Dear Jesse

Dear Jesse,

I started listening to Ben Folds again, going through my old CDs. I remembered this one song, “Magic,” and I listened a few times before I wrote this. It made me think of the last time I saw you. Was there something in your eyes? In the lines on your face? I don’t know.

I know Mom asked me if I wanted to come see you a the VA Hospital, so I did. You were hooked up to an IV and I was 6 months pregnant or so. You pointed and laughed and told me I looked fat which was, I think, your way of saying, “Congratulations – I can’t believe you’re really going to have a baby!” (Or maybe I just looked fat, haha). I felt like I should give you a hug and a kiss but it was awkward to maneuver around the machines so I just squeezed your foot. Every time I drive by the VA, which is a lot (I mean, it’s next to BJ’s and a family of 6 requires a lot of bulk paper products), I have that same thought: I should have hugged him. Every. Single. Time.

I can’t believe it has been ten years since I’ve seen you. A lot has happened since then. We had a reality tv star in the oval office, now we’ve got a Delawarean that lives a few miles from my home, and there’s a global pandemic that has been going on for more than a year. I think (though it’s hard to know for sure) that a lot of wild and crazy conspiracy theories are becoming a lot more mainstream. You would have loved that.

Rafa finally got his citizenship, so he doesn’t have to carry around that square of green cardboard that you always claimed was his “green card.” We had a few rough years but we worked through them. We have a solid relationship and four beautiful children. If you had stayed a little longer, I know they would each have been another reason for you to live. I’m still mad at your stupid, tender, beautiful soul for not sticking around long enough to meet them.

I talk to them about you and about how you died, but they can’t really grasp it yet. To them, you’re a part of old family history and legends, like how great grandpop John fought in the second world war, or how yellin’ Helen pulled Dad out from under the bed to whup him, bumping his head on each of the bed slats. But to me, it feels like you were just here, and now you’re not. A decade goes by in a snap. It’s one of the things I’ve learned in the last one. I’ll be 38 this year, and you’re forever 31. You still had so much to learn.

I’m the director of an agency now – would you believe that?? My shy, introverted butt is learning to be a leader, and I’m trying to honor you by making a difference in the field of mental health. I carry you with me into all of it.

I wonder if you know all about it already. I wonder if you’re able to look down on Mom and Dad and on your nieces and nephew. I wonder if your former love has found you, now that you’ve both flown away to the grace-filled arms of God, and if you spend your evenings laughing at each other’s jokes on a corded phone, like in middle school. I wonder what you will look like when I see you again. I wonder if you are dancing where you are, in the moonlight with stars in your eyes. It’s a pretty image, but I still wish that you could tell me how you are, in the here-and-now.

I miss you, and I love you!

Emily

If anyone reading this is thinking about suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK or text 741741. Remember that all of us are precious and we impact one another profoundly, even when we feel alone. Stick around for it and keep going.

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