On May 16, 1999 Jessie received her confirmation at St. John's Church. As part of her confirmation requirements, Jessie spent a weekend on retreat at the Monsignor O'Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, Maryland. The church asked her family to write "Affirmation Letters" to Jessie. These were to be letters of love, and they were given to Jessie as a surprise during the retreat.
Here are the letters from Jessie's Mom, Dad and brother:
January 11, 1999
How do I put in words all my love for you? Do I tell you how I would lay down my life for yours without a second thought? Do I tell you how life without you would have been unbearably empty and pointless? Do I tell you how each and every time I look at you I am struck again by your grace, your beauty, and your presence?
Or maybe I should tell you specifically those things about you that bring me such joy:
Your smile. It lights up your entire face. It makes me have to smile too.
Your tenderness. You care so deeply about your friends and family, and are so in tune with people and their emotions.
Your humor. You have such a great gift of bringing laughter and funniness to any situation.
Your UH Hi-ya. Sometimes when I am working I think of you saying that and I just start laughing.
Your intelligence. Your ability to see and understand things about life is way beyond your years.
Your maturity. You have deep reserves of knowledge about yourself. I love it when I see you making choices that have good long-term consequences for you.
Your generosity. You can be so thoughtful with your time and energy. Sometimes when I come in after a busy day and you have tidied the kitchen or done the laundry, it gives me such a wonderful feeling of being cared for. Nothing quite compares to the feeling you get when someone thinks of you when you weren’t with them.
Your organization. It sure is nice to look in your room and see all your stuff so well cared for, and so neatly maintained. I think that says a lot about a person.
Your beauty. You are so beautiful. Your thick glossy hair; your incredible, wide set blue eyes; your perfectly shaped nose; your heart-shaped face; your lovely lips; your perfect body – you are really quite something to behold. But all of that doesn’t hold a candle to the other beauty. The stuff that makes you you. You have an inner goodness and sweetness that makes you glow. That is what makes you really stand out in a crowd.
Your athleticism. It is such a pleasure to watch you perform at any of your chosen sports. You have such natural grace and coordination. I love it when you are performing some skill and there is this spark of intense concentration and desire to succeed that comes through.
Your willingness to share. I love it when you talk to me – about anything. Some of my favorite time spent has been sitting on the floor in your room, just listening to you talk about what goes on in your life.
On December 26, 1984, my life was forever changed. God gave me a perfect baby girl. Olive skin and spiky black hair. A tiny, sweet, fragile daughter. There was already an aura about you, something unique and magical. That special essence has never left you. In fact, it has strengthened and matured. Protect and nurture that essence of you Jessie, it is a gift few people are blessed with. Used along with your good heart and strong mind, it will help you get whatever you want from life.
Although I loved you while I carried you in my belly, nothing prepared me for the intense emotion I felt when I first held you. An all encompassing love. An overwhelming sense of protectiveness. A sense that somehow now my life could be complete. You complete this family perfectly. I love you with all my heart.
Do you know I still remember the day you were born like it was yesterday? I remember when you were delivered. I remember holding you for the first time. I remember Mommy asking where I had been because I had left her in the recovery room since I couldn't let you out of my sight. I remember looking at you sleeping in the nursery. I remember putting you in the car a couple days later and taking you home. And I remember being the proudest person in the world…I had a little girl.
Well, my little girl has grown into a beautiful young woman. Some days I wish I could stop time and keep you as a little girl, so you wouldn’t have any worries in the world. On the other hand, as you get older our relationship deepens in many ways, and it is really exciting (and sometimes scary) watching you turn into an adult right before my eyes. You are sensitive, caring, intelligent, pretty, athletic, and have a great sense of humor. You really are a very wonderful person!
Do you know I have hundreds of little pictures in my mind that remind me of what a special person you are? Everything from you running around in the backyard naked to putting together a play in the basement to dressing up for your first high school dance. Do you know what "pictures" go with these places: your bedroom, Liberty Elementary School, our kitchen, and the TJ parking lot? Don’t know? I’ll give you some clues…
Do you remember when we used to lay on your bed (and sometimes ours) and read stories at bedtime? Sometimes I would "do monster" and sometimes we would just read. And sometimes I would just make up stories. You were very inquisitive and cuddly. It was always a very special time of the day for me.
I’m sure you remember the day you had a softball game at Liberty Elementary School and Gary hit you in the head with a ball. I had a lot of emotions that day. First of all, I was very scared that you were seriously hurt. Then I felt better after you got up and seemed to be OK (even though I’m sure you had a nice headache). And then something else happened…when you got up to bat, you hit a homerun. It was great because you were playing a really good team. But that wasn’t all you did. The next time you got up, you hit another homerun! I thought it would be dark before their centerfielder caught up to that ball…it went all the way to the parking lot. At the end of the inning, the assistant coach on the other team (Miss I-Need-To-Get-A-Life and I’m a Screamer) asked if we had your birth certificate. At first I was angry for her saying that, but later I just took it for what it was…high praise for you. She thought you were so good that you must be older than the other girls.
So what about our kitchen. Last year when I went to the beach with the guys, I came home on Sunday afternoon. I saw mommy and Brad, but you weren’t home right then. After about an hour, you came in and jumped into my arms and gave a big hug. It made me feel so good. It’s always nice to know you’re missed…especially by your little girl.
And finally, the TJ parking lot. Earlier this week, you and I went to the YMCA and then we had to meet mommy at TJ so we could leave the car for Brad. When we got there, I asked if you wanted to drive around the parking lot. To my complete surprise, you said yes. Well, after a few times around (and around) the lot, you parked and we got out and started bumping the volleyball. So there we were, bumping the volleyball in a dark parking lot in the middle of January. Life is good. Obviously, most people wouldn’t be doing that, much less think it was fun. I did.
So you see, your bedroom, Liberty Elementary School, our kitchen, and the TJ parking lot are all examples of those little pictures. They’re all examples of places that remind me of you, and how lucky I am to have a daughter like you. And the really nice thing about these pictures is they’re everywhere. I have a nice memory of you just about everywhere I go.
Jess, I am the proudest person in the world because I feel so blessed that you are my daughter. I hope you are having fun on the retreat. Be sure to speak up…you have a lot to offer.
I love you, Daddy
Word Lil’ Sis!!!! J slas K….. I am writing to you to let you know how much better you make my life. Even though we have the occasional or more than that little fight, you are still an amazing person to be around. I really envy the amount of friends ( yo or not ) that you have. You just have a natural ability to click with people and then they become your immediate friends. You also are an incredibly talented athlete and will easily excel at which ever sport you choose. And another thing, while I’m talking about sports – you need to swim next year – event though you kick butt at basketball, I think you would really do well in swimming, especially butterfly, which you can probably even beat me in. And, if you don’t swim next year than you have to swim this summer, ok, great… glad we got that out of the way… So, I also wanted to let you know that I am behind you in whatever decision you make, when ever you make it, well…. Ok… not every decision, but most of them, and you can always count on me to be there for ya. Well….. Have a great time at your retreat ( woo-hoo, don’t have too much fun now ) and meet some new cool people up there, but no boys ok???? Huh you got that??? Just kiddin – have a bunch of fun, and I’ll cya when you get back.
Love and a bunch of fuzzies,