My friend Jesse Brown passed away peacefully on Monday after a long sickness. He and his wife Iras moved to New Mexico a few years ago. We haven’t seen each other much since then. But I’d assumed we’d see each other again this winter sometime, like the past few years, when he and Iras would come to Amarillo to see family. We’d meet for coffee and catch up on things. That can’t happen now, and it makes me so sad.
Jesse overcame more in life than anyone I’ve ever met. He grew up in the Jim Crow south. He lost a leg to cancer as a teenager. He over came that and became a registered nurse, which he was extremely proud of. He battled mental illness for much of his life. He lost a spouse. He spent time homeless. He fought and won a second bout with cancer. He suffered from chronic back pain. But he never lost faith through all of that. Times were hard on him for most of his life, yet he fought and clawed and scraped his way back each time. He married he true love, Iras five years ago. I performed their wedding, and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve had the privilege to be a part of.
We met 9 or 10 years ago when Jesse lived in the Rose Plaza Apartments. We met weekly for lunch, where we prayed together, studied the Bible, and argued about politics and the Dallas Cowboys. How a 60-something, several-times-married, formerly homeless, liberal ,Tony Romo-hating ,African-American man and a 30-something once-married, middle-class, libertarian, Tony Romo-defending white man could become great such great pals, I’ll never know. But I do know this – I’m thankful for Jesse. I’m thankful for the years I got to spend with him. Getting to know him was one of the highlights of the last 10 years of my life. He was something special. Nobody loved music like Jesse. He knew the words to what seemed like any and every rock song ever recorded. He loved coffee and cigarettes and laughter. He loved his wife. He loved his kids. And he loved Jesus.
That’s what I hold on to. Jesse really loved Jesus. And because of that faith, I know that today Jesse no longer hurts. At long last, his body and mind are whole. One day, we’ll get to see each other again and share a meal and argue about whatever we can think. But until then, I’m really gonna miss him.