Letter to a Friend – Part One

Passing through, passing through
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue
Glad that I ran into you
Tell the people that you saw me passing through –

Folksong by R. Blakeslee (though it’s always Pete Seeger’s voice I hear in my head)

It’s finally over and I survived –
1982 Yearbook quote from Bernice Jinkerson

Bernice Jinkerson
15 December, 1963 – 23 September, 2006

Dear Bernie –

I’d hoped to some day talk to you again, to catch up. To find out what your life was like in the years since I’d seen you last. To tell you how much I appreciated knowing you. Instead I’ll write the things I might have said here. I’ll probably say more here than I would have if we did actually meet. I’ve gotten far better at (knowing and then) saying what I’m thinking than I was back at school but I still take a while to warm up in a conversation.

I love the internet. It’s great for looking up old friends. I regularly run searches on the names of old acquaintances, classmates and co-workers. I’m curious to see what they’re doing with themselves. Sometimes I’ll contact the people I find. Most of the time I’m just satisfied to find out that someone is still alive and kicking.

I didn’t have much luck finding you though. So I posted a notice in my blog on January 23rd, 2003 –

And because one never knows who might be reading – I’m looking for Bernice Jinkerson (or perhaps Jinkersen). We both attended the same high school in Sebastopol. Last I heard she was working for Bill Graham Productions but that was over 15 years ago. I’m not sure that there still is a Bill Graham Productions any more. SJ and I have been wondering whatever became of her. Anyone who might have a clue what’s become of her, please contact me at chaosunit@aol.com . I get a tedious amount of spam so be sure to mention Bernice in the subject line.

The years went by and I kind of forgot that I’d put up the notice. Every so often I’d do a search for you but nothing showed.

The news came on January 14th, 2008, as news often does these days, in an email. The subject line read –


Hi, Just wanted to let you know Bernie passed away in September 2006 from liver disease. As you most likely know she had a drug problem when in her teens which was brought on by parental abuse (dad). She beat the drug deal and had a good life until she died. When in the drug scene she got hepatitis the bad one which was the cause of her liver failure. We lived in Costa Rica for four years which she loved. She was a great person and I miss her a

I was at work. The morning had barely started. I suddenly didn’t have enough air. Everything got very quiet and I wanted to be anywhere other than where I was. But work is work and I’m a tedious machine. I took a deep breath, wiped off the tears and spent the next seven hours taking care of customers.


I’d posted that notice because I wanted to hear from you again. I didn’t need to hear much. I just wanted to know that you were out there living a good life. That you were well. Hopefully in 2003 you were.

I didn’t have more details than what was in the email. I still don’t. The writer responded to one of my emails, the one with old photos, but didn’t respond to my last. And why should he? I didn’t recognize his name. For all I know Bernie never mentioned me to him. I appreciated that he took the time to write at all.

Most people go through life oblivious to the impact they’ve made in the lives of those around them. They don’t realize that they’ve been missed.

I spent the next few weeks chasing old memories, looking for what I remembered of you and finding your memory in others. It was frustrating. We knew each other from 6th grade to 12th and I couldn’t find as many memories as there should have been for all those years. I looked up old friends and passed on the news. I wrote letters and I talked. When I could find them I reread the plays we’d been in together. And thought. Wrote and rewrote this letter. Many times.

I’ve learned that you can only climb a mountain one step at time; that difficult projects are best attempted in pieces. And getting started has been so hard. I’ve wanted to be poetic. Profound. Meaningful.

Ah well. This is the best I can do. We’ll have to call it enough. We’re not done. This is just part one.