Monday, August 4, 2014

Lisa Empanada's Party: an Anniversary

A Year Ago.

One year ago, I attended a party in Baltimore in a soggy backyard.  I was there at Lisa Empanada's invitation.  You see, it was her Affirmation party, and I was one of very few people invited to represent the community to her assembled family.  She told me she considered me family.

With Lisa that day 

Tents against the drizzle

That is something her widow, Sandy, has since echoed several times.

This is the first of what will be multiple Lisa related anniversaries.  The Affirmation Party.  Her Death.  Her Funeral.  All of them, One Year.  And I'll address her suicide more as that one year anniversary comes.

For me, my life as a transwoman has been in relatively well defined stages.  The current "stage" started on March 25, 2013, when I went full time as a woman.  But August 3, 2013 was a major turning point as well.  On that day, I saw what the love of Family can mean.  Acceptance.  And on that day, I absolutely KNEW, beyond a doubt, that I was going to transition.  I've also spoken in depth about what the party meant to me in a previous entry.

That stage lasted a little more than a month until September 16th, when Lisa committed suicide.  Then began a stage of spiraling depression.  I documented that in the blog as well.  

So the anniversary.  What do I do about it?  My first instinct is that Lisa's birthday is going to be a rough day for Sandy, and as such I want to be there to support her.  So with that in mind, I signed off of work that day so I could travel to Baltimore.  I made arraignments for what she wanted to do that day.  I enjoy spending time with Sandy, and, despite everything else, I loved seeing her and Hayden today.

August 3, 2014 dawned cloudy and gray, just like a year ago.  I re-watched a video that Sandy had posted, and cried my makeup off.  After re-doing my makeup, it was the two hour trek south to Baltimore.

I made it almost on time.  After a few preliminaries, myself, Hayden, and Sandy headed north in Sandy's car to the site where Lisa died.  Sandy was dressed in a beautiful orange dress, and around her neck she wore the "Lisa" necklace that she'd given Lisa for Christmas.

The one Lisa was wearing when she died.

Sandy and Hayden brought flowers and balloons.  I didn't get flowers, opting instead to donate to a suicide prevention organization.  Sandy gave my these neat little butterflies on sticks to place.

We arrived.  We stood next to the spot looking for a bit.  Sandy told Hayden a few things about the site, as he had never been there.  We then stood silently for a bit.  I started to silently cry.  Then the two of them placed the flowers, and I, the butterflies.  Hayden gathered up remnants of previous flower placements, and placed them with these flowers.

Sandy places the flowers.

We stood for a bit, giving Sandy her space and time.  She then walked over to us, tears streaming down her face.  I hugged her and cried with her.

The Flowers and Balloons

We lingered a little bit more, then re-entered the car and drove away, quietly.

Lisa parked the van where the flowers are located

None of us had eaten, so Sandy directed me (I was driving Sandy's car) to an Applebees that had been one of she and Lisa's frequent stops.  We had a nice lunch, if a bit quiet.  Sandy insisted on paying, despite my wanting to pay my share.


After lunch, we went back to Sandy's.  I coaxed them into going to the Angle Inn for a round on me.  While there a friend of Sandy's talked her ear off.  We eventually went outside to the patio, where Hayden brought me up to speed on current events.  Hayden then showed me a place that Sandy owns that she was renting to someone, and that someone wrecked it.  The place stunk badly, and while I could see that a lot had been done, there was still a lot to do to clean that place.  When we returned to Sandy's real home, she asked what I thought of the other house.  I said "Nuke the site from orbit.  it's the only way to be sure."

I spent a couple more hours with Hayden and Sandy, petting Lisa's dogs, and, yes, crying a little.

I left a bit early as I had two stops I wanted to make.

The first was back to the site of Lisa's death.  You see, the other times I visited, I spoke to her, out loud, but not this day.  I went back to talk to her.  I gave her a piece of my mind again, asking her if she was happy about the damage she'd done to the three of us, especially to Sandy.  Yes, there were MANY others affected by her death, but I spoke only of the three who had visited that day.  After that, I squatted down and sobbed.  I told her about my life as it is, and then I took my leave

My second stop was Red Brick Station.  I've written of this place before this. There I met an old friend from my Baltimore days, whom I shall call Chrissy.  Chrissy dated one of my coworkers, but we clicked so after that relationship ended, she and I stayed in touch.  We had a couple of drinks.  My head was still spinning with grief, so I fear I wasn't the best company, but Chrissy could make Shleprock smile- she's that fun.

Chrissy and I

We hung out for a while, catching up, then I headed back north towards home.  When I arrived, Linda was already asleep, as she had awoken VERY early in the morning for work, and will do so again tomorrow.

I'll tell you plain- this day was Brutal.

I cried a LOT for Lisa today.  And I cried for Sandy.  The three of us should've been out with Lisa today, happily celebrating her 53rd birthday, or at the very least she and Sandy should have.  But instead the three of us were sticking flowers and balloons into the ground in a remote farmer's field on a somber gray day.  All because Lisa's strength failed her.

I understand the Darkness, and the way it distorts a person's thinking.  On my way down to Baltimore, the Darkness tried to break into my thoughts.  I began composing the front page to what would be a series of letters to those dear to me, trying to explain Why I died.  But I realized those thoughts for what they were, and immediately shifted my thoughts to the Who CD I had playing.

Lisa wasn't in her right mind when she died.  That's what the Darkness does.  Had she reached out to anyone, she'd still be alive today.  But no- she was so focused on dying...

I'm back.  I stopped typing to cry a bit.  Welcome to my world: where some nights I sit alone and cry.  Especially when there's a reason.

A year ago tonight I was trying to process one of the best days of my life.  On that day, I met Lisa's family, ate well, and met Ally, who is now one of my dearest friends.

Me, Lisa, Ally: one year ago.

On the video Hayden made for Sandy, we see pictures of Lisa.  In some of them, I appear.  In others I am cropped out.  But the highlight is a piece of Lisa dancing at Blue Pacific one distant night during Laptop Lounge.  It's dark, but there she is, bopping and bouncing.  This is the Lisa most people know, and how I wish I could remember her.

I do remember Happy-go-lucky Lisa.  But I remember her deeper and darker moments as well.  I wish I could've made many more memories with her and Sandy.  Today's memories were of standing on a bleak day placing flowers as if on her grave.

And so passed the first of the anniversaries.  Still to come will be the last day I saw her alive, and the day she died.  I will be there for Sandy on the latter, as she will need support.  As will we all.

I realize this hasn't been the most pleasant of entries.  But for this I do not apologize.  My blog is what it needs to be.  And today, it needs to be this.

Happy 53rd birthday my dear sister Lisa.  I will always love and miss you.  Always.


  1. Hi Sophie,
    Interesting to find, and read, your blog... and sad, at the same time. You should not worry about your post not being so pleasant, the blog is for you... and your readers are a bonus - it is a valid and poignant reminder of how our journey can prematurely end for some, for it is a difficult journey and many still do not understand it... or even try to.
    Best wishes,
    P.S. Love the photo of a happy-looking you eating lunch, and the balloons/butterflies are so touching.

  2. Definitely not a happy go lucky post, but it is life (and death).
    I'm very sorry for the loss of your friend Sophie. :(