This self-photo was taken at Indiana University in 2012, at the base of the oak tree where my parents met in 1970. I spread some of my mom’s ashes there that day.
Hi, I’m Jessica McKimmie.
I grew up just north of Seattle, Washington with two loving hippie-ish parents, a protective yet introverted older sister, and our pets Moki (yellow lab) and Oly (yellow tabby). Our house was filled with the smells of my dad’s homemade chili and other midwest cooking with the occasional chinese take-out, the music of Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Dar Williams, Bob Dylan, and the entertainment of The Simpsons, Saved by the Bell, Fresh Prince, and as with any good Hoosiers, a Bobby Knight altar. Since I was young, I’ve always loved exploring and making people laugh, and I hear I was pretty good at pushing boundaries (my mom called me her “one-more-time” girl.) I consider myself an optimist whose true nature is to be trusting, carefree, and fun. I have a knack for creative problem solving, but can easily get stuck on the mundane or overwhelmed with minutia. I have a habit of creating more work for myself and being unreasonably hard on myself. I’ve had several heart-breaks but regret none of them. I love connecting with people. I want to make the world a better place, and imagine I’ll never stop working toward that goal.
In elementary school you could find little Jess on the fields playing soccer, football, or a game called Cold Tomato that my classmates and I made up. My entrepreneurial spirit came alive early when asked to fundraise for team jerseys. My favorite subject was social studies and I loved learning about different cultures. At Shorecrest high school (go Scots!) I kept up my interest in sports and tooted the contra bass clarinet in band. My business and leadership acumen continued through DECA and ASB.
I went on to play college basketball at San Francisco State University and majored in Business Management. My sophomore year of college, I got a phone call that changed my life. It was my mom. She called to tell me my father had been diagnosed with cancer. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) to be exact. All I heard was CANCER and all I thought about was him DYING. With the urging of my best friend, I went home the next day and I was relieved to see my same old dad cracking jokes and smiling at me. I felt better, but knew we were in for a roller-coaster. That day marked the point in my life where death was no longer some distance concept. It forever became a part of my daily consciousness.
In the weeks before my father passed, I refunded my August 18th ticket to the Netherlands for a once-dreamed-about-study-abroad program. A dear friend flew up and made hospital visits with me as things grew bleak. On August 12, 2002, after three years, a stem-cell-transplant leading to remission and later a relapse, I said goodbye to one of my favorite people in the world. I talked openly about his illness and his death with my friends, even normalized it to a certain extent. On some spiritual level, I understood his death and still felt connected to him. I dealt with his passing as best I could. After taking a semester off and living with my mom through our first round of holidays without him, I returned to school to finish my degree. I indulged in a semester full of partying to keep my pain from bubbling too close to the surface.
After graduation I set off for the Big Apple, a place I had always wanted to live – I credit my mother singing me to sleep as a child to the tune of “Lullabye of Broadway”. New York was amazing, but it also spun me around and spit me out. I jump-started my career in marketing and sales and felt my dad with me every time I looked at the beautiful architecture or went for a run – he worked in construction and was a marathoner.
After three years of New York living, I made my way back to the west coast, this time landing in San Diego. I started my own marketing business in 2005 which I poured myself into. In 2010, after a breakup, I had a huge relapse in dealing with the loss of my father – they say that losses bring up losses. It was true for me. I soon became an avid cyclist to help me deal with the revived grief and to break away from the business that was nearly suffocating me. I started making changes to have more balance and quality of life – things were starting to look up and finally make sense.
Then, on February 21, 2012, I got another phone call that changed my life, again. This time it was my pregnant sister calling. When I heard her tone, I thought it was the baby. When she said “Mom is gone,” I screamed louder than I have ever screamed before. Viscerally, uncontrollably. Our mom had gone to Hawaii for a work trip and we had each talked to her within the week. She wasn’t ill. It was sudden and unforeseen. I was literally inconsolable. Soon after I was driven to sit in deep meditation as my only way to feel connected, to make any sense of things. I battled depression. My life turned upside down. I closed my business. On the 1-year anniversary of her death, I moved home, to the house where I was raised.
A year and a half after her death, I began this blog through journal entries, lessons and revelations. My sister and I sold our childhood home and I re-entered the workforce, so my blog took a backseat for a few years. But the calling to explore the meaning and pains of death and dying stayed close to my heart. In December of 2016, I applied to Upaya Zen Center’s Chaplaincy Training program and was accepted. And so begins my next chapter.
My goal of this website remains: to hold a space for those who have faced, or are facing, loss and grief.
May we journey together and let our grief transform our hearts toward peace, compassion and understanding, so that we may continue to support ourselves and others we meet on our path.
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