Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lisa Empanada's "The Pain of Being Just Like You...What If I Had Died? (A True Story)"

Sometimes events conspire to become something more.

Last Saturday, August 3, 2013, I was in Baltimore for a party.  It was a combination birthday/ "affirmation" party.  Lisa Empanada was turning 25 (so her cake said) but was also going Full Time as a woman (except for work.) 

The party was for her family, most of whom hadn't met Lisa yet.  They KNEW about Lisa, but the reality of their kin becoming a woman?  They hadn't seen her.

I was invited as well, along with four others.  She wished she could invite more, but couldn't. 

I wrote in more detail about the party, and the storm of emotions it generated HERE.  In any case, that night, I went to sleep at the Ramada Inn, and I had a very vivid dream.  I awoke crying.  I went through the whole day in a bad mood (right, Hayden?) until I arrived home and started typing like a madwoman.  I typed something I called "The Blog Entry I'll Never Post," as it was for Lisa alone.  It was the dream- I needed to exorcise it from my soul.  Melodramatic?  Maybe.  But true nonetheless.

I sent the piece to Lisa.  She read it, and said she was moved.  (She said more than that, but it was a private communication.)  The next morning, she asked if she could share it with people.  I agreed.  I figured she'd share it with her family.

And she did... with her Extended family.  Her Facebook family.

I didn't expect that.  At all.  She'd never spoken of the events of that night.  I knew about them because I participated.  I am the one who called her therapist... repeatedly, earning her fury.  Lisa pulled out of the Darkness through strength of will and the Love of her family.  I kept my knowledge private, as it should have been. But I didn't know the whole story until I read what Lisa wrote today.

And I cried my eyes out... again.  I was on a break at work, and left the building to cry.  Her words were so amazingly powerful.  Lisa is a gifted writer, so gifted I'm jealous.

I commented on the facebook post about the power of Dreams, which is a subject I'll visit again soon.  The piece I sent to Lisa is embedded in her story exactly as I dreamed it.  I still see the dream in my minds eye, clear as a trauma just witnessed.  And I still cry when I think of it.  Is it possible that my sleeping mind contacted an alternate reality?  Or is my subconscious trying to teach me something?  Or perhaps God (if you believe in her)?

I DID write a vague blog about how I was feeling when the events you're about to read about took place, but I attached no names to it. However, Lisa's picture DID appear in that entry, which you can find HERE

Lisa and I at Keystone, March 2013

In any case, now you have the background to one of the most powerful pieces of writing I have EVER read.  I repost it here with Lisa's kind permission.  She asked me to do a light edit for spelling and grammar, which I did (especially to my bit, as it was typed in a storm of tears and sent unedited to her.)  You will see what I wrote, and how she framed it... I really think her part is a masterpiece.

And if it helps just one person, all the tears will be worth it.

The Pain of Being Just Like You...What If I Had Died? (A True Story)
by Lisa Emapanda
Posted on Facebook- Tuesday August 6, 2013

"I am just like you.

And I turned off my facebook account too exhausted to continue. Why bother?

I am just like you.

I felt myself falling over the cliff and tree branches jutted from the rocks. If I grabbed one, I could stop my fall, but I would surely lose my grip again and start to fall...again. So why bother?

I am just like you.

I wrote my goodbye note, trying to justify what seems so unjustifiable. Yet everyone was still going to be disappointed in me. Why bother?

I am just like you.

I stopped doing the things that mattered and wanted to close my eyes and feel what the absence of pain truly felt like. I could decide to go on but I would forever be in some kind of pain. Go on? Why bother.

I am just like you.

After turning my facebook account off in late March I set in motion a sense of isolation and purpose. I spent most days crying, if not on the outside, then certainly on the inside. Nothing made me smile. Nothing could make the pain go away. I tried reaching out to my friends but I did not want them to be burdened... besides I had a plan and I didn't want them to be a part of it. I would not be stopped.

I had contact with just a few people at the time and I am certain it was because they had thought to reach out to me and not the other way around. They saw the signs. One called my therapist and I was enraged, not for the caring effort that she made but because it might waylay my plans. I had to learn to be more careful lest someone fucks things up and I wind up having to survive...that would totally suck.

Sandy and I left the therapist's office on April 9th. I had asked my therapist if she had ever lost a patient. She said no. I thought to myself "That's about to change."  On the ride home I turned to my spouse and asked if she loved me. She told me she loved Tom and that she liked me. I was Tom...but not anymore. I was finished. My poor therapist: I was glad that I barely knew her. I tried to sleep that night but there was whispering on the porch. I had plans for that weekend and I reminded myself to write the check from my business account for its remaining balance. I went outside I was in a fog. My spouse said my eyes were expressionless. I just told her I was tired. After 1:00 am my daughter and ex-wife pulled up to our house. They live in Fredericksburg- two hours away. They were coming to take me away. They were coming to stop me. I was delusional. I had plans; I was exhausted...the free fall had begun.

My daughter said that I had a haunting look to me as it seemed that I looked right through her. I got up and went inside the house went out the back door and got in my truck. As my ex came towards me I put the truck in reverse...I had someplace I needed to be and no one was going to stop me. I just had to be there a few days sooner. That perfect plan was now being winged as I thought about how much time I had. I needed at least an hour (or so I thought.) I turned off my cell phone as I drove up the street. I made a right onto a street I had never in 10 years driven on, and parked. I calmly went to the back of the truck and opened it. The generator started on a single pull. This is working perfectly. I closed the door and returned to the driver seat. I slumped down and tried to get comfortable. This would all be over soon. I took really deep breaths mindful that I had shorter then expected time to get to where I was going. I never felt more at peace. I was so exhausted that I welcomed this day. I closed my eyes and thought to myself "Finally the pain stops...FINALLY!".

I tried not to think of those looking for me and I only hoped that they were getting further and further from my truck. As I tried to drift off to sleep I heard screaming and then a pounding on the truck. I hazily looked and my daughter was trying to break the window, first beating on it and then trying to kick it in. My first thought was how did she ever take that same turn, that turn onto a road I had never taken before. Then I realized today was not going to be my day. My left hand reached down for the door handle. My daughter and spouse gagged as the fumes left the truck through the opened door. The pain would go on, and the scars of what I had attempted to do would be etched into the hearts and minds of both of my daughters and my spouse.

OMG! I am just like you!

I thought I knew what would happen if I continued to live. I was wrong and I am certain that I am just like you.

My dear friend wrote the attached 'Blog' for me. She attended my Gender Affirmation Party this past Saturday. A day I did my best to never be alive for. Her story is poignant in that it is a reminder of what could have been if I were successful, if others did not see the signs and try to help me.

I am sharing these stories to tell you that all along I have been just like you, and the truth is that you are just like me....you don't have to die. You cannot possibly know what tomorrow might bring.

You are just like me...

Letter sent me:

Dear Lisa,

Yes, I am writing to you again, even though you will never read it. I just need to get things out sometimes, and writing is my therapy. Even the morons here understand that, even if they don't allow me access to a computer.

So I dreamed about you again last night. It seemed so very real. As I've written before, I don't remember many of my dreams anymore. I guess it's the drugs they have me on. But this one, this one I remember every detail.

How many months has it been since that night? Since I got the call to come to Baltimore as you'd gone missing. That horrible night driving around Loch Raven Reservoir on a hunch. The call just after dawn that a policeman had found your truck, still running. That unbearable morning, and the drive back to Pennsylvania that night. I couldn't go back to Baltimore for the services. I want to remember you as you were.

Anyway, the dream. It was summer, and we were in someone's backyard. I'd never seen the place before. It was wet; I think it had been raining. There were so many people I'd never seen. Isn't it weird how dreams are populated by people you don't know? Like your brain has a random people generator or something. I was wearing my long brown skirt and a tank top, which is odd as I don't own one. I had driven the Subaru, which was also weird because I wrecked that right before coming here. I drove four other people to this place. Hayden from Harrisburg was one of them. The others looked familiar, but I can't place them.

Anyway, you were standing in the middle of the yard as the chaos swirled around you. You were wearing a white sundress with flowers on it. You were holding a bouquet of flowers someone had given you. You looked over at me and the others as we walked slowly through the wet grass and mud. And you smiled. You smiled as wide and happy as I had ever seen you.

You looked positively angelic.

Anyway, in the dream I circulated around, and I saw a sign hanging on a battered above-ground swimming pool. It said "Happy Affirmation Day Lisa!" It was your birthday, and you were going full time. Sandy was there, smiling as well. So were your daughters. It turns out all these people were your family, and they were there for you on this special day.

I know you didn't believe in God and an afterlife, but I do. And by now you know for sure one way or the other, I guess. I really think that this dream which has seared itself into my mind maybe has a message.

You are in Heaven.

And your Heaven is to be surrounded by accepting family and friends while being the beautiful woman that you always knew you were, but would never be. You left us before you gave yourself that chance. Before giving them a chance.

I remember hugging you in the dream. In fact it's the last think I remember before the alarm woke me. We were holding each other, it was night, and I was congratulating you.

Then I woke up back here. This fucking place. The doctors say I'm doing better, but what do they know? They keep telling me to let go of the guilt, but I can't. The last conversation we had was that you no longer trusted me, since I called your therapist and told her I was concerned. I remember how sullen you sounded. I remember telling you I'd do it again a million times if it meant keeping you alive. I remember crying. And that awful night. I can't stop think about how I failed you.

I haven't stopped crying since waking up this morning. Sometimes I'm happy because you HAVE to be in heaven - what else could that dream mean? Somewhere, in some reality, I didn't fail you, and you are alive and a happy woman. Other times I am sad because I miss you so very much and I'll never see you again. Hell I don't even know if I'll ever be discharged from this place.

I miss you Lisa. I hope you really are in heaven and somewhere your dreams came true.



...and to think that this all really happened. That I had friends who saw the signs.

I know what it feels like to be certain that I could not go on. I now know what it feels like to be certain that I was wrong. If you are struggling and feeling as if you can't make it...I want you to know that you can.

I am just like you..."

At Lisa's Affirmation party, Aug 3, 2013  L to R: Me, Lisa, Ally


  1. that is one moving piece of written words! wow!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. Hugs.

  3. Very moving...it's almost like you both somehow connected in a cosmic way...Hugs to you both.

  4. Thank you and Lisa for sharing this very moving and intimate life story. You both have my prayers and well wishes.

    Pax et Virtus,


  5. We lost Lisa today.

  6. Tonight on FB, I heard of your dear friends passing. I did not know her but it broke my heart just the same. I wanted.. no I needed to know more. After doing a "google" search I came here to your sacred space seeking something, anything, to give me a glimpse of who the lovely woman Lisa Empanada was. I apologize for this intrusion, but I found it here. I am beyond moved and I thank you for allowing me, if even inadvertently, this opportunity to know Lisa for just a moment and shed tears for a beautiful spirit that is now free. I am so sorry Sophie for the loss of your dear friend. My heart hurts for all of you.

  7. Does anybody know WTF happened? I just learned of this a few hours ago.

  8. Devastating. Thank you for publishing this.

  9. Sophie, I think you and I have met on a few occasions at the Raven. I last saw Lisa in April when I was in Aberdeen on business. She drove all the way just to join me for dinner so I could have at least one meal with a friendly face.

    She and I went back and forth for a few months on this advice column type of rant. I decided we should do that for real and call our column or show "GO TO L" since she is Lisa and I am Lori. We added a bit of limey slang to it to make it funny. We would say, If you need to know what purse to carry with that dress, just GO TO L! Want to know what wine goes well with steak, GO TO L! I had so much fun with Lisa. I will miss her so so very much.

    I don't know why but I decided to google her name and your blog was the first entry. I opened it a read this. WOW! I had no idea this happened so recently, and after her affirmation party. I only wish I knew what she was thinking. My talks with her were never that dark. She was concerned about being a big girl but I (and I am sure everyone else that knew her) told her she was being ridiculous. She is one of the most feminine ladies I know and I told her so. That night at dinner in Aberdeen, she talked about not being concerned if people could "read" her but she kept looking at another table and commenting how she thought they were reading her, us, and she wished they would stop.

    I am sorry for taking so much of your space and time. I will stop here because, frankly, I am losing my composure.

    Sophie, you are beautiful, inside and out. Thank you for calling her therapist and please do it again for the next girl, even if it is me.

    Lori Martin

  10. Does anyone know 1.) what it was that was causing such pain and 2.) what was she trying to fix the pain?

  11. Rest in Peace Lisa. I pray that you find contentment in your next journey. Hugs