Jess has changed my life forever. This time last year I hated my life, I even tried to end it. Looking back I couldn’t have been anymore selfish, I had the choice to live or die. Jess didn’t.
After my over-dose, I hated everything and everyone. I despised the doctors for saving me; didn’t they realise I was being tortured by life itself? I felt like this for those first few days in ward 33, but then I met Jess. Somehow I found the strength to go for a walk around the hospital after my second day in ward 33. As I walked along the corridor I saw her, two bulging, blood-shot, blue eyes were staring back at me. It was clear she had been crying. As she walked her head hung low, staring at the floor and only looking up occasionally to check where, she was going.
Her beautiful features stunned me; her crystal blue eyes, her lovely, long locks of brown hair and of course her amazing figure.
I was so preoccupied looking at this beautiful girl that I missed my footing and fell flat on my face taking Jess with me. As I turned to apologize, I noticed she suddenly looked different. Her hair was gone! She sat on her knees staring at the wig, which was now sprawled out across the floor, as she wept. At first I thought she had hurt herself, but I soon realised due to the look of desolation on her face, it was much more than just a silly fall.
I took a deep breath and helped Jess to her feet; I pathetically apologised for tripping her up and started to walk with her.
Having only met her I could have walked off, but I knew there was something special about Jess and I wanted to help her. We walked in silence for what seemed like forever when I eventually asked her the question that had been running through my mind for ages,’Why were you crying?’
I didn’t expect her to give me a detailed explanation as we had only just met, but when she started to speak I knew she was going to tell me everything. She had explained to me how she had been diagnosed with Leukemia just last year. A few months later she had lost all her hair. I will never forget the last thing she said,’ today the doctor told me I have 6 months left of my life on earth.’
She left me speechless. I couldn’t imagine what she must be going through, the opportunities she was never going to have, but I could tell Jess was strong.
I remember that night like no other, as I watched Jess disappear through the double doors. As I watched a question suddenly popped into my head, ‘why was she alone?’
Hours of sleep were lost thinking about Jess. I couldn’t wait to see her again. I was going to meet her the next week after I had been released from that prison they call a hospital.
As I walked towards the doors of Starbucks I could see her waiting patiently at a table for two. I ordered two spiced pumpkin lattes. We chatted for hours about everything under the sun, but the one thing I still hadn’t asked her was, ‘why was she alone that day in the hospital?’
At long last, there was a silence so loud I could here my thoughts. My conscience was yelling at me, ‘ask her!’ I couldn’t ignore this. Nervously I asked, ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking,but I was wondering why you were alone that day in the hospital/’
Jess looked at me and I looked back, the silence was broken when Jess started to explain that she was put into care as her parents had both been tragically killed in a car accidentwhen she was just 3 years old. My mouth dropped and I muttered that I was really sorry; I could hardly get the words out as I was so shocked at what I had just heard.
Jess carried on speaking, ‘Don’t get me wrong the care home is great, but sometimes I wish I had a proper family.’ The next words that came out her mouth are words I will never forget, ‘if I could have one wish before I die it would be to have a proper family Christmas.’ The guilt ran through every vein in my body as I thought about how something that I have taken for granted all my life could be someone’s death wish.
Jess and I met up every Saturday and Friday until nearer the time of her death. We didn’t dwell on what was going to end but on what had happened. The friendship between Jess and I, transformed my life. Jess had the power to stay positive through the toughest of situations and this helped lift my own spirits.
One day as Jess and I walked along the beautiful forest , carpeted in leaves of orange,red and yellow. She was being very reserved and quiet; I knew there was something wrong. So as we sat down on the park bench, I turned and looked at those beautiful, blue eyes and simply asked, ‘ is everything ok?’
She paused for a moment and then took a deep breath, slowly and quietly she said, ‘ I was just wondering if… you wouldn’t mind coming to my support group with me?’ I was about to answer when she interrupted abruptly saying, ‘you don’t have to if you don’t want to.’ I laughed and said confidently, ‘of course I will do anything for you.’
The teenage support group was held in an old,neglected church hall, the smell of damp was over-whelming. The only thing that kept me from leaving was Jess, she needed me.
This week the group where talking about their bucket lists and their final wishes, most of the group said things like, first kiss, have a huge house party and many other crazy things, but Jess’ answer was different. Jess explained that all she wanted was to have a proper, family Christmas.
Each of these words ran clearly through my mind when out of no where an idea popped into my head. I was going to invite Jess to enjoy a family Christmas with me. I couldn’t wait to see her reaction when I told her.
I remember the nerves and excitement running through my body as I sat in Starbucks at our table for two, with our eggnog cappuccinos (as it was now late December.) Finally there was a break between conversations and I told her my idea.
In that moment it felt like time itself had stopped Jess’ face lit up like the Christmas lights in Times Square. I knew I would never forget what happened next, she lent over the table and kissed me, she was my first kiss, and I know that I will never forget the feeling of her lips against mine. As I looked up to thank the Lord for what had just happened when I noticed a small piece of mistletoe hanging from the roof. Christmas was here.
As I put on my Sunday best on the morning of the 25th. Reality hit hard when I realised that this would be Jess’ last Christmas, it had to be special.
I remember answering the door as Jess stood there in a beautiful red dress. She was very thin now and pale, but she still looked beautiful to me.
As we sat round the table with the turkey in the middle ready to be cut, we prayed for the things we were thankful for, we prayed that the Lord would look after Jess when she was with him. At this point a tear came to my eye, but I held them back, the day was to be happy.
When it was time for the presents I watched as Jess opened the necklace I had bought her, it was silver letters arranged to spell ‘forever’ because I knew deep in my heart that Jess would be with me forever.
Next mum handed me a present, which was addressed to Jess and myself, as we opened the box if revealed a bauble with the words ‘Jess and Jacob Christmas 2012’ engraved on the side.
As Jess left that day she kissed me softly and whispered in my ear, ‘thanks form making my wish come true.’ This time I couldn’t hold back the tears and neither could she, we stood at the front door and wept in the security of each others arms.
As the months progressed Jess and I saw less and less of each other. She had become weaker, thinner and paler. It was terrifying for me knowing that soon she would be no longer there. I couldn’t even imagine what she must have been going through.
On the last week of her life on earth I sat by her side in hospital with my Starbucks cup sitting on the dresser. Those last moments with her are moments I will cherish forever. Just before the cancer won the battle she fought one more time and murmured the words, ‘thank-you’.