Gone, but not lost

Jesse Petersen died yesterday, July 5th. He was a valued member of the WordPress community, but more importantly, he was a man who loved his family, was comforted by the faithfulness of his God, and who lived every day looking forward.

None of us know when it is our time to go. But Jesse knew his chances of making it to an old age were slim. He had cystic fibrosis — a devastating genetic disease that affects the lungs in a drastic way. There is no cure. However, research has enabled incredible improvements in therapy and treatments that have enabled CF patients today to live decades longer on average than they could just a generation ago.

Jesse understood the fragility of his own body, but he didn’t allow his lungs to limit his life. He was an entrepreneur to the end, working to provide for his family, which included two adopted children, with his wife, Kristin.

He was a passionate member of the WordPress community, and the Genesis community specifically. He taught WordPress, spoke at events, and consistently shared what he was learning. He never stopped learning. Jesse was a valued member of this Post Status community as well, for which I’m thankful.

Like many of you, I knew Jesse through this family that we call the WordPress community. With some prior knowledge of CF and the burdens it puts on its victims, I have always been so impressed by Jesse’s steadfastness and relentless desire to carry on.

Just a few days before his death, Jesse shared his thankfulness for the life he was able to live:

While waiting to go outside, a mom I’d seen pushing a small boy in a wheelchair with a surgical mask and oxygen on him came over to me.

“I just wanted to say how cool I think your double tank cart is. I’m going to call my supplier tomorrow to get one for our wheelchair.”

We started talking (most unlike me) and she said her son needed a heart and a double lung transplant… but they’ve been turned down everywhere, starting with the very forgiving Pittsburgh center.

“I’m so sorry.”

[nodded her head with a pained look] “We’re just making the most of our time now.”

My heart broke. I’ve already lived 7 of his lifetimes. I’ve played sports, graduated from college, stood on the equator, married my best friend, and have two healthy boys.

So kick me the next time I complain about my wait, OK?

Reflecting further on this encounter, Jesse challenged us: “Can you look over your life and say you’d be leaving those connected to you better off having known you? If not, start today.”

Be comforted, Jesse, because you have left us better off for having known you.

The WordPress community has generously given to help Jesse’s family pay for funeral expenses and support. I love this community.

You can learn more about CF from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In concert with clinics, hospitals, and research facilities around the world, CF patients are increasingly able to live longer and fuller lives, like Jesse.

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