Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Never Ever Give Up is the inspiring true story of Jessie Rees, a young lady who bravely battled inoperable brain cancer, and chose to spend her remaining 10 months on earth not feeling sorry for herself, but boldly reaching out to help others. Lovingly written by her father, Erik Rees, along with Jenna Glatzer, the book is both biography and manifesto. I read the entire thing on a flight from Phoenix to Seattle, and while it was perfectly timed (I was literally reading the final pages as we descended), if I hadn't yet finished I'm pretty sure I would have parked myself in a chair in the terminal to continue reading. It was that good.
Desperately wanting to bring some light and love to the kids who were hospital bound, Jessie and her family began making what she called "Joy Jars": big jars filled with toys, games, and other fun for those with long hospital stays. Much of the book focused on how this effort grew (and grew quickly!) since Jessie first became ill.
You would think that a book about an 11 year old with terminal cancer would be profoundly sad, and it was, to be sure. But the take-away was not sadness at all. It was hope. Inspiration. Encouragement. This was the story of a child whose first thought after receiving a cancer diagnosis was "How we can help the other sick kids?" This was the story of a family who supported her in her efforts to bring joy to others, and a family who has continued her mission in her honor even after she left her earthly life.
Beautiful girl. Beautiful family. Beautiful book.
You can read more about Jessie and her Joy Jars at the Jessie Rees Foundation website, originally called Never Ever Give Up, or NEGU (pronounced NEE-GOO, according to Jessie. :)) You can also follow along on Facebook.
My life is touched just having read about Jessie Rees.