Many, many moons ago, on a cold December day, George and Lela Graybill gave birth to their second daughter and named her Jessie.
Not Jessica, just Jessie after one of her great aunts. Instead of being called Jess, for short, my mom called me, JJ. As a young adult, my mom mailed me a small card with my name on it showing the meaning of my name with a scripture. The name, “Jessie” in Hebrew means wealthy.
I always liked my name. However, when you are younger you often lack the confidence it takes to carry your name. I grew up in an era where the popular TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard” had an Uncle Jessie. So, I would get teased that I had a guy’s name. Into my teen years, we had the number one hit, by Rick Springfield, “Jessie’s Girl,” making life more confusing by spelling Jessie the same way I do, but meaning it for a guy. Then, there was, of course, the infamous Jesse James just to solidify that fact, I did indeed share a man’s name.
As I approached adulthood and all its glorious responsibilities, I started to wonder when all this “wealthy” meaning of my name would kick in. If my name means wealthy, won’t I be wealthy?
As time does its thing, it marched on and I had four fabulous boys who I was blessed to home school as a stay-at-home mom. I had a marriage of nearly 20 years, with a peaceful, co-parenting divorce of 10 years now, living in a small, but a happy place in Hawaii. So, you would think I’m crazy to still, after such an amazing life so far, be wondering where the wealthy part comes into play.
Almost exactly a year ago as I write this, my precious mom passed away in her sleep while living with my sister. Our father passed away when we were in high school, leaving my mom to raise us alone. Preparing my mom’s funeral with my sister was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Hanging in my wardrobe is the small card with my name on it that my mom sent me years ago. I realized I will always be her JJ until I’m gone.
It took me nearly 48 years to finally understand my name. Recently, I woke at 2 a.m. with a terrible headache and had a hard time going back to sleep. Thankfully, the next day was a Saturday with no plans, I laid in bed for most of the day and put on some soothing music. As one of my favorite songs played, I relaxed my muscles as I listened to “A Thousand Years,” by Christina Perri. I love this song. As a single mom, I naturally like to think there’s a perfect match out there for me who has always loved me, even if being perfect means he’s a vampire. I’m okay with that. But, back here, in reality, I, in the very moment of hearing this song for probably 10,000 times, got it. I had my ah-ha moment.
Growing up, I didn’t realize how poor we were. We had a nice home and my mom always made sure my sister not only had our needs met, but that we always had the latest trendy clothing like fancy Trapper Keepers and pink Caboodles, all while watching MTV on cable. It wasn’t until I was a mom that I realized how much she sacrificed for us. My father was a 100 percent service-connected World War II veteran, and my mom was his caregiver with his many health issues and amputated leg. He was 25 years older than my mom. He was 49 when I was born.
When he passed away, there was no life insurance or inheritance. So, my stay-at-home mom was now forced to go to work to provide for my sister and me. She worked so hard for every penny, and there were months when it wasn’t enough. When God decided it was her time to go to heaven, she too had no life insurance. My sister and I had to fund the funeral. There was no inheritance.
My ah-ha moment, when time stood still, and I realize that this incredible song was not about the love of my life, but it was about the many loves of my life. I was waiting for wealth to come to me. I didn’t realize I was the wealth, me; Jessie.
Neither my mom nor dad could leave my sister and me any material wealth. Not even a car or a piece of land, but they did give us something priceless. Within me is literally, my DNA of all that my dad was and all that my mom was. Within each of them was all that their parents were. Within my grandparents were all that their parents were.
It goes on and on back to the beginning of our time. I feel like with each passing of my ancestors they have passed along their wisdom. The knowledge of a life well-lived. They have died, not in vain, but all waiting for me to be me, in this very moment. To live my life, gaining knowledge as I live out my simple, happy life.
Life cannot make us any promises, but life within us does hold the promise that love is always worth the fight.
I have been loved for a thousand years. Time has brought the heart of all my ancestors to me. All I needed to do was to just be brave. This song by Christina Perri, like all music, is the art of the living. The words to “A Thousand Years” will never be the same to me. These lyrics have stopped me in my tracks and turned my heart upward to the heavens.
Yes, the name, “Jessie” in Hebrew means, “wealthy” and it has nothing to do with what I have. I finally know what that means. I finally know exactly who I belong to and who I am.
I’m proud to be the daughter of George and Lela Graybill. I am Jessie.