My brother, Jeb Daniel Partner, died last November. He was 26.
Soon after I received a card from Julie Yates, Director of Alumni Relations. She wrote, “Let me know if the school can do anything to help you.” As the White Mountain School ends its 125th anniversary year, this is my message to you all: The school does help. In every moment.
Friendship. Stephanie Speicher ’02 drove eight hours from her home in Port Angeles, Washington, to stay with me in Coos Bay, Oregon, where my parents now live. She walked with me along the boardwalk in the wet December air, we ate salted caramels, and she listened with an open heart as I tried to make sense of death. Breeda Edwards Cumberton ’99 made the trip from Boston to Montpelier, Vermont, my brother’s home for the last six years of his life, and witnessed the messages of Jeb’s friends at his memorial. Her hug was as long and as strong as thirteen years ago. She filled the room with her loud laughter. By mail, I have seen again the familiar handwriting of Jane and Lee Zanger, Jessie Griffiths, and Ed Farrell, who taught me, loved me, counseled me during my time as a student.
The outdoors. My parents, sisters, and I turned to nature in its power and immensity to help us mourn our son and brother. We took some of Jeb's ashes to Cape Arago, a headland jutting into the dramatic Pacific surf, a spot where Jeb had jogged down the cliffs and clambered from rock to rock as the waves crashed – fearless, on the edge of the world. We called out to the expanse of ocean in heartfelt prayer and song, holding handfuls of the chalkiness that Jeb’s body had become in fire. My dad threw a glass Mason jar of ashes and it broke against the edge of a rock below. With the cold wind in our faces, we watched the white-capped tide begin to rise, carrying the dust away in its vastness.
For this is the truth: that we are all connected. Sometimes, as after a great loss, the doors to our hearts are thrown open, and we can see clearly how a network of people and experiences, extending like a web of light through time and space, holds us up. We each have experienced the love embodied by the White Mountain School, God’s love, a love that sustains us in even the face of death. And we are blessed.
- Promise Partner '99