Charles Dickens begins his novel, David Copperfield, with this sentence:
"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that
station shall be taken by anybody else, these pages will show."
is a tragedy for Becky and Shannon and Brendan and I. Like all of you, we are
just drenched in sadness. But as a friend told us the other day, this is the
one sad moment in Jesse's life with us. For the rest it is the story of this
wonderfully goofy boy who grew up to be a man, came to know himself and
have a vision of his life, and found the courage to live out that vision
wherever it took him. The story is one of triumph. And Jess is the hero of the
God knows he needed help. The summer he was eight years old, he went to
day camp every day. At the end of the day, the bus would drop him off, and he
would walk the long sidewalk from the corner to our house. After a couple of
days, somewhat typically, Jess got bored just walking home. And he decided
that he could make it from the corner to the house with his eyes closed,
running. So he started down the length of the sidewalk, closed his eyes, and
in order not to cheat, put his beach towel over his head. And he took off. His
brief success was interrupted by the trunk of the jacaranda tree.
help. He got some of the help he needed at this place, All Saints Church.
When he was fifteen he got in a
confirmation class and went to every session and loved the discussions and
the people he met there. But a week before the Bishop came to consecrate
these kids as members, Jess decided he wasn't going to join. "This stuff
about God is really interesting," he said, "but I don't believe any of it."
That was what he called his atheist phase. But this place seeped into him.
You can tell that by what he chose to do with his life. And earlier this
morning our family got together with Ed and Clark, and we placed Jesse's
ashes in the niche in the corner of the tower. So every Sunday morning he
can listen to the music and argue with the sermons.
Jess went to Polytechnic
School from fourth to the twelfth grade. He met a group of friends
there, a whole bunch of whom are here today, who didn't realize how little
time it is to be friends for a lifetime. He was a pretty good student. He
got involved in all kinds of things with these friends, and they found him a
little different. He told them that, in fact, he wasn't just adopted, he was
from another planet. And sometimes it seemed that it was true. One
Halloween, Jess dressed up as an alien accountant. This kid who had problems
with hyperactivity and whose diet we had monitored so carefully learned from
those friends to eat gummy bears and red vines and to master advanced
Dungeons and Dragons.
In this senior year he learned to play the harmonica.
And as a senior project, he took out a license as a street performer. And
one weekend in the spring on Friday night, he went to the promenade in Santa
Monica. And on Saturday night he went to Old Town, where our friends go to
dinner and the movies. And he put his baseball cap on the sidewalk for
people to throw coins in. And he played his songs for them.
He went to the
University of California at Santa Cruz and expanded his friendship group.
He majored in psychology and education, played the harmonica all the time, and he
began to articulate the vision he had of who he was and what he would do in
the world. And he got lucky. He met the love of this life--Michelle Lynar.
Like most things in Jess' life, their relationship weaved and soared and
plunged until last summer when Becky and Michelle and I went to visit Jess in
Africa, and by the time we were ready to leave, they had a plan that he would
get out of the Peace Corp this coming June and move to Washington D.C. together. She would work, he would go to graduate school. And they would be
married. So Jess got a lot of help from his church, and his schools, and his
friends, and Michelle. And more.
There is an African adage that says it takes a village to raise a child. In Jess' case it wasn't a village. It was a tribe: a family of cousins, aunts, grandmothers, uncles and what my father would have called in-laws and outlaws. When we adopted him, you adopted him. And we loved him into growing up. You let him into your lives all the way in. And we know that your sadness and pride are like ours. And we want you to know how grateful we are that you loved him the way that you did.
Page created on 7/15/2004 3:21:21 PM
Last edited 7/15/2004 3:21:21 PM