1: Jesse in the Sky

1: Jesse in the Sky

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

Jesse in the Sky

When love is lost, do not bow your head in sadness; instead keep your head up high and gaze into heaven for that is where your broken heart has been sent to heal.

~Author Unknown

Since the day my six-year-old son Jesse was killed, I’ve prayed a million prayers. I’ve prayed that there is a heaven and that Jesse is there playing with his favorite rubber ducks. I’ve prayed that his brother, J.T., and I would survive our broken hearts and smile again. And I’ve prayed, over and over, that the world become a less violent, more loving place.

Jesse was murdered on December 14, 2012, when a young man shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and opened fire—killing six adults and twenty children, Jesse included.

My little boy was a hero in his final moments. When the gunman’s rifle jammed for a few seconds as he stood in the first grade classroom, my sweet Jesse yelled to his classmates hiding in the bathroom across the room: “Run! Run now!”

His last words saved their lives, but he couldn’t save his own. The young man with the rifle was blocking Jesse’s escape path and a moment later, he shot my boy in the head as my son faced him.

Jesse’s act of bravery doesn’t surprise me a bit.

Every night in his bubble bath, he would surround himself with superhero ducks and his collection of toy soldiers — “my army men,” he’d call them—lining them up along the porcelain tub’s edge. On Saturday afternoons, he’d go “on patrol” at our farm. First, he’d get in uniform: his green army helmet and camouflage-patterned snow boots. Then, he’d stick his water pistol in his waistband and go stand guard by our front gate, pacing back and forth, ready to squirt harmful intruders who dared approach.

He wanted to keep us safe and happy. That’s the part of Jesse that called out to his classmates to run, and it’s the part that answered my prayer one day when I was on my knees in grief.

Some people say we can receive “signs” from our loved ones who are on the “Other Side” after they’ve passed—and I believe it.

Since Jesse’s been gone, J.T. and I and the rest of the family have been comforted by dozens of little “signs” from him—flickering lights when we call out his name or notes we’ve found in Jesse’s handwriting when we’re desperate to hear his voice. Some may think these signs are coincidental, but we feel they are much more than that. To us, it’s Jesse saying hello and letting us know he’s watching over us. They are little, intimate moments that we recognize—we don’t need big billboards in the sky to let us know he’s there.

But one day, that’s exactly what we got.

About two weeks after the shooting, J.T. and I had to get away. The grief in our town was so all-consuming that we were drowning in it. We boarded a flight to Orlando in hopes that a few days in the warmth would help us begin the healing process, if that was even possible.

On the flight south, we had more signs from Jesse. When I tried to listen to different genres in the in-flight music selection, the songs kept skipping to a favorite of Jesse’s — and then, one for his mama who was a teen in the Eighties—Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.” I sat back in my seat with a big smile, ecstatic to hear from my boy and, as always, hungry for more signs that showed he was with me.

Arriving at the Orlando airport, I checked my iPhone. I’d sent a text hours earlier to a psychic I’d recently met, detailing the signs I’d been getting from Jesse and asking for her input.

Her response devastated me: Maybe Jesse is lingering here and not moving onward because he wants to make sure you and J.T. are okay. Spirits do that sometimes.

I didn’t want J.T. to see my distress, so I told him, “Wait for me at the car rental, I’ll be right back.” I raced to the ladies room, locked myself in a stall, and burst into the most gut-wrenching tears I’d cried so far—and that’s saying a lot. I was horrified that I’d lost my boy, and in such a tragic way. Now was I keeping his spirit from moving onward due to my own selfishness? Was Jesse hanging around in some kind of limbo just to give his mother the signs I had come to depend on?

I cried even harder at this possibility, and I knew what I had to do. Jesse had been unselfish and brave in his final moments, and I had to be that now, too.

“Jesse, you’ve been so precious,” I said aloud, “to send us such sweet messages to comfort us and let us know you’re okay. But you have to listen to your mama now. We are going to be okay —J.T. and I. You can go to Jesus now, do you hear me, sweet boy? Go to Jesus, we will be okay. Always know how much I love you.”

I dried my tears and returned to J.T., giving him a big hug.

“Everything’s going to be all right now,” I told him, and we hopped into the rental car and sped off down the highway. We’d only been driving for a few minutes when I saw it.

High up against the open blue sky, a small plane was soaring across. It had just spelled out something in smoke:

JESSE & JESUS. TOGETHER FOREVER.

Except the “J” in “Jesse” was backwards — the same way Jesse used to write his name.

Was I imagining this? I looked over at J.T. and saw him looking up. Did he see it, too?

“Mom, look!” J.T. yelled, excited. “Jesse’s with Jesus!”

We pulled over to the side of the road and sat in awe and silence, staring at the sky. Then J.T. quickly took some photos of the message as it began to dissipate.

We were stunned. What a miraculous affirmation, I thought. I had no doubt that Jesse heard my tearful plea in the bathroom stall, and was telling his mama not to worry, that he was fine and indeed, in the arms of Jesus.

Jesse! Thank you, thank you, thank you! And thank you, Jesus . . . please take good care of my sweet boy!

I had no idea who the skywriting pilot was and I never attempted to find out. To me, it would be no less of a miracle if I solved that mystery. Only a handful of people knew where we were flying that day, and our departure time had changed three times due to bad weather, so how could anyone have timed a skywriting message to appear at the exact moment we were driving down the highway?

Nearly two years after we got our message in the sky, a friend read an article in the Miami Herald about two Christian pilots in Florida who started a “sky ministry” and used their bright-yellow crop duster, dubbed “Holy Smoke,” to write inspirational messages to people at 10,000 feet. On a clear day, you could see their Jesus writings from thirty-five miles away.

“God is the one strategically putting those messages there,” one of the pilots was quoted as saying, “we’re nothing more than the pen. These are God’s love letters to his children.”

I have yet to call and confirm if the Holy Smoke pilots were the ones who wrote my Jesse message, but I will someday.

Until then, I consider whoever was up in the Orlando sky that day a messenger from heaven and Jesse. He was God’s helper, answering my prayer when I needed it the most.

~Scarlett Lewis with Natasha Stoynoff

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