One of the most influential cousins from my childhood died on Sunday morning. He was 61 years old and had been dealing with health issues for over a year now.
He was the only child of one of my favorite aunts. His parents were the ones I stayed with when Dad had his first heart surgery, and Jesse would stop by to visit me, or bring me a surprise, or even take me on work calls with him.
He’s the first person I remember explaining to me that people change how they talk and act depending on who they are with; “I don’t cuss when I’m trying to make a sale.”
He was intelligent and honest and stubborn and sure of himself. When his mom, my Aunt Lela, died, I remember sitting in a chair in Aunt Lela’s house, sobbing, and him coming over to wrap me in a hug to tell me how much she loved me and how proud she was of me. His kindness was extraordinary.
I was at their house when a semi truck t-boned a car at the 4-way stop right by my aunt’s motel. Jesse, with his EMT training, ran to help, saving the life of the young girl in the car, though her mother didn’t survive.
It’s hard for me to explain to someone who doesn’t have my family how much these connections mean to me. Jesse was a part of who I am; a part of who I have become and I’m so grateful for him.
Another part of my grief is knowing the relationship he and his wife have. They have been married for decades and were best friends. I grieve for her loss, and for the loss of their grandchildren who are too young to have built memories about what an amazing grandfather they had. Their parents will tell them, and it won’t be the same.
Seeing their relationship when I was a child helped me envision what a marriage of equals and best friends could look like. It was one of the examples I held deep in my heart if I ever dreamed about what I wanted in a relationship one day.
The funeral will be live-streamed so I’ll be able to “attend,” but if it weren’t the time of Covid I would have driven up there to be able to be with the family who understand what sort of a person he was and hear their stories about him in person. That’s another hard part of these losses, losing the stories each person carries.
Rest well, Dear Jesse. I hope you truly heard me when I told you how much you mean to me.