Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Eulogy for Jill St. Onge

I had to force myself to sit down at the computer tonight to compose this blog, so I apologize in advance for what will probably be a rambler. For knitting readers, the only relation this will have is perhaps a loose theoretical concept of the unexpected ways in which the fabric of our lives knit together and often unravel. Other than that, I got nothing for you at this time.

In journalism, they say that you gotta start with the facts, so here's the best I can do with that: My long time friend, Jill St. Onge, died suddenly and tragically this past Saturday while on the last leg of a three month journey throughout South East Asia with her fiance Ryan Kells. The details of how she died are chronicled in a blog that her brothers have set up here so I will not go into further details on that.

It's the why of her death that we can't seem to get to the root of, partly due to the distance, foreign government's cover-up attitudes, diplomatic bullshit, and who knows what other mysterious factors. The St. Onges and the Kells are doing their best to get to word out with as much media coverage as possible in an effort to get some actual answers and to prevent future deaths (the day after Jill died, two other tourist staying in the bungalow next to them became ill with similar symptoms, one of whom died).

This all feels so surreal. I can't really even think of how to string together words to express my sorrow and love for this crazy and wonderful person. I've been friends with Jill since we were 12 (so that's like, what, three, four years? I'm bad with numbers) and we have joked over the years that when we're old and have outlived our partners we'll be the crazy ladies of the neighborhood sitting out on the porch together sippin' brews. I guess now I'll be going solo in my rocker.

We have had that kind of friendship in which time and distance never meant much of anything. Whether it had been one day or one year since we last saw each other, when we came back together it was like no time was lost at all. Hell, she's knew the stuff that great friendships are made of. I love that girl to no end and I'm struggle to come to terms with the fact that this is one distance that I won't be able to cross. I'm learning what a broken heart feels like.

I've often thought of Jill as one of those crystals that hang in a sunny window, taking the light and reflecting it in new and unexpected ways throughout the room. Jill does exactly that - shining a new radiance on everything and everyone that she comes in contact with. I know in my life she did wonders, teaching me how to let go and not feel like I always have to be in control, to enjoy the moments in life as they come without over-planning for the future. Life happens and for Jill that's no understatement.

With Jill there is always a sense of adventure. As kids exploring in the hills in her back yard, teens sneaking off to check out the "haunted" abandoned boys school, taking hour long road trips to check out some ska/punk band that we've never heard of, driving, just driving anywhere to see where we'll end up, moving cross country on a lark... there was no end to her sense of curiosity. The thing I learned with every Jill adventure, be it big or small, was that it's the journey, not the destination that counts. When she said that she was taking a three month vacation backpacking through South East Asia with just a loose itinerary and some money in her pocket, I wasn't surprised. With Jill, you learn to expected the unexpected.

I feel like there is so much more I could write - pages, in fact - about my dear friend and our 16 year friendship and yet I don't have the words right now. If I could, I'd post some pictures from over the years to fill in for my lost words. As it is, I don't have a working scanner nor do I have the heart to sift through all my old photo albums.

I suppose that these will have to suffice for now. Here's a very un-Jill-ish photo at my wedding (because only if asked by a friend would she wear a dress like that) and then at her college graduation in 2006.

I guess the only thing left to say at this time is that I love Jill dearly and I can't imagine this world without her in it.


  1. Your Story moved me to tears. I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. May all those who knew and loved Jill find peace in this diffucult time.
    (an american woman in china)

  2. This is Jill's Aunt Deborah from her dad's side, what a beautiful thought I still can't believe she's gone what a free spirit she was we all will miss her dearly thank you for such a sweet sentiment. Deborah St.Onge

  3. Shannon, this is Jill's Grandma. Thank you for sharing. I can hear Jill saying for us to find out. Save others. And that she is okay. To carry on. Smile when your heart is breaking.

  4. Shannon, I'm thinking of you daily. Thank you for sharing this.

    love, brooke

  5. This was a wonderfull tribute to Jill as a long distant cousin I did not get to know her that well until this last year so thank you for all the kind and amazing things that you have said about my wonderfull cousin. I can tell that you were and always will be a great friend to Jill.
    Again thank you.
    Karen St.Onge

  6. Oh Shoe... I'm bawling my eyes out right now. I love you so much and I loved Jill! I love the crystal analogy, because it is so true. I wish there was a way that everyone who loved Jill could wake up and find out it was just some crazy dream.
    But know this... Jill will be with you always. it is like that John Donne poem I sent you a while back... True, deep, abiding love like you two had doesn't end. It expands in an unfathomable way and transcends all time. Doesn't make us feel better now, but I truly believe that she will always be with you. You will never rock solo, so keep a brew next to your rocker for Jill!
    I love you.

  7. Shannon,
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings for Jill. Her and I had been friends for the last 7yrs or so, from when we worked at Taco Del Mar. I've never met you, but I've heard a lot about you and it was always wonderful.
    Your words for Jill are a lot of the same ones I would use because she was that amazing person, that crystal shining in everyone's life. I'm absolutely heartbroken that she's gone, and it's hard to comprehend that I will no longer see her.
    But I have to stay strong. We all have to stay strong, because that's what Jill would do. I hope someday we meet so I can give you a hug for all your kind words.
    Take care,
    Leah Diaz

  8. Shannon- thanks for sharing, I am sure this was really difficult for you to do. People need to know who Jill was so that we can never forget her and get to the bottom of what happened. Know that you too are a very special gal and that is why you an Jill loved each other so much.


  9. Shannon, I'm a friend of Leenie's and I just wanted to let you know that I've been praying for you and thinking of Jill's family since Leenie told us over at her PAW thread.

    Your soulmate will always be with you!!

  10. Hey's Nicole Earp...My heart goes out to all of you that were friends with Jill. I don't think of myself as one of her friends...only because we never hung out. Sitting here I just remember being in class with her and how wonderful she was to everyone. Never an unkind word or even look.

    The "why" of this is definitely so frustrating and makes the healing process difficult to start.

    I just can't imagine how sad you are right now...and I'm very sorry that you have to feel this way.

    At least you, her family, all of those who truly knew her can take comfort in knowing that every person that ever met her is saddened by her loss. Only a special person can have that effect on those around them.

    The world has definitely lost a shining light.

    May God Blees you and heal your heart.

  11. That was touching Shannon. I didn't know Jill as well as some, but we worked together briefly and I remember the kind of person she was. I don't think it's possible to forget someone like her, whether you've known her a week, or 16 years. She'll always fill a special part of my memory as I know she will in yours.

  12. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  13. Shannon- Thank you for paying tribute to what an amazing person Jill is. We will miss her completely. Hayley Elrod

  14. I came across this story on CNN. I'm on vacation and my husband has just come in to check on me because he heard me crying. I have friendships like the one you have with Jill. "Friends til the end of time" is what we say. Jill is also the same age as my daughter. I can't express how sorry I am for the loss of your friend. She gave you her greatest gift, friendship. Take her with you through all of your life. Everyone who knows you will come to know her too. That's your gift to her and to all of us who will never get to meet her. Liz Heydanek

  15. I read the story about Jill and then came across your blog. It seems as if you were fortunate to have had the privilege of knowing Jill, and it seems that she was very fortunate, indeed, to have had a friend like you.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and my condolences.

  16. I've got tears in my eyes, Shoe. I don't know what to say that everyone else hasn't said already. It's so hard when things like this happen. My heart goes out to you, and I'm here if you need to talk or whatever. We're following this story very closely out here in Vt., and our thoughts are with Jill's family.

  17. I am so sorry and like you say, words really cannot describe how you feel (although your blog moved me to tears, as well). I follow these stories every time I see one (still hoping for a Natalee Holloway revelation). My heart goes out to Jill's loved ones. Unbelievably sad story.

  18. Thank you all for taking the time to leave your comments - each one is a touching testament to what an impact Jill has had on this world.

  19. Hi Shannon, I just got a call from Nick yesterday about the news and it's been on my mind non-stop. I hadn't talked to Jill much in a long time, just a friendly message here and there. The circumstances under which it happened are hard to grasp, but knowing that she's not here with us is even harder. I'm still here in Fresno, sitting at home with my son, and hearing someone you knew has passed so suddenly really hits home. Hang in there Shanny.

  20. I always adored jill, she always wore a smile. My family weeped when my brother and her split and now they weep again. we loved her so much. doesn't feel real. it is like you are reading news about a stranger, because no way in hell could that be jill. she can't be the person we are reading about. not our jill. i've missed her for the past few years that they have been split up and now i will miss her forever. why things happen we will never know. i just pray she had a rocken life.
    LHT little sis

  21. You brought me to tears. I think that Jill had an amazing spirit about her. She was someone you could never forget no matter how long you had known her. She was a beautiful person inside and out and she will be missed greatly.
    Tasha Sadler (Keeney)

  22. Hi, I read your story, and by the end I was in tears... I am so sorry about your best friend, and to any family member of hers. Jill sounded like such a great friend and a wonderful character, and I'm sure she's watching over all you guys in heaven, and understands how much you and her family loved her. Even though I have met her, I will miss her a lot.
    -Hannah K.

  23. Hello, what a wonderful tribute you have written to your beloved friend. Her family should check out the possibility that Jill was fatally poisoned by insecticide. There was a tragic incident just a few months ago in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where two small children and their parents were poisoned, accidentally, when a neighboring house owner used an industrial-strength pesticide to kill roaches. Even though it was a different house, the whole family was poisoned. The children died.

  24. Dear St. Onge Family et al,

    I have been touched by Jill's story in so many ways. When I read the headlines on in May--I had to catch my breath. You see, my name is also Jill St. Onge and I was also "recently engaged to be married" and that day over 85 people contacted me to see if I was the Jill St. Onge in the headlines.

    Jill and I even look a little alike, although I am 39 and live in MN. Over the years I have run into Jill via mistaken identity on Google searches--twice by my employer--and always thought how nice it was to have a sort of doppelganger out there who has the same political and social beliefs and is kind and active in good and positive ways.

    I am so sorry for your loss and have read all of the postings here describing this incredible woman. She sounds like a strong and light-filled force who touched many people's lives.

    I always loved the name Jill St. Onge--it is one of those great names that other people comment on and tell you it sounds like you should be famous. It has it's own energy. But on May 17th I changed my name when I was married and in a small way I think it is perhaps a fitting memorial to the namesake I never met. That name belongs to her memory and the artisitc works she was involved in--especially Jill St. Onge--Stop Hate Today.

    I ran across these words by an unknown author:
    "Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy."

    Love and Light,
    Jill (St. Onge) Wachtler

  25. Hi Shanny,

    I'm an author/reporter for Lonely Planet and Men's Health and I'm covering Phi Phi and the Andaman Coast for LP at the moment. I just heard about this case for the first time, and I'm very interested in it, and, of course, extremely sorry for your loss. I would really like to chat with anyone involved. I couldn't reach Rob through his blog, the system wouldn't let me comment on his posts. Would you please contact me at: at your earliest convenience or let Rob and Julie's people know I'm around and would like to help find some answers?

    Thanks and best.

    Adam Skolnick


    Adam Skolnick