Jesse’s story – Part IV

24 Mar

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.  Part IV is the final installment of the story Léa wrote.  To read the rest of his story, follow these links:

I have grieved and grieved, and at the same time told Jesse not to let my grief hold him back from the joyful power he now has.  And he really showed that power in the first week.  On the day we heard of his death, it began to rain and blow.  On the Friday when we went into Halifax to empty his apartment of his belongings, the wind was so strong that flights were cancelled at the airport and it poured rain all day.  That morning, our phone line went out and stayed out until the following Monday night.  On the morning of the wake, there were over 12 trees down across our road, and neighbours had to go out with chainsaws to top them so that people could get here.  And on Sunday, the power went out for 16 hours.  Caitilin and I looked at each other and said, “That’s Jesse, moving his hands across the universe and stirring everything up, just to show he can.”I’ve been working very hard to make this a beautiful grief.  The pain and the peacefulness continue to mix and balance each other.  In the early going, I read a wonderful essay by a well known Buddhist teacher, Joan Halifax, who said that when her mother died, she had to make the choice either to be a “good” Buddhist, staying calm and philosophical, or to scour out her heart.  She chose to scour out her heart, and so have I.  But all through the scouring I have had moments, then hours, then days of complete peace and even joy.  I have believed, for many years, that each of us has many lives, and that after each life we choose what the next life will be, in order to learn the next set of lessons we need on our journey toward enlightenment.  So I know that Jesse chose me as his mother, and chose the trial of epilepsy, and chose to meet Moss before his death, and chose to die young.  And I watched him learn lesson after lesson, and teach us lesson after lesson, as he lived and died.  I can’t regret a moment of his life, or even his death, though I will miss his physical presence for as long as I live.  One night a few weeks ago, I couldn’t sleep and lay in bed with my heart burning in pain.  I was crying because I didn’t know how to untwine all the deep roots that Jesse had put down in my heart.  It took me until 3: 30 to realize that I don’t have to untwine them.  Those roots have nothing to do with his body: they are his love for me and mine for him, and they will stay in my heart forever.  My heart is now the place he inhabits on earth.

I don’t want to end with my grief, but with Jesse – the wonderful man, friend, brother and son that he was.  Jesse was brave and kind; he loved deeply and openly; he wrote haunting poetry, made lovely wooden gifts by hand, and drew a series of amazingly graceful pictures of a person (half man/half tree) whom he called “the dancing man”; and . . . he was incredibly funny and loved to laugh at life.  One of his Facebook profile pictures, which he put up during his time as a carpenter, was this “Bob the Builder” send-off that shows Jesse at his lightest:


On the evening of Jesse’s wake, at Caitilin’s suggestion, our family watched two movies in his memory.  The first was an animation of The Man Who Planted Trees, the short book by Jean Gionno.  As IMDb says, it is “The story of one shepherd’s long and successful singlehanded effort to re-forest a desolate valley.” Jesse adored it, and I believe he did the same thing as the shepherd – he took what could have been a desolate prognosis and transformed it by planting one seed of beauty at a time.  When I think of Jesse in the place between lives, I see him inside a picture I found among his Facebook photos.  It could almost be one of the glades planted by the shepherd, and Jesse tagged the photo “feels like home”:

The other movie we watched that night was The Life of Brian by Monty Python, which was probably Jesse’s favourite movie.  For those of you who don’t know it, it is an irreverent and hilarious take on the life of Christ.  As IMDb says, “Brian is born on the original Christmas, in the stable next door. He spends his life being mistaken for a messiah.”  In the end, Brian is crucified, but as he hangs on the cross about to die, he and the others on crosses burst into song, with “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.  That is just like Jesse; he looked at what life had given him, and sang in the face of it.  When we watched the movie that night, we all sang along.  Maybe you would like to as well:

I want to thank Léa for sharing Jesse’s story with us.  It’s such an important story to me.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know Jesse a little bit, and I hope you learned a little bit about epilepsy and the way it can change a life.  I have a few more things to say before the end of Epilepsy Awareness Month in Canada, but for now, let’s just live with that cheerful tune in our ears.

6 Responses to “Jesse’s story – Part IV”

  1. Nemmy March 25, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    I don’t think I ever got to read his poetry, but I do remember him being an incredible writer, and remember that in high school he was writing a fantasy story where there were characters with our names. I think my namesake “wore the white robe of a cleric.”🙂 This story, in all its parts, was incredibly moving. Beautifully expressed. I found myself by turn in tears and smiling. Sing along? Absolutely!

  2. Tami March 25, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    thank you so much for sharing this story. My daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy at at very young age and “grew” out of it. A few weeks ago, she has a seizure that lasted 30 minutes. It helps to here stories of others with this affliction. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. allmycke March 25, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Thank You to you and Jesse’s Mom.

  4. Scientific Chick March 28, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Thanks for sharing, Fawn. That was very moving and very fitting for the month of March.

    • vicki banks March 29, 2011 at 7:22 am #

      Thank you, Fawn, for sharing Jesse’s and Léa’s story. He was a special man and a wonderful friend. I never really got to know him in his pre-Keppra days but he sounds like a different person in your first post. I’ve never met anyone so upbeat, warm, loving and positive. We could all learn a lesson from his story.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jesse’s story – Part III « Fawnahareo’s Place - March 25, 2011

    […] Jesse’s story – Part IV « Fawnahareo’s Place – March 24, 2011 […] Jesse’s story – Part III I have grieved and grieved, and at the same time told Jesse not to let my grief hold him back from the joyful power he now has.  And he really showed that power in the first week.  On the day we heard of his death, it began to rain and blow.  On the Friday when we went into Halifax to empty his apartment of his belongings, the wind was so strong that flights were cancelled at the airport and it poured rain all day.  That morning, our phone line went out and stayed out until the following Monday night.  On the morning of the wake, there were over 12 trees down across our road, and neighbours had to go out with chainsaws to top them so that people could get here.  And on Sunday, the power went out for 16 hours.  Caitilin and I looked at each other and said, “That’s Jesse, moving his hands across the universe and stirring everything up, just to show he can.”  […] […]

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