Thank You For Dying, Jess
By KC James
Recently I was invited to attend a business networking event. Since I have been trying to work out of my accounting career I was going to decline. However, a chapter I submitted for the new book “When Heaven Touches Earth” had been chosen for publication and the book was soon to be released, so I thought, “What the heck!” I decided to try networking as a new author.
The speaker was powerful and engaging and during the breaks people were buzzing around doing what people do at these things. I was comfortable with my new title. During one segment we were asked to stand up and make a statement about our business and why it was our business. This was my chance to not only promote the book, but it was a chance to say out loud what my heart had been saying for years, “Thank you for dying, Jess.”
My daughter, Jessica, and my unborn grandson were killed in a car accident several years ago. Yes, it shattered my heart. Yes, I was devastated. Yes, I couldn’t imagine my life without her. And Hell yes, it was the absolute worst day of my life. But it has also become the single greatest gift of my life.
Jess had been quite a “challenge” for a few of her teenage years. Her dad, Mike, and I decided we would take her and our son John, out of public school. We enrolled them in a small Christian school in the town where we lived. The truth is, every other private school we tried refused to take Jessica. I was down to my last prayer when this school, close to our home, was introduced. Those wonderful people took both of our kids. And though it was not all smooth sailing from that point, our lives did settle down. And then one day Jess came home and announced to us that we would never have to worry about her from that moment on; she had given her heart to Jesus.
Jess did a one-eighty. Physically and emotionally, she changed. She ended up graduating early from high school. She got herself into college with scholarships on her own. She got a job at a law office in the city where the university was. She was happy. I wanted her to slow down. She insisted. I resisted. She acted as though what I wanted didn’t matter, telling me all the while that I need not worry; everything was going to be okay. She went off to college and to live her new life. Then she met Sam and fell in love. One day Jess broke the news that she was going to marry Sam. I was adamant, she could not get married. I told her she could get engaged, finish school, make her own life – thenshe could get married. She smiled and said again, “I am goingto marry Sam, Mom.” Right then, I knew. I looked her in the eyes and said, “Oh my God, you have to marry Sam, don’t you?!?” She was pregnant and I was beyond furious. My anger was fueled by her calm. I ranted about how she had just gotten back on track; about how everything was going so well; about how in the world they could have been so ignorant to let this happen; and about how this was going to change everything. I spewed venom. She exuded Love. She watched and listened as I attacked and acted out in rage. She smiled. And whenever I had to stop to breath, she would say, “It’s going to be okay, Mom. You’ll see. One day you’ll understand.” A few months later I watched my baby walk down the aisle - a beautiful bride.
The horrific night we learned of the car accident was as you can imagine. The news spread fast and our house filled with family and friends. It was horrible and surreal. Once everyone had left, it was the wee hours of morning. Mike and I decided we would try to get some sleep. I could not lie down. I sat at the kitchen table, sobbing, vacillating from the devastation of the news to the certainty that it wasn’t true. I cried until my tears were gone. I sat in pitch black silence and it hit me. Jessica knew. She knew that she wasn’t going to be here for long. That’s what she had been trying to tell me. “Don’t worry, Mom. It’s going to be okay, Mom. One day you’ll understand, Mom.” She got to go to college, have a great job, get married, and be a mother. She experienced all of it in her short nineteen years. In my heart I knew – she knew.
I grieved as any mother would, as anyone does when they have to say goodbye to those they love dearly. But my world began to shift. My heart was broken so badly that there was absolutely no way I could “fix” it. And that inability to repair it left my heart open. And my open heart was the gateway to unbelievable possibilities. Deep compassion was gifted to me. That compassion for others about Jess's passing eased my own deep anguish. The gift of writing is a direct result of Jess’s death. A few nights after she died I was “given” a poem. The words just came out of me from “nowhere” and left me astounded. Coincidences and synchronicities started to show up daily. I began to question my beliefs about death. And then I began to question my beliefs about life. Where do we go? Why are we here? Do we have a purpose?
Those questions led to no answers and the non-answers led me to a greater knowing. Some questions are simply beyond our human capacity of understanding. Outside the boundaries of science and religion and all of our beliefs and learning is the true Great Unknown. It is in this unknown that miracles happen. When we lose our ability to know everything, the door to everything is opened. When we can’t figure things out, when things are too much for our heads, the opportunity for our hearts to guide us expands. Our hearts are full of truth. Our hearts are full of Love. This is the Love we were created from and for. In Love we see possibility. In Love we are able to survive and thrive in impossible situations. When our hearts are open we see things differently, we begin to understand that life is about choosingwhat life is. Life is going to bring pain. It is an unavoidable and necessary part of the human experience. Suffering is a choice. Happiness is a choice. We are free to choose either.
I knew I did not want to suffer. With an open heart Love organically began to transform me. Love brings change, not only in our own lives, but into the lives of all that we are connected to. When we begin to operate from a place of Love, opportunity abounds. To choose to see the world as kind and full and wonderful, even in the midst of our tragedies, is a gift of living in that Love. That is the beauty of a heart broken to pieces. A heart opened in pain – choosing to see pain as possibility – that has been my miracle. That is the gift Jess’ death left me, a heart I was unable to put back together, and a life that I am not sure I would have ever experienced without it.
In that crowded room of business men and women, I stood. I told them I was an author. I told them of “When Heaven Touches Earth”. I told them that my daughter’s death was not my story; it is only a part of the story that led me to here. I shared my love of writing and life. I told them life was about choices. And then I told them that is why I choose to say, “No, I wouldn’t change it even if I could. And thank you, Jess, for dying.”