In addition, I must send out a hearty “WELCOME BACK TO TWITTER” for a Mr. John Taylor out there. I daresay that you were very, very missed. I was actually beginning to get a little concerned for the safety of myself and my fellow Duran fans out there….(remember, we eat our own for breakfast!)
Finally (yes, it’s a short blog today), I wanted to give a follow up to a blog I’d done nearly a year ago now. In another life, I was in fact a Girl Scout Leader with a couple of other moms in my neighborhood for my eldest’s Girl Scout Troop – she was about 7 at the time. (she’ll be 15 in 11 days…not that I’m counting) The other moms and I became good friends while we were leading the troop, and we had a standing “tradition” of meeting for coffee while the kids were in school in order to do our planning, and it was something that we all grew to look forward to doing together. Naturally, once our girls got to about the 4th grade (I’d say the girls were between 9 and 10), their interests changed and no longer wanted to be Girl Scouts, so our time as troop leaders ended. (thankfully) While we were all glad to be through with the work involved, we missed our coffee mornings. I still see the moms from time to time, although not nearly as often as I wish – and in March of last year I received the news that the younger daughter of one of our children had an inoperable brain tumor. She is the same age as my son and had been in his class over the years. One never expects to hear this sort of thing, so yes, it was very shocking. Our daughters used to play together, and while they’ve grown apart and no longer even go to school together – I just never ever gave something like this happening any kind of thought.
Nile Rodgers also has been battling cancer, and last year he had blogged about losing Bernard Edwards – he’d mentioned something about finding the silver lining in Bernard’s death, and I blogged in turn about it. You can read that blog here. Jessie’s battle with her brain tumor made me think about that blog again because for the past 10 months, right after she was diagnosed, Jessie was painting her own silver lining. She took a devastating diagnosis and turned into something that would quite literally change the world. She formed a foundation labeled NEGU (Never Ever Give Up) that concerns itself with spreading joy (which happens to be Jessie’s middle name) to children who are diagnosed with cancer. In addition to that, Jessie wanted to do something special for each of the 50,000 children who are diagnosed each year with cancer. Basically she came up with the idea to put joy in a jar. Each week she and her dad would work in the “Joy Factory” (their garage) and stuff special small presents and goodies in jars that she would then take to hospitals and pass out to the kids in the oncology ward. This was all done while Jessie herself was in radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Never once did I ever see or hear her complain – even when she lost her hair, her eyesight, her hearing or control over half of her body, and in the last few months when she really lost the ability to smile – you could still see her try to smile as best as she could. Jessie simply refused to let the cancer beat her spirit. I have said many times that her parents should be very, very proud. Jessie taught me more about grace, and wisdom in this past year than I learned in the 40 years prior.
Sadly, last Thursday morning Jessica’s body lost its fight over this horrible disease, and last night her family hosted a celebration service at the church where her dad Erik is a Pastor. It was the most beautiful celebration of life that I’d ever seen – and what’s more – it’s brought our tiny little neighborhood community together. Since the day Jessie passed away, people have been tying blue and white ribbons to the trees lining our streets. Signs have popped up all over with messages ranging from “NEGU” to “We Miss You”, and just last night balloons were also tied up so that when the family drove from our neighborhood to the church, there were balloons forcing smiles the entire way. It was a glorious way to remember such an amazing little girl. It’s amazing what a 12 year old is capable of teaching grown adults.
The reason I bring this up here is because yes, the experience of knowing Jessie has absolutely changed me. I wasn’t even that close to her family or her mom during the last few years, but I kept in touch with Jessie’s progress, and my heart ached when I learned that she’d passed away because I know just how much Erik and Stacey will miss her. No parent should ever have to bury a child. Two songs continue to come to mind as I think about NEGU, JoyJars and Miss Jessica Rees: [Reach up for the] Sunrise….and All You Need is Now. If there were ever a lesson in those songs….I get it loud and clear.
For those interested in learning more about Jessie and her causes:
Have a great weekend everyone, see you back on Monday!