NOTE – October 25th, 2020
My sister Jessica Jacobs passed away on Thursday October 8th 2020. She was sick for some time, but it still came as a surprise to me that she is already deceased at the age of forty-three. A good friend and mentor of mine gave me some great advice. He told me to write a eulogy that truly honors my sister, and leaves behind a legacy that we would all be proud of. While I’m a little embarrassed to share this with the world, I do have a number of family and friends that were unable to attend the memorial service for Jessica due to COVID and other extenuating circumstances. So, while I honor their request in sharing the eulogy I wrote for my sister, I also invite you to read and take comfort in what I wrote and what I shared on the day of Jessica’s memorial service.
The eulogy is lightly edited, but largely intact from the day I shared it.
“EULOGY” FOR JESSICA JACOBS – SUNDAY OCTOBER 11TH 2020
As you all know, Jessica died last week from a massive stroke, and we are here to celebrate her life.
When I reflect on Jessica’s life, and celebrate her legacy, and the type of imprint she left on the world, my mind races. I’m not entirely sure where to begin. Just like all of our lives, Jessie’s life was more complicated and layered than what you might just see if you take a quick glimpse. If you look at Jessica’s life as an anthology, and you only pick up one section of her life’s work…you might not have captured nearly enough about her.
Well, this story about Jessica is going to be a bit biased, since it’s through the prism of her brother’s eyes.
Jessica was born December 20th 1976. My parents Alice and Stephen were over-the-moon in love with her. She was born into a loving family, with loving parents and a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins. She was the cutest little baby and she was just full of fun, laughter and joy. One story my mother loved to tell me about Jessica was how one day after my mom had work, when Jessica was two, she was giving Jessica a bath. Jessica said in the bathtub “Aqua”. No, Jessie was not bilingual or in a bilingual program, but was clearly paying attention to what she learned on sesame street that day, and my mom thought that was the most hysterical thing in the world.
On July 6th, 1981 – Jessica would always tell me that was when we became a family. She always wanted a little brother and out I came, and…well I wasn’t all that much fun at first. When my mom was ready to check out of the hospital with me, Jessie insisted on holding me before we went home. Mom and Dad let her sit in the car with me for five minutes before I finally saw my new home.
By the time I reached one years old, I was Jessica’s best friend. We were always running around and playing, having fun, enjoying weekends where we were with our cousins. Life was beautiful, and as we both got older trying to stay up past 10 PM on a Friday was the goal as we really enjoyed the TV lineup they had. “Hey Hey we’re the monkeys”.
As Jess got older, 11,12,13 – middle school years, she gained a lot of new friends. Her newfound popularity left me with no-one to watch late night TV with on Fridays. But, she was entering a new phase of life coming into her own.
Jessica was always a natural leader. She loved to sing, dance, perform and paint. When we were little and spent our summers’ at the farm, Jess would put on these play productions and give a role to each one of her cousins’ including me. We all looked up to her. She was like a big sister to everyone.
When Jessica was in college, she spent about a year in Florida, but eventually moved back home to continue her studies. By now, I was fourteen, and she was nineteen. It was like I moved up in life, where at first I started out as the cutest little brother in the world to that annoying little brother, that she did not want to bring along with her to the movies when she was out with her friends, to being her best friend again.
Jessica took a religious studies course in college, where she wrote a paper trying to refute the existence of God. If you know our mother Alice, you’d understand why she’d want to write a paper like this. Ultimately, her thesis in the paper was turned upside down on its head, and she told me she couldn’t refute the existence of God, and that she did in fact believe in God.
I never forgot this lesson from Jess. You might be wondering what lesson….you got to pay close attention because you might miss it. What Jessica taught me in that moment (which I didn’t fully realize until much later) is that to have faith in God is not something you need to convince others about, or even argue about, but it’s just something you have. But…that doesn’t mean your life gets any easier, or you feel any sense of completion around that. Heck! You might not even be happy in life, but that doesn’t mean it’s God’s fault, or that God doesn’t exist.
Over the past number of years Jessica started to feel more like my little sister than my big sister. But, she was always my big sister. She would say I was the best “little big brother she ever had”. I mean, I was her only brother, and I was almost a foot taller than her, but the sentiment was always nice.
Jessica had a lot of ups and downs. She was by our mom’s bedside when mom got very sick. She was so devoted to Alice in a way that was so beautiful, but also had her withdraw from her friends. Jess and I were still able to laugh about things, but it wasn’t always as frequent. I had to catch her in the right mood. Sometimes, like little brothers are, I’d catch her in the wrong mood, and I’d still provoke her. This is where Dad would come in and tell me to knock it off.
I’m going to miss that dynamic, between Jess and me, and my dad essentially playing referee.
Whenever my dad got sick with some type of ailment, Jessica was always his number one nurse. She’d go downstairs and bring him up two glasses of water every night. To see the beautiful bond my dad and sister formed later in life, was something I got a front row seat for.
When mom died, I asked Jess if she still missed her. And there were times where Jess would tell me how much she missed her, or thought of her, but she also said to me “You know mom was sick for a long time, and it was like I got to say goodbye to her every day those last few years”.
This last year of Jessica’s life was particularly hard for her. Summer 2019, she saw my dad start to get sick again, and it was a lot for Jessica to deal with. By January 2020, Jessica was hospitalized with a physical ailment. The doctors did the best they could do to make her better, but something was still lingering. This past August 2020, Jessica went into cardiac arrest and nearly died. But like a true Jacobs, she fought and persevered and she looked like she was going to really turn it around….she did for a few weeks at least.
After transferring out of the hospital, Jessica spent the last six weeks of her life in a rehab center. She would face time with me and Dad sometimes, and we would talk. She let us know about her progress. There were times in rehab she was a bit withdrawn and didn’t want to talk to me or dad much, but Saturday October 3rd, Dad and I went to visit her, with my girlfriend (at that time) and Jessica’s youngest niece Ella. We paid what you call a “window visit”. This is where I call her from my cell phone and she answers from her cell phone, and we stand outside the lobby on the other side of the glass and she is on the other side looking at us and talking to us. Not quite, person to person touch, (COVID ERA), but more intimate than just facetime.
It was actually the first time since Jess was in rehab that she was actually really excited to talk to me. I tried a new corny joke on her. She said it didn’t land well. You probably won’t hear it again from me LOL. Jess also shared how she was starting to walk and she was motivated to come home, I encouraged her to keep on walking, and build up her strength. This was exciting. She shared with me how she was easily the youngest person in the rehab center, and how her roommate looked like Mom. She told me she made the mistake of telling this lady she looked like her mom. The lady never stopped bothering her after that. LOL
If I knew this was going to be the last conversation I was ever going to have with Jess, maybe I would have tried to say something more profound. But, it honestly probably would have ruined the moment. I’m grateful that was my final conversation with Jess. The funny thing was, that when we all went back to the car after saying goodbye to Jess, I actually ran back towards the window as Jess was backing herself out of the lobby in the wheelchair. I knocked on the glass and gave her a Peace sign. She gave it back to me, as she sat and waited for someone to help her get back to the room. It was almost like I was still on earth and on the other side of the glass Jess was taking a portal to heaven. At least that’s how I’d like to think of that last conversation.
The special bond between siblings does not break just because I’m here on Earth and you have crossed over to Heaven. I know life was hard for you the past number of years and I know how much your childhood friends missed all the great times with you.
I celebrate you for everyone! As I know how much you were loved and how much you will be missed. Lifelong friends you haven’t seen for a while I know are heartbroken over your passing. But I find peace and comfort knowing that your untimely death while heartbreaking for me brings the ultimate peace for you, as the tragedy is not your passing but feeling of loss we all so profoundly have.
To all my family and friends, I invite you to remember her for those beautiful moments you had with her and remember the brilliance and vitality of her life before she started to get so sick. I celebrate all her life and have enough memories with her to last 100 lifetimes. I was lucky to have a sister who loved me as much as she did and looked out for me the best she could. If all of us could be so lucky and blessed to share our lives with our siblings the way I did, life would seem just a little bit warmer, and a little bit friendlier. Unfortunately, sometimes we can’t always control how it’s going to end, but maybe it makes us appreciate everything in between that much more.
PS – Sometimes we are gone too soon. My sister’s legacy is still being written, even in death. It is sad she died 5 years and a few weeks after my mother. But, I find tremendous comfort knowing they are both in Heaven together. I invite you to also check out my piece I wrote about my mother. I wrote it for her first birthday in Heaven. https://joshoffthepress.com/2019/02/08/happy-birthday-in-heaven-mom-february-8th-2017/