Jesse was a high school friend. We lost touch after he left town at the end of Grade 12. Years later, we reconnected through Facebook, and I learned that he had developed epilepsy shortly after we had lost touch. Jesse died this past November. This is his story, as told by his mother Léa. This is Part III, the part most difficult for me to post. If you’ve missed the earlier parts, here are the links so you can catch up:
I brought Jesse home to my place to recuperate. He was so hurt: on crutches, in a lot of pain, and worried about whether and how well he would recover. And he hated to be lying around after having been so active. But we had a great visit, with lots of talks and games; and one day, we went through the box containing all the pictures he had drawn, and notes and cards he had written to me as a child, his report cards and music festival reports — all the little treasures. It was so much fun to see these items help him “remember” parts of those early times, and I filled in the blanks with the stories he had forgotten. He also got to spend long stretches of time with Moss. My heart just swelled to see the depth of the love in his eyes as he held his tiny namesake.
Sometimes the days were long for him, especially when I was at work, so I managed to get an Internet router hooked up so that he could stay active on his computer. When he could, he returned to Halifax and soon after went back to work. His boss encouraged him to do partial days, and his whole crew was very helpful during that time. He was still in pain, and was having some headaches, though he minimized them to me.
When I went into Halifax on October 27 for a meeting the next day, I took Jesse out for supper to our favourite Thai restaurant and we had a great meal and long talk. He had just been laid off for the winter (as expected) but his boss had made sure he had enough hours for EI. He was full of news about his roommates and the ongoing drama there. But he let slip that he had begun having fairly frequent migraines. We couldn’t be sure whether they were a side effect of the increase to the Keppra or a lingering result of the last fall. I suggested he call the neurologist about them right away and he agreed that was a good idea. I drove him home and we had a great long hug outside his apartment — and that was the last time I saw him.
The following Tuesday morning, we got the news that he had died. A few hours later, as I stood weeping in my bathroom, trying to get ready to go to Halifax to do whatever had to be done, I was apologizing to Jesse, saying, “I’m so sorry Jesse, I know I shouldn’t be crying. I know you’re finally free and you’ll never have to seize again. But I miss you so much”. And suddenly his spirit was there, leaning over me with his arms around me in one of his amazing hugs, and he said, “It’s all good, Mom”. And we stood there for the longest time, and then I could go on.
The next few days were an incredible roller coaster of shock, agony and automatic actions. I had to go to the Medical Examiner’s office, where they had done an autopsy. I learned that Jesse had died a few days earlier (we’ll never know exactly when), but that he hadn’t been found by his roommates until Monday night. The ME’s office hadn’t been able to determine a definite cause of death, and retained his brain for further examination. We don’t expect to hear back from them before New Years, and even then there will likely be no official cause of death. But Jesse was found face down on his bed, and the likelihood is that he seized, fell on his face into the covers, and couldn’t breathe. It will have been quick and he will not have been conscious. For days, I kept re-playing the movie of his death in my head, so hurt that he had died all alone and no one had known; I kept trying, in my dreams, to catch him and turn his head, and talk him through it as I had so often. Then I realized that none of that mattered. All that mattered was that that my wonderful son was gone; and at the same time I was filled with the most intense grief and the deepest peacefulness about his death.
We made the arrangements for his cremation, wrote his obituary, and put up the profile message on Facebook. And the messages poured in for over a month. People we hadn’t even known Jesse had known (librarians, receptionists, doctors, teachers, fellow students, store owners, all his Facebook friends) wrote long letters about what he had meant to them, how open and warm and funny and caring he had been. People called and wept, and I comforted them when they couldn’t speak. It was the most difficult and, at the same time, one of the most beautiful times of my life. Pain and love were everywhere. The wake at home on Saturday was packed with people. And the next day we released half of Jesse’s ashes into the Bay of Fundy right in front of our home. My Dad and his wife purchased a red oak tree (just a little over 6’6″ tall), and about a week later we planted it on a knoll beside the house and overlooking the water, with the rest of Jesse’s ashes around it. He will be here and everywhere.
Go to Part IV of Jesse’s story.