It seems sad and funny that I should be making such a big deal of Jesse now that he is gone from this life. It’s not just me. Lots of people suddenly remember what they loved about him. He was the sort of person who was always present with you, but in such a subtle way you only realize the value of that presence when it is gone. It is probably that way with most of our relationships.
I guess while Jesse was with me I thought of him as a work in progress. I was pleased with the way his life was developing, and I told him so (thank you God!) and I also thought of him as on his way to greater things, such as greater maturity and perhaps someday being a married man, father of children, and uncle to his brother’s children. I took it for granted that we would have many future occasions with a growing family. Now that he’s gone his precious 23 years and eight months are the entirety of his life on earth.
Yes, I know he continues to live in Heaven, and I know as a Christian I have the expectation that he will someday be resurrected in body just as Jesus was. I admit that until now I never thought so much about the promised general resurrection. But it is in the Bible that at least for a time we will all live right here on a new-made earth with Jesus Christ himself in charge of humanity. I believe that, but my human mind is limited and my faith is weak. It has always seemed such a far-out fantastic scenario. However a month ago my son dying would have seemed like a far-out scenario. Now that his death has happened, I find myself more receptive to ideas that in my previous life seemed far-out.
I keep going over the past year or so in my mind, seeing significance in things that I did not quite catch while they were happening. It may be a normal thing after a loved one dies, and then again the special significance may have been just that: significant. Jesse moved out of the parental home in late May 2015. He and his roommate had paid their deposit and paid rent for May, but he took his time moving out.
I talked to him about whether he really felt ready. I wanted to make sure he knew he was welcome to stay at our house for as long as he wanted and until he really felt ready to leave. He said he felt ready. I remember I was anxious and uncomfortable about him moving out, which my culture would tell me was unreasonable because he was 22, an adult, and “should” be living on his own. But I worried about how he was easily distracted and I knew that he had sleeping and focus issues.
But he seemed to really want to be independent, and it did seem reasonable that it was time. He was doing well in his job, he was intelligent and thoughtful, and his behavior had been perfectly responsible for a long time. He certainly had more life skills than I did when I was first on my own. Our family arranged a plan that we would have a family dinner every Sunday night and Jesse would come. That worked out beautifully and with only a few exceptions we had dinner together every Sunday night from the week he moved out until two weeks before he died. I will tell the story of those last two weeks in another post.
The dinners and other occasions that I got together with Jesse soothed my mind a little, but looking back, the whole year and two months had a peculiar feeling about it. Every time I saw Jesse drive up or walk through the door or meet me somewhere a rush of relief would flood my body – a sort of desperate gratefulness – and often I’d mouth a little prayer of thanksgiving such as “Thank you Lord that he’s okay.” If I thought about my strange feeling at all I chalked it up to some aspect of empty nest or crazy mother syndrome. Don’t all parents worry about their kids? But for some reason I seemed to put extreme value on every moment I spent with Jesse for the past year. I tried not act it out though. I didn’t want him to feel like I was breathing down his neck. I wanted to give him space – show him I trusted him and respected his adult independent status.
One Sunday this past June Tom was out-of-town for several days and I planned to get some take-out Indian food from Rajput for dinner with the boys. At lunchtime I stopped at Panera and when I came out of the restaurant my car would not start. Dead. Not even a click when I turned the ignition. There had been no warning signs. Aaron was at work so after a moment of thought I called Jesse. It was only a couple of miles from where he lived and it was his only day off from work. He came right over, tools in hand. He jump-started the car, tested something and said it was not the alternator, and I drove it Auto Zone assuming it was the battery. At Auto Zone I found out it was not the battery but probably the starter, and they couldn’t get it jump started again. I called Jesse again and he came and drove me home. We’d have it towed in the morning and get the starter fixed. Since I had to meet the tow truck early in the morning, Jesse thought I should have some pepper spray and gave me his. Later he, Aaron, and I went to a pizza place for dinner.
I thought that car situation was a huge crisis at the time, a highly undesirable occurrence. Now it seems to me part of the preparation. That my car died suddenly in a place and at a time when Jesse was nearby and the only family member available to help. For one thing, it gave me extra time with him. For another, it gave Jesse an opportunity to do something good for his mother before he went before the Lord. He was patient, cheerful, and helpful that day. He gave up his afternoon plans without the slightest complaint. He got to be my hero.