beautiful girl my sister.
Jessica (I am one of few allowed to call her Jessi) would argue that she is the BIG sister as she is about a half a foot taller than I am and that trumps age in her book. I would even argue that she is the BIG sister because I have learned more from her than I have any woman in my entire life. Jessi is mentally handicapped, since she was born the doctors, educators, specialists have never been able to diagnose Jessi accurately. She has dominant qualities of several known handicaps, but she is truly one of a kind. Over the years I have lived & grown up with this extraordinary person and I would be completely lying if I were to say life has been easy. It hasn’t.
But Jessica Sawyer, THE Beauty Queen has taught me some very valuable lessons over the years, and continues to open my eyes to how beautiful life really is.
1. ‘I’m Sorry’ & A Hug Fixes EVERYTHING!
After a series of events that transformed our lives, Jessi’s ability to forgive became a beacon of hope in my life. No matter who was angry, tense or upset, Jessi would wrap her arms around them and apologize. Many times she was not to blame for these feelings or problems but her ability to respond to people when they were hurting has always been something that has always mystified me. Her solution for any argument at home, even when she was the one arguing was to hug it out, and move on. At times this could be frustrating, but in the end Jessi’s ability to resort to love and humility despite high strung emotions has taught me that no matter what the fight, argument or frustration, saying I’m sorry can heal even the deepest of wounds. As a newlywed learning how to be a good wife and a good teammate in this thing called life, I always think about Jessi’s simple approach to conflict. I am naturally stubborn and tend to have the last word, but I am learning now that being sorry is more than just a phrase, its like saying hey— this is me, putting my sword down…I don’t want to fight, I just want to love you, I want to understand you, I want to work this out. Jessi’s compassion can diffuse any situation, and compassion is hard to come by these days!
2. Life Might Be Tough But At Least You’re Not Victor Newman!
If you don’t watch soap operas, let me just tell you a little about The Young & The Restless. Victor Newman has died at least 10 times and somehow comes back to life, he’s been married over 30 times and always goes back to Nikki. He has a daughter named Victoria and a son named Nick and even more children who keep popping up that he never knew about. He’s lost and regained his own company more than any CEO known to man. Someone is always trying to kill him, his wife, or one of his children, and the man will always look best in black leather jackets. Did I mention he never dies? Jessi can tell you more about Victor and even more on the latest drama of all the characters of Y&R. She will politely inform you know that Colleen is a witch, and that Sharon is weird. Listening to Jessi tell you about the latest news on this soap opera is a never ending drama fest that always leaves you with the refreshing reminder that while life may be really tough, at least you aren’t Victor Newman.
3. Never Let Go.
Not only is this phrase from one of Jessi’s most favorite movies, Titanic, it is also a true statement of how she values the people and things she loves. For almost ten years we owned a wonderful cat named Samantha, this cat was Jessi’s BEST friend. Because of Jessi’s unique behaviors she would hold animals differently than the average person. Samantha was given to us as a gift from our oldest sister Kristen (she’s technically our half sister, but we don’t believe in halves, she gives us her whole heart, so she’s our sister 100%.). Samantha was a barn cat, had a mind of her own, and she ruled the house. We were really concerned about Jessi being scratched by Samantha so we had her claws removed, but that didn’t stop this cat from chasing every form of wildlife up a tree. Jessi carried Samantha around by the neck. That sounds cruel, but it really wasn’t — Jessi loved Samantha. She carried Samantha everywhere, she played with her, she hugged on her, & even slept with her like a teddy bear. Every where Jessi went — Samantha was dangling from her arms. For many who visited our house over the years it was awkward at first to see Jessi & Samantha’s friendship…but Samantha adored Jessi. We called her the DINO KITTY because she was truly the coolest cat ever. For anyone who has ever owned a cat, you know how moody, & well catty they can be. Not Samantha, she had a sass to her, but she loved like no other animal on the planet. Even when Jessi would finally fall asleep, you could still find Samantha curled up in Jessi’s arms purring.
And that’s whats so special about Jessi, she never lets go of the people and things she loves…she cherishes them, and in return, those people never let go of her, we cherish her. If only we all valued those people and things in our life the way Jessi values them.
Don’t ever be afraid to be heard. No matter if you are driving down the road with the windows down stopping at every stoplight, sing with everything you have. Sing at church like there isn’t another soul in the room, raise your hands and SING! When you are grocery shopping sing with the music— and even when you don’t know how to say a word, sing with every ounce of breath you have.
These are Jessi’s rules of life. When Jessi was a little girl she could not talk, she spoke mostly in gutturals & gibberish, but when Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ came on the radio, she could sing every word and hit every note. She has never been ashamed to share her voice with the world, and what a beautiful voice it is. If you attend the same church with Jessi, I am sure you know who she is & not just because she walks up to every stranger and greets them with a big smile and hello like she’s known you for years. Jessi is undoubtedly the loudest voice during the worship service. I remember standing next to Jessi on Sunday mornings grinning ear to ear listening to Jessi sing, I remember the uncalled for stares from both kids and adults in the congregation begging me to elbow her, but I never did. I remember singing on the praise team looking out to the sleepy, bored, and mostly mute faces in the crowd looking for Jessi with her arms raised high singing with all the joy of the world and feeling like I had won the sibling lottery because my sister was the coolest person in the room. To be honest its actually really hard for me as an adult to go to church without Jessi…God gave her to me as an example of pure, authentic worship…and I find myself angry and frustrated that there aren’t more people like Jessi…including me. This Jessi lesson is the hardest for me share because it hits home for me the most right now.
I’m a singer, and I’m not singing…I haven’t been singing for almost 3 years now. I couldn’t tell you what caused me to stop, I couldn’t tell you why its so hard for me to talk about it, I just know that God gave me a voice to use and for whatever reason, I’m not using it. I feel ashamed and really I feel unworthy of singing. I continue to be asked to come back to church, and I am constantly invited to attend chorales and to participate in events where my voice may be heard, but I can’t go. Reading my Bible, and praying aren’t issues for me, I try to better myself every day in my walk with the Lord but I wake up every Sunday morning with the best of intentions and plenty of time to go to any church I want, but instead I pull out my Bible and I cry. I have been to church about 4 times in the last 3 months, and every time I become so uncomfortable in the worship service that I can’t even hum my favorite hymns. For those who don’t know me well, worship is/was truly my time with God…the one time where I feel completely connected and loved by my Savior. I understand that worship isn’t just music, I took the classes I know the terminology, but for me and God, we had this connection, and its not where it used to be…which bothers me to my core. I am sure its God’s way of teaching me or reaching me in a new way, blah blah blah, but it bothers me that something that has always been an intrinsic part of my relationship with God is now the very thing that’s pushing me away from Him… but then I think of Jessi—- she SINGS…she SINGS…she SINGS. So while I am trying to find my voice again, I look to this amazing young woman of God who continues to SING with every ounce of her being, and I am filled with hope that one day I will be able to sing again.
Along with Jessi’s beautiful voice is a deep passion for the performing arts. I have had the pleasure of seeing concerts, movies, and even Broadway musicals like The Lion King with my sister. Jessi is all chatter and excitement before any major music event, but once the show begins she will shush anyone who’s being too loud. Every now and then you will hear a big hearty laugh when something amuses her, but when it comes to her Broadway musicals— she means business. Jessi LOVES searching online for the latest shows coming to town, who the stars are (no matter if they are a no namer or new to the industry) she can quote movies, sing lyrics, and tell you who composed what on the soundtrack.
Jessi is tenacious about getting the movies, tickets or cds she wants and she will gladly tell you what is on her gift list, even if its YOUR birthday! Her favorite Broadway musical is The Phantom Of The Opera. If you’ve met Jessi and conversed with her for more than 5 minutes she has probably invited you to come see The Phantom Of The Opera for her birthday, for Christmas, for Abbi’s Birthday, for Mom’s birthday, and any other holiday she can get a present. Unfortunately, The Phantom Of The Opera has yet to come anywhere near our area…we have been checking for several years now. St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Little Rock…no sign of a show, but Jessi isn’t giving up. Her guest list has grown quite large and if the show ever does make it to the area, we will surely have to rent the whole theater just for Jessi and her guests, and that expense will be worth every penny.
You see, Jessi exudes joy and watching a musical with Jessi is a special treat because she has no qualms about being herself. She doesn’t have a pretentious bone in her body; she shares her joys, frustrations, laughter and tears with anyone who cares to listen. Her life is simple, her love is strong, and her heart is big enough for everyone.
For Jessi, life is a Broadway musical and everyone should enjoy the show.