous heart is still beating.

  13. julie hasse says:

    Jennifer i will miss you, i have been missing you for quite some time now.
    may you rest ever so gently in peace.
    your beauty and laughter lives on!

    thank you jillian for writing your thoughts, feelings and good memories of a beloved friend- i knew jennifer back when she just got married…everything seemed so possible then.
    deeply saddened, julie

  14. Allison says:

    Hi Jillian,

    I’ve never met you, or heard about you until just a few minutes ago. Jennifer is my mother’s half-sister. We learned of her death yesterday. In ways that circumstances complicate life, I only had the chance to meet her on three brief occasions. In spite of this, I immediately felt a certain connection with her, a connection that would never develop into a meaningful relationship for reasons I am unable to articulate here.

    I would like to thank you for shedding more light on the beautiful human being I never knew who was submerged in a life full of struggle, as I understood it. Thank you for honoring her. I am grateful that in her death, she is survived by those who loved her and were with her in her final days.

    Allison

  15. sb says:

    thank you for writing this … a few years ago i bought a piece of jennifers photography work… every so often i check in with her to see what is new… i am truly truly saddened to hear the news that she has passed … i think your description of her as “possessed with a wild exuberance for life”… was spot on… i will take comfort in knowing that her “fierce heart” still beats… thank you again and im sorry for the loss of our friend…
    xoxo

  16. Jan Prinzmetal (Jennifer's mom says:

    What beautiful work. How much I love my only child. She taught and is teaching me more each day. My sweetheart, you are always and in all ways with me. I too miss you every moment. I am so proud of you and your work. Thanks Jillian

  17. J.D. says:

    I spent quite a bit of time with Jenalicia (always trying to re-invent herself) in the spring of 2006. Going to the first ever LA show of Arctic Monkeys, hanging out on a Sunday morning after a Orb show at the new Disney Hall in the company of a large Unicorn on Kenmore St. with really close friends, and also The Strokes at Universal Amphitheater.
    We also set up a brilliant party at her pad when she wanted to have an all encompassing friends and neighbors rolling night that left her so satisfied and momentarily away from the bigger demons… Then she moved to New York, sent a brief myspace message (I know…) shortly before…but that was it…I always found it odd she’s never become that active on social media after that but I should have known that the disease might have reared its ugly head again. In any case, she was quite something and I’m pissed she’s gone. And also for selfish reasons. Great times that won’t be reminisced with the main perpetrator…RIP Jenalicia. It’s going to make it hard to move back to LA, real hard.

  18. suz says:

    Jennifer’s mother’s funeral is being held today. I hope they are together. RIP

  19. suz says:

    grief and recently pneumonia I have heard.

  20. Jan says:

    Are you SURE about Jan Prinzmetals death? I am trying to locate her and heard she was in Los Angeles or Vancouver. I could not find an obituary on her. This is tragic news.

  21. kevin kealey says:

    She was…. is a beautiful person. i miss her dearly and cant wait to see her again. One day we will meet again. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY, XO

  22. Mark Prinzmetal says:

    A very beautiful tribute to my niece. Thank You!

  23. Barbara Williams says:

    If anyone knows more about Jan Prinzmetal’s passing could you contact me. My father was married to her at the time of his death a number of years ago. I never met Jennifer but I knew of her and about her struggles.

    • Jillian says:

      Hello Barbara- I’m so sorry about Jan’s passing. I don’t know much, only that it was peaceful and in her sleep. Sending you all our best wishes.

      • Barbara Williams says:

        I stumbled on your website because I was interested in your memoir. I am writing a memoir, the second part of which is called “My dad’s last wife” and begins one day on skid road in Vancouver while I was scouting locations for a film. While I was taking photographs, Jan walked into my lens. She was completely strung out. It must have been shortly after Jennifer died. Sometimes life is so strange and sad. Congratulations on surviving so brilliantly.

        • Jillian says:

          Best of luck with the memoir! Jan and Jen were an impactful pair of women, and none of us who knew them will ever forget them.

  24. Brendan McCarthy says:

    I am deeply saddened to hear about the death of Jan Prinzmetal. I knew her when I lived in Vancouver and we dated for a while, and also became good friends. We knew each other from the recovery scene around the city. We traveled to LA a few times and she even came to London with me for a short while. I was aware of her daughter’s troubles, but never met her.
    Jan was great lady and put up with a lot of difficulties, but also helped a lot of young people.
    I remember her ‘exercise ball’ business… I fell off one quite a few times! I am sad that she has gone and that we won’t bump into each other again.

    • Jillian says:

      It is a tragedy, indeed. I miss Jen all the time. I only met Jan a few times and their relationship was fraught, but in the end I think they couldn’t live without each other.

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