Death is ugly and that is obvious.

I have reread, analyzed, and stared at this for days. I blankly looked at it when there was just a blinking cursor taunting me, and when there were words covering the white screen, which I then deleted and allowed the little, black line to nag me again. Odds are, this will not get posted. This will not get posted and no one will ever read it. I truly do not feel qualified to write about her. I am scared to attempt this, and I feel that whatever I say will not do justice to the kind of person Jess was.

But I am trying it out anyways. Mainly because I think there will be healing. If not to honor and remember Jess, then maybe for the simple, sad reason to allow peace for me. And Meghan. And someone else out there that is hurting. Because tragedy sucks. It sucks losing something, or someone, and that will not be healed with a pint of ice cream. It won’t be muted by days passing. Healing will not be provided by words on a page. But it may be a start for me.

I’m also writing this way before the 26th. The closer it gets to December 26th, the harder it is for the right words to come out. The longer I wait until that day approaches, the more I want to bottle the feelings inside of me, hiding any chance of vulnerability. The more I truly do not know what to say. I also must admit that I do not know what I am trying to achieve. I do not know if there’s a point to this, or even a mere message someone could scrape out of it. Which, again, explains why this will probably stay as a draft infinitely.

Here’s a (failed) attempt at a start. I feel that a good starting point in anything is stating the obvious: I miss her. Lots of people miss her. She was too young. (I also feel that everyone is too young. Whether someone is 55 or 4, it always just seems so young.) Bad things happen to good people. Life’s not fair. God is still good. Jess loved Jesus. A lot.

She loved Jesus a lot. That gives me peace. Jess also loved life.

Jess was fearless, and Jess stood out. She did not stand out because of some glowing, surface-level, temporary achievement. Jess stood out because she simply did not care what people thought of her. Sounds like a cliche? Lame, even? You see, everyone likes to have the mentality that they do not care what people think of them. Everyone likes to act tough and pretend like they are being 100% themselves all the time. This is the difference between Jess and lots of other people, though: she lived it.

When I type Jess, my fingers naturally jump to typing Jesus. There is only one letter different between the two–a U. Jess loved like Jesus loved. Jess loved like people would dream to love others. She cared about others’ well-being. Jess would embarrass herself to make someone else feel more comfortable. Jess would be weird to allow others to be “normal.”

Whether or not you have read the bible, regardless of whether or not you believe the bible, you might have heard through the grapevine that Jesus was kind of cool. And if you haven’t heard . . . Jesus is really cool. He’s cool for a multitude of reasons, but one of my favorite reasons is because He loved everyone. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He spent time with liars and deceivers. Jesus did not notice if people were “different” because they were all the same to Him. Each one was a beautiful, sinful child of God.

We are all beautiful, sinful children of God. The quicker we realize that and learn to live like the children we are, the sooner we become free.

Unless you learn to become free–until you free yourself from judgement, the world’s expectations, your negative self-image, others’ daunting opinions–you will never fully live. Yes, you will be alive. You’ll have highs and lows. You’ll experience great triumphs and devastating defeat, but essentially you will be dead. Some people will spend their entire life dead. I’m not saying you won’t have a great life, but it sure as heck will not be a purposeful life.

This is brutal, ugly, and reality. Until we realize that we are small, minuscule factors in a big, God-created world, we will be trapped. Trapped by the world, standards and judgments. Trapped by the weight of feeling empty, of feeling like something in your life is “off.” Trapped by the hole in our hearts–a hole many fill with partying, attempted perfection, athletics, sex.

God is big. We are small. Learn that quickly, humble yourself, and realize someone died for you. Someone barred all of the worlds’ sins–the imperfections, the lies, the flaws, the faults–for YOU to live. Someone took the most violent and brutal death possible for you to complain about your chipped nail polish. For you to cuss about missing a lay-up in a basketball game. For you to get pissed off when Chipotle is out of mild salsa. If you wake up every morning and live like a perfect person took a bullet for you, you live differently.

Jesus didn’t die for us to sit around dead. He didn’t take on all of our sin for us to get in petty arguments and live shallow lives. He died, so we have a chance to live.

So please, live. Live for those who aren’t living. Live for yourself. Live for a God that placed you here and has taken the time to learn everything about you–a God that marvels in amazement at you. Free yourself. Free yourself from everything weighing you down, and realize that this world is not your playground. It’s not a place for you to prance around, acting like you own the place. Because guess what.

You do not. You are a small piece, in a big, beautiful puzzle. This is not to be discouraging; you can still make a difference. It should be encouraging . . . motivating, even. This is not to damper your day and make you feel worthless. However, it is to show you where your worth is found.

It is found in Him. It is found in a beautiful God who created the entire world and had his son die, for us to live (if we so choose).

So please, live. Free yourself and live.

Live like Jess did.

Lots of people miss you, Jess. One year seems so long, yet so short. See you when I see you.