Hello Expats Post!
My name is Michael Orion Powell. I was friends and a lover to a former writer for Expats Post, Jennifer Lauren Reimer, off and on, intimately and from a distance, from 2011-2014. Jennifer wrote at this website for quite a while, describing herself as a “sociologist and freelance writer, perpetual nomad and citizen of Mother Earth.”
Reimer passed away some time during the night April 14, 2014. The causes are unclear and even if we get the causes, that’s most likely to stay within the family and not makes its way to me or the public. Jennifer was very sickly in her later years and that was readily evident in her pictures.
I figured that many of the websites she wrote at are going to have a bit of a vacuum – while she wasn’t world famous, there were thousands of people at least who knew about her and her work. I’ve written two articles for a website I contribute to, Dagblog, which I thought would be appropriate to repost here. Take a peek:
Some friends have found it odd that I’ve put together so much public material about her. Privacy around one’s passing makes alot of sense for some – however, if you take a look at Jen’s website Practice of Madness, you’ll find that she made almost all of her life public. Her gripes with her father, her mourning for her mom, whatever was plaguing her mentally, addiction and her physical illnesses – it was all for public display. I also seriously need to get this out for my own good.
As time has gone on and it has now been over a month – a sharper image comes in to my head of Jennifer. Jen had a calendar of nearly all of her major life events, good and bad. Relationships gone wrong, graduating college, finishing graduate school, her homeless period, surviving endometriosis through surgery in 2011 (though I have suspicions, after research, that that was lingering ready to return) and meeting me online in 2010. Jen’s life was and is an open book. Her website has over 3,000 likes on FB and she maintained a strong readership at other sites like Expats Post.
As many smiles as she had while she was with me and as happy as people have told me she was, she was visibly ill. It was heartbreaking. She only weighed 100 pounds and was taller than me. She was in debilitating pain and it was a symphony of differing elements to really figure out what was going on with her. The primary cure that she desired, pain medication, is very dangerous and highly regulated in Washington state. It was so hard to figure out what to do for her. Here’s the two of us together at Starbucks:
I finally had the willpower to go through her images today on Facebook. Her dad had told me that she was actually very healthy back when she lived in Winnipeg, where he lives, and that they had even gone on long treks through the mountains together. At the many dozens of doctor’s appointments we went to – it was clear that doctors were freaked out by how frail she had become. Jen would say she has always been that skinny – perhaps she was in denial about her own deterioration, I’m not really sure.
One of my mom’s friends was very helpful in telling me about his mother in law, who was deteriorating due to cancer and he and his wife found that they could do very little for her to help her. That feeling of impotence and hurtling towards physical and emotional apocalypse is something I fully understand now – Jen was in a fairly safe neighborhood and safe situation and still couldn’t be rescued no matter how hard I tried.
It was hard to fathom – given how fragile her state was with me, but older images show a gorgeous and physically robust woman (not that she wasn’t gorgeous right up to the end):
So beautiful. Love you sweetheart.
I met Jennifer Lauren Reimer online in an SSRI support group. The two of us clicked immediately. She knew how to make money from writing online – her website Practice of Madness has over 3,000 likes on Facebook and sponsored advertising content coming in.
Jennifer really liked me – so much so that her ex-boyfriend threatened her physically if she continued seeing me. She had a lock on me and she urged me to come to Philadelphia to see her. Suddenly, not liking it there anymore, she insisted on coming to visit me in Seattle. We had a pretty nice few months together, in which our happiness together was frequently interrupted by the horrible chronic pain she was in – the result of a dependency on painkillers, car accidents, abusive boyfriends, uteral cancer (which she had gotten a hysterectomy to stop in 2011 but I suspect was rebounding), At some point last Monday night, the two of us fell asleep and I realized the next morning that only one of us had woken up. I immediately called the police, then my mother and her father, all of which responded very well.
Does it break my heart that Jennifer left this world? Of course it does. However, I was prepared. I have had serious health problems in the past – epileptic seizure disorder, depression and a kidney stone are all things I have faced in recent years. However, my problems were beans compared to Jennifer’s. Even if she did not admit it, she had been battling hardcore anorexia for a very long time. She only weighed 100 pounds when she passed, something I weigh nearly double that of, despite being several inches shorter than her.
Her eating habits were grounded in years of habit. I would sometimes make food for her, she would politely comment on how good my cooking was and the food would be left with about 2/3 still there in the bowl. She would pick the cucumbers out of a salad and leave the crusts on her pizza, passing them over to me to eat instead. I had to throw alot of food out around her because it went bad after she left it out. Towards the end, her figure was very close to that of Steve Jobs in his last few days.
Meanwhile, she smoked, used recreational drugs (nothing hardcore like coke or heroin though her friends have told me she did those in the past) and ate an ice cream and Greek Yogurt diet. A friend of mine, who also battled anorexia, told me at her memorial that this was classic anorexic behavior – the anorexic’s body often seeks out high levels of sugar as the body winds down its use of other nutrients. For someone like myself, who has only ever had an eating problem in the other direction, it is very difficult to imagine what this was like. I tried my best with her but these were the sort of habits one develops as a teenager – they can’t just be broken in a couple of months.
Jennifer was so weak towards the end that she had trouble opening a keyhole, opening a window or lifting most items without my help. I did the best that I possibly could – it was hard to know how to respond when she would break in to tears after only walking a block or told me of discovering blood in her stool. Her father told me of a time, when she was studying in British Columbia, that she was able to hike on her own without experiencing any pain, outpacing even him. His niceness to me was the most valuable thing I experienced in the aftermath of her passing – to be told by her father that I had tried my best made me feel like I hadn’t failed.
Jennifer was basically treated like a criminal when looking for pain relief, as Michael Maiello has observed. There are very extreme laws regarding painkillers in Washington state and most of the professionals we experienced seemed as if they were stuck on watchdog mode from the get go, making sure that their license would not be messed up by painkiller abuse. This meant Jennifer got skepticism before they even heard her name or did a physical exam.
Her father has been my guiding light in knowing how to deal with this. He lost Jennifer’s mother when Jennifer was only very little, having to put his wife somewhere in the late 20s, early 30s range which Jennifer was only stepping in to. He has alluded in our conversations about many personal mistakes and I have been running my compilation of a book about Jennifer by him piece by piece, having easily isolated him as the most rational figure in Jennifer’s life.
Meanwhile, I look for inspiration after such an event in the subtle things. My apartment building isn’t filled with the cream of society’s crop. I was a bit paranoid when I had to come back for another month that I would experience something ugly. I didn’t really – most people were very respectful. People who actually knew both of us were extremely respectful and some people even went out of their way to be respectful. There was some gossip but it seemed to die down very fast. I saw this coming – Jennifer L. Reimer was obviously sickly and would tell you about it if you got to know her well enough. Her body wasn’t able to defend itself. One tenant who has known me since 2011 warned me that the grief counseling session I set up would be overcome with gossipers but none were present. It was just myself, friends, family and several counselors.
Even despite some preparation, actually seeing and experiencing it was very harsh. I really want to thank the people who were caring enough to grab my shoulders and tell me I will be okay right as it happened – a more timid person would avoid getting hit by that train. When I was in the office with the apartment manager, some people would actually apologize for barging in once they saw me there. That is what respect looks like and that is what I got for the most part. It was certainly more respect than doctors gave her (or me).
Jennifer had all sorts of factors going against her that it could have been a number of things coalesced in to a fatal brew. Her mother died of cancer in her 30s – heredity and her own habits were unfortunately working in tandem against her. A Jennifer Reimer Memorial Page has been set up on Facebook and I hope to get a book together of her written work from her website, Practice of Madness, which I urge everyone to take a peek at.