Saying Bye to Jess

It’s 5:42 am and I’ve already been awake for three hours trying to keep a lid on the welling sadness billowing about my heart and memories. In a couple of days Nance and I are driving our son Jesse to Victoria. Both he and his girlfriend, Lauren, are going to the U of Vic  this fall – Jesse in music and computers, and Lauren is going into  Law (good call Jess!)

Jesse and Lauren at Winnipeg Folk Festival
Jesse and Lauren at Winnipeg Folk Festival

Somehow I know these kids won’t be back. Their vocations will likely take them to other places. And so this season, like so many other blessed seasons, is over. And, oh my, we will miss them both. Jess hasn’t lived at home for over a year but he still pokes around, keeping our aging souls supple with new music, humour and kooky cultural info. Lauren is light-filled, fun loving and thoughtful. They’ve been together since grade 9 and it’s hard now to think of the one without the other.

Our children are like balloons placed in our souls that over the years get blown up to create sacred space. When they leave, the spaces don’t simply close up again, they remain cavernously open and empty but for the lonely trinkets left behind.  Hyperbole? I don’t think so. Do you remember Jesse the three year old who sang Beatles songs at the top of his lungs? I do. And I’ll never see that kid again.  Or the eight year old who climbed the huge oak in our yard and sat

Jesse teaching his nephew Luca to rock.
Jesse teaching his nephew Luca to rock.

quietly for hours whittling a cross which he gave to me upon descent? What about Jesse the 12 year old fearlessly joining his dear ‘ol Dad on stage to play guitar in front of a thousand folks?  I asked him afterward, “Weren’t you afraid?”   He replied, “I’m only a kid, what do they expect?”  I miss that kid too.    Then there’s the young teenager shyly bringing home girlfriends; who drove us crazy practicing drums for hours… well, years in the basement. I miss the Jesse who became an accomplished volleyball player taking us to national competitions where he kept pace with some of the best players in the country.

As of late Jesse has become a gifted recording engineer.  You might know his work. He engineered much of my “Dinner with Bruce” album, as well as significant contributions to  Symphony Sessions and Solace. He also worked extensively on Diana Pop’s album and almost single-handedly on Rei Hotoda’s 2008 release Apparitions.  And you may have heard Jess sing the lead vocal on 59th Street Bridge Song off my Sons and Daughters album.

This summer, Jess took a job working with a house painting company to make some quick bucks for school. It’s rained all summer so he didn’t make much.  I used to paint for a living when I was his age. So I thought it was kind of cool he was doing this as well. Yesterday he stopped by Judy Ford’s house where I’ve been helping her paint her house. Jess took a quick look at my tools and techniques and quickly advised me of a few innovations since “back in the day.” His advice will save me many hours of work. So now my son is teaching me.  As it should be.

Here’s the question. What do I give him to take into his life? I really don’t have much. I’ve never made a lot of money. Most of the assets I’ve built  up (eg: songs) are not transferable.  I’m not sure what advice I can give that makes sense in a world now changing at breakneck speed.

But since the wee hour of this morning, an old song has been rolling around in my head. I had almost forgotten about it.  I wrote and sang it to Nanci about our kids when our family was very young. In it I wrote, “…and as I ponder what we’ll pass along.  The only family fortune is our God.”

And that’s all I’ve got Jess. It doesn’t seem like much, I suppose, but it’s everything really:

May the God who has gone with me, go with you.

Remember to call your Mama, eat your vegetables, and thanks for the big hole you’ve left behind. I actually mean that. Thank you son.

click song title  below to LISTEN


Many times a day I think of you
And how our family’s grown in just these last few years
What a feeling
And I marvel looking at you
You’re a mama
I’m a papa

And as I ponder what we’ll pass along
The only family fortune is our God
What a longing
To see our children behold Him
Like their mama
Like their papa

For some reason now I’m caused to think of Him
Jesus weeping for Jerusalem
What a longing
To gather under His wings
Like a mama
Like a papa


Song: What a Longing | Album: Deep Calls to Deep 1993 |

To View, listen to tracks or purchase, click HERE