LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: Remembering Jesse Williams
About this time every year, I am reminded of a young friend of mine who happened to depart from this life early one Easter Sunday morning several years ago. She was ill most of her life, and when she died she was only 4 years old. She was the daughter of a good friend of mine.
The rest of us all seem to live long enough to experience our own personal losses. Some are keener or greater or more terrible than others. I have decided that it’s not helpful to compare whose painful experience is more tragic, because for each of us, hopefully, there are lessons learned no matter how you measure the loss.
Jesse definitely graced this earth for a reason. She was a small but powerful soul who briefly flashed her glowing spirit around this town. If you knew her, I doubt you would disagree.
One of the most remarkable lessons that Jesse taught me was to not waste a single moment. She enjoyed every second of her life to the fullest.
Whenever she came to my house she would burst through the door with a huge amount of enthusiasm. I think Jesse had fun at our house because she always got quite a bit of attention from all four members of my family.
Since she usually arrived clutching her current favorite doll, which seemed to change from visit to visit, she would tell me that so-and-so had decided to come too, and so I would greet both Jesse and her doll.
She always got right to business though, as she would quickly set aside her special companion for the day and head straight back to my children’s bedrooms. She knew that this was where the interesting toys to play with were kept, and she would immediately set about rearranging miniature teacups and pots and pans.
She liked to sit at the head of the table when she would eat dinner with us, and she wouldn’t miss a beat in the conversation.
Jesse also taught me about how you take a wretched experience and transform into it a positive one. Maybe part of the reason she could do this was because she was too young to be bitter.
She had no self-pity. Once when I forgot to give her her medicine, I suddenly found that it was she reassuring me that it was okay.
A few times while Jesse was at my house, a home health nurse would come to administer some kind of test. I got to see firsthand how Jesse was wary of anyone wearing a white coat or holding a syringe. But the minute it was over, she would be back fixing me something to eat in the play kitchen.
Jesse went through a lot of intrusive medical treatment – all for the sake of trying to get well. Her growth was stunted from the steroids the doctors prescribed. She had tubes permanently implanted into her chest so that medicine could be administered without poking her repeatedly.
Yet she still got poked regularly so that her blood could be checked for platelet levels. I learned all kinds of medical jargon knowing Jesse, but the thing that has remained with me is not so much of that.
The thing that has stayed with me is the reason for which I believe she came to us in the first place.
Jesse was an angel sent to us to light up our lives. Her message to me was to live fully, to not worry about trivial things, and what’s most important in life is to love and be loved. I feel lucky to have had Jesse in my life for the short time that she was here.
Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.
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