(to a friend of Jesse's who joined the Coast Guard search and rescue team after many long talks with my son)
I’m sorry it took me so long to write back to thank you for the beautiful letter and essay on Jesse’s funeral. I thought you captured the spirit of it perfectly. You have a lot of writing talent—it isn’t easy to write from the heart and yet write well, but you have done so. I have it hanging on my office wall and read it and your letter from time to time. They comfort me.
I am so glad you were in Jesse’s life, and so thankful you and your dad came to the funeral, but mostly I am grateful you spoke to me about your friendship with Jesse and his influence on you. It made me feel closer to him, and close to you and your family that day. As the months go by and Jesse’s time on earth moves farther and farther into the past, it’s the friendships he kept and the memories we all have of him, and that you have shared with me, that help me feel a little bit that Jesse is still around.
I don’t pretend to know what happens after we’re gone, but whatever it is, I think we can be assured that if it’s something complicated or hard to navigate, Jesse will be there waiting for all of us, teasing us for not figuring it all out sooner, but ready to explain it all and get us where we need to go.
A huge part of my life is gone. Jesse changed my life in so many ways, from the day he was born, and all of it for the good. He remade me as a mother, taught me what is valuable in this world, and gave me the strength to do things I could never have achieved on my own. We had our rocky times, but I think given time, we would have worked it all out. I found myself through mothering him, and because of him Jody was made possible, too.
Sometimes I recall moments in his life, things I taught him, things I showed him about the world, and I realize I was trying to build something for him, a way of looking at life, a way of thinking and conducting himself, of always learning: about everything, including who we are and why we’re here. I wanted him to feel a sense of wonder, but temper it with a healthy bit of skepticism that might tide him over until wisdom arrived.
And then I think, oh where did all his memories and thoughts go? Because I’ll never know now if he would continue to love knowing the names of trees and birds, to see life as an adventure as well as an unending education. As a gift to spend wisely on loving and caring for the plight of others. I regret that loss of his future more than anything. He had the right to know what happened next in his life, and it’s unfair and cruel that this right was taken from him. I know so many mothers and dads all over the world are thinking this sad thought about their sons and daughters even as I write this and sad as it makes me for my partners in grief, it makes me feel less alone, and less cursed, as if this most horrid kind of loss were the most natural thing in the world. It’s only the modern-day illusion of our children’s immortality that makes us think otherwise.
It’s a harsh fact of human existence that parents have lost their children throughout history, often for the stupidest, saddest reasons. But I can’t be angry that he was taken from us so young, when I think how lucky we were to have had him in our lives at all.
I hope you and your dad are well, and I want you to know you are welcome at our home any time. Thank you both so much.