Jesse is in his late 50s. I sat across from him in his trailer, next to him on the couch, listening carefully as he told me the stories of his life, or at least the stories he wanted to tell this earnest young thing who told him she was the chaplain from Hospice. When I walked in he said, "Now, how old are you?" When I told him I was 33 he seemed relieved. Perhaps he didn't want the care of his spirit left in the hands of a youngster. My ineptitude can be hidden with age, perhaps.
Madeline L'Engle has written that the great thing about getting older is that one never loses all the other ages they have been. Jesse's eyes reflected the gentle spirit of a young boy growing up on a small farm north of Fort Wayne. The deep crag between his eyes told me stories about how it felt to return from a war in Vietnam when you feel as if you're country abandoned you, or how it feels to recognize that your world has become small, because you have to live in your trailer, tethered to your oxygen tank, a literal life-line. Jesse is quick to try to hide these realities though, he is quick to smile, and it is only when you lean closer, close enough to smell his aftershave, that you see to the core.
"What gives you hope now, Jesse?" I asked. "Hospice," he said, "you won't leave me."
No, we won't. And we're not the only one.