I owe more than I could ever fully explain to Jessica.
About a week before the shooting, I had sent Jessica a quick email, asking her to give me some advice on how to get involved in writing about hockey. I wasn't new to watching the sport, but I had never done any sports writing in my life, and I wanted some advice from another female who was where I wanted to be.
I wasn't expecting to hear back from her, considering I was just some random hockey fan, from a rival team even. But relatively quickly I received an email back from her expressing how flattered she was that I would ask her for advice.
She gave me a few general pieces of advice, and asked me to email her when I wrote my first article so she could read it. I never got the chance to do that.
That was the only personal contact I had with Jessica. But that simple act of helping someone, regardless of who they are, really touched me. When I found out she was one of the people killed, I was not only stunned, but devastated as well.
In just a simple email and exchange of information, I had formed a bond with her. There aren't very many female hockey journalists, and I truly felt like I had "met" a kindred spirit.
But this isn't about her death. It's about so much more than that.
Shortly after her death, I had a bracelet made up as my own personal tribute to Jessica. In her blog, she had written a piece about a very close call she had with another shooting in Toronto about a month before her death.
She wrote "Every second of every day is a gift. I know I truly understand how blessed I am for every second I am given". I had this saying engraved on a silver cuff that I wear almost every day.
After looking at that bracelet for months, I decided that I couldn't afford to wait for the things I wanted to fall into my lap. I started writing about the Houston Aeros thanks to the lockout, and shortly after that was approached by Bryan to write for Hockey Wilderness.
I got an opportunity and ran with it, and never looked back. Between funding my own trips to Houston (and other areas of Texas) to cover the Aeros, spending hours writing stories and watching games on feeds that were so bad you couldn't make out player numbers, trying to type out articles at all hours of the night, having a non-existent social life (including never seeing my family) and dealing with some fellow fans who can barely form coherent thoughts, it has almost never been easy. But it has always been worth it.
I've always wished that there was some way I could thank Jessica for inspiring me to go after my dreams. To fight for them when things were tough (which they often are) and never regret a moment of life.
It's become clear to me that the best way to honor her memory is to do just that. There are never guarantees in life, but living a life that doesn't include regretting the things you have done, or regretting the things you haven't done is the only way to really LIVE.
So with that, I challenge each and every one of you to pick something, ANYTHING, that you have been too scared to try. You know what's coming next. Live the Nike slogan. Just do it. You won't regret it.
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