Stitches (May 3, 2009)

My heart is still a bit raw, but I feel the tiniest amount of closure after yesterday’s funeral for Jesika. Oddly enough, it was not the funeral itself that allows me to feel I am starting to heal, but the events that happened after my family, friends and I left the site of our girl’s memorial. It was hard to connect with Jesika within the confines of the church. For one, heavy makeup and treatments had been applied to disguise her last days’ suffering and the fact that she’d been deceased a week already. The body I saw in the chapel had none of Jesika’s naughty smile, playful eye and droll wit. I felt Jesika during the tributes delivered by her two older brothers, Brandon and Kyle. However, it was difficult to reconcile such a somber setting with the light spirited person that was Jesika Thompson.

When I was a freshman, I was part of a four person crew: Jesika, myself, my best friend Gary, and our other pal Danielle. After graduation, Gary and I sort of lost touch with Danielle, as tends to occur when people grow, move and change. We hadn’t seen her in more than 10 years before she walked in the door of the Joliet chapel yesterday morning. It was like no time had passed, as the four of us, in addition to Jen, sat close, whispering, sharing funny and irreverent reminiscinces. It was as if Jesika was there right there with us, egging us on to perform mischief at an inappropriate time. Gary, Danielle, Jen and I decided we’d take Eddie, Max and the girls, skip the anticlimatic part where Jesika’s long lifeless body was laid to rest, and head to a place where we could catch up and tell old tales about Jesika’s enormous stock of bravado.

We headed for Rosemont, Danielle driving in the front, myself and Jen following behind in our cars like a funeral procession in microcosm. We were in search of T.G.I. Friday’s, a place sure to sell cosmos, Jesika’s favorite drink, at 1 PM in the afternoon. The mood of Friday’s seemed appropriately unserious, as I think Jesika would have appreciated. The best part was that Jesika’s boyfriend, Kevin was able to drive up to join us at the end for a celebratory, tearful, but humorous toast to a life well lived by a woman well loved.

I chose this title because of its intentional double meaning. The group of us celebrated Jesika as she was, warts and all, loving each and every precious fragment of memory she left with us. These memories often include tears of laughter so intense, you wake up the next morning with sore abs. At the same time, our little Jesika convention began to remind me that she left me and so many others with unbreakable ties, as her brother Kyle said yesterday, her own “rainbow coalition.” I will always miss her. But as alive as she felt at that T.G.I. Friday’s table, I know Jesika will never be difficult to find.

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