I was not surprised to see a steady stream of friends and family of Jesse Alswager pour into the church for the 4-hour visitation prior to his funeral last Monday. Several people I've grown to know and love through Triabetes were there, as well as other friends of Michelle's that I've gotten to know in the past few years. We took time together to reflect on Jesse and what a wonderful and amazing kid he was, and how he will be missed--of course tremendously by his family, but also by the rest of us. The last time I saw Jesse was when he gave up his room for me to stay with his family for the JDRF Gala last spring. He had this confident and happy manner about him that I will not forget.
During the two short days I was in Madison, I learned even more about Jesse. My strongest impression was how well loved he was by everyone who knew him, and how he will be missed immeasurably. He was a light in the lives of many. I thought I would share just a few of the many other things that I learned.
When his sister's friends came to visit her, they also wanted to visit with Jesse. He had a knack for making them laugh and keeping life fun. They felt like Jesse was their little brother, too. He was a loved big brother as well, and didn't complain to have his little brother come along.
Jesse was an excellent student of the guitar; his teacher put his lesson last because he enjoyed teaching him so much and liked to end his day that way. Jesse didn't need to be reminded to practice.
His school friends loved him dearly and wrote their thoughts down on some large banners that were displayed at the visitation. It was clear that he touched many people at his school.
Jesse never complained about having diabetes, but took it all in stride. I don't know many who can make this same claim. I think the only time he had a hard time was the first time he started using insulin pump infusion sets. Those needles are long. . .
Jesse represented all of us numerous times in local, state, and national events. He was honored by Governor Doyle of Wisconsin and had opportunities to testify before Congress regarding stem cell research and other issues. He was an advocate helping to improve the lives of all of us with type 1 diabetes.
Jesse loved snowboarding and loved his good buddy Sean Busby, who loved him equally back. With Jesse's inspiration, Sean took his snowboarding camps to a new level, helping many kids with type 1 diabetes the world over. Sean asked us to ponder, when we might be too afraid to move ahead in life, what Jesse might do. Don't wait; go for it.
Diabetes was obviously a part of Jesse's life but he was still a kid like any other who loved to be with friends, to spend time with his family, and to pursue other interests.
These are just a few thoughts that don't even begin to do justice in capturing Jesse's spirit. For that, I would recommend that you read the poem by Joe Brady that is posted here on Michelle's blog.
It is still hard for me to wrap my mind around the reality of what has happened. My heart aches for his family. Yet, the message that I carry with me is to take charge of life, and to live it with joy and wonder, despite diabetes or whatever other obstacles might appear before me. I hope that by doing so, in some small way, I can honor Jesse's life and keep him and his family in my heart.