It was a Saturday evening in late September. The year, 2010. Jesi sat in her wheelchair in the family room surrounded by balloons. All the balloons were orange and all were bobbing up and down on the carpet amongst a mess of posters and markers. Her family was there, Alan, Chris, Kari and me. I was sitting on the lounge about three feet from Jesi. ‘Aunty Sue,’ a neighbor from the early days we lived in Lexington was there too, standing behind the lounge to the left of Jesi. A couple of Jesi and Kari’s school friends were there, sitting on the floor amongst the balloons. My memory for who they were is a blur but what isn’t a blur was the sense of worry I was feeling.
Jesi wasn’t well. She didn’t have a fever but she had a nasty insistent cough. She hadn’t been home from hospital long, perhaps a couple, three weeks at most since her long admission to commence chemotherapy after her diagnosis. She had gone into hospital a strong soccer playing seventh grader and come home an invalid.
Alan and I were discussing whether Jesi was well enough to go out in the cool fall evening to participate in the Light the Night walk.
“I don’t think she’s well enough to be out for that long. Sitting in the wheelchair and not moving to keep herself warm.”
“But I want to go,” Jesi interceded.
“I know, and I want you to go too.” I thought of the friends from Jesi’s soccer team who would be there to support the newly formed TeamJesi. I thought of Talia, her soccer friend and her mom Peggy who had set up the team in honor of Jesi.
“What if we rug her up in coats and scarves and a beanie and gloves. We’ll be there all the way. We can make sure she says warm enough.” This was Alan’s suggestion.
And so it was decided, we would walk. We would make sure Jesi didn’t get cold. I would spend the evening watching to see she didn’t start shivering and hope for the best that she would be ok the following morning.
As it happened, Alan and I didn’t get much access to Jesi during the walk, although we did stay close by. Jesi was chirpy and happily chatting with all her soccer friends. They took turns pushing her wheelchair and telling jokes for the whole three miles. When we tried to check in to see how she was feeling she told us she was fine. She was enjoying being with her friends and it was wonderful to see her so happy.
When we arrived back at the park at the conclusion of the walk the organizers had packed away all the decorations, the tables had all been stacked and were being loaded on the backs of trailers. One tent was standing. The only lights were enormous spot lights which shed shadows on the grass until it faded into the black night beyond. We were the last walkers to return. All the other teams and their walkers had gone. We hurriedly ate celebratory cake Talia and her mom provided and crowded around Jesi for photos before we all got in our cars, exhausted but excited and drove home.
Last year the Light the Night walk was a week earlier than it will be this year. It was held on the last Saturday in September.
On the morning of the walk we had a small memorial service for Jesi. The service concluded with one of the songs Jesi introduced me to while I spent the preceding three months with her in her hospital room. It was called Let Her Go, by Passenger. When it started I was overcome by the need to leave my seat in the chapel and kneel before the urn which held Jesi’s ashes. It had been placed on a small table and was surrounded by enormous vases of flowers.
It was a year from that memorial service last Saturday but still I can’t bear to hear that song. An uncontrollable grief washes over by whole being, from my head to my throat through my chest to my gut. My legs become paralyzed by it. Yet when I was meditating last Saturday I found myself visualizing a dark cone like tunnel. It was pulling me upward, urging me to follow the black nothingness of it. I began to follow it but the intensity of feeling in my physical body was too much.
I had to pull away.
I remember registering that somewhere nearby an essence of Jesi was lingering. I wanted to follow it but I could not. Then the words came to me. Let her go, Let her go, Let her go…
They began to swirl around inside my chest, inside my mind, tearing at me.
I had to let her go.
Afterwards it dawned on me that it was one calendar year from her memorial service when I knelt on the carpet of the chapel crying, trying to let go of Jesi. It was also one calendar year from the Light the Night walk when hundreds of Jesi’s friends and supporters came out to walk in memory of her.
For one year now I have been trying to let go of Jesi. But still I feel the pain of it every day. It seems to hit unannounced like a wave slapping me in the face when I am not looking. Will it always be so?
This Saturday, October 3rd, at the Light the Night walk in Wakefield over a hundred of Jesi’s friends will again come together to honor the sweet life of my brave daughter. Thank you to you all for signing up to walk. It means so much to me to honor Jesi’s memory in this way. Thank you also to all of you who have donated to TeamJesi. We now have over $2500 in donations and I am hoping we can get to $3000 by Saturday.
Her is a link to the website if you want to join us.