Jessica Marie Green was the most important person in my life. She was my best friend, my partner, my companion, and my wife. I think about her every day and I miss her terribly. Below I will try to explain just how indispensable Jessica was to me.
Jessica Marie Cole was born on September 4, 1977 in Saginaw, MI to Douglass Lyal and Diane Marie (Dreffs) Cole. Jessica was the second of two children for the couple, and Jessica grew up with an older sister named Kathleen Mae. The two Cole daughters spent their early years living across Michigan including both Saginaw and Bridgeport. Jessica attended Schlukebier Elementary School, Kauffman Elementary School, Bridgeport Middle School, and Heritage High School. Long before she graduated from Heritage in 1995, Jessica had plans to attend college out west in Arizona.
It wasn’t until Jessica moved across the country to attend Arizona State University that she came into my life. During the start of the Spring 1997 semester, I met Jessica outside one of our sophomore level computer programming classes that covered C and COBOL. We were both attempting to get into the fairly limited Computer Information Systems program within the ASU Business College, and this particular course was one of the key classes.
Before the start of that semester, I had told myself to be more talkative and to try and keep eye contact while I spoke. It just so happened that the first person I attempted to talk to in this manner was Jessica. On January 27, 1997, while waiting for class to start in the hallway, I made some little quip towards Jessica in order to get a conversation started. Apparently that worked quite well and when we moved into the classroom, Jessica decided to sit beside me.
During and after class we continued to talk. We talked about what was being covered and if we should help each other with homework. We exchanged base information like our phone numbers and our new fangled college-assigned email addresses. I said goodbye and said I’d see her later.
After the next class, we continued to talk and I decided to walk with her back to her dorm (The Towers at ASU). I noted to her that I was not very social and fairly shy. I believe that had been pretty obvious to her from the get-go.
The next day I received a phone call from Jessica. She asked me to join her at a local pool hall near campus (Kolby’s). It took some convincing to drag me away from my home, but I did end up agreeing to meet her there. As you can tell if you didn’t already know, Jessica was the one in our relationship who wore the pants, even from the very start.
We spent the next few weeks dating and hanging out. She struggled a bit with the COBOL homework, and I often just did it for her per her request. Jessica was even instrumental in me creating my first website, as well as helping with her own. It didn’t take much longer after that for the relationship to get a bit more serious, and for my parents to wonder why I was spending so much time with her.
Jessica, even back then, exposed me to so many things outside my safe little comfort zone. But as she did, I experienced new things and became more confident in being an adult. We did a lot of fun and silly stuff during this time. Honestly they were nothing that crazy, but they were still experiences that I still treasure today.
We did separate a few times over the course of our college careers, but we kept coming back together. I think she was scared a bit because I was kind of the “normal” guy, the kind you have long-term relationships with and marry. I wasn’t the “fun” college guy that you are supposed to experience at a university. I was a bit more stable than others. Regardless, we kept being drawn back to each other time and again.
Jessica and I both graduated from ASU in May 1999. I was able to get my BS in CIS, but she had struggled to get into the program. There were several roadblocks that she attempted to overcome, but even with her persistence, she was still relegated into receiving a BS in Management instead. However, not being able to get the degree she wanted was not going to stop her from getting a job in technology one way or another.
She had already gotten ahead of the game before graduation, and Jessica worked several different internships and positions that got her foot in the door. She had already worked two separate summer internships at Hewlett Packard, and even dragged me along one summer to San Jose as well. By the time she had gotten her management degree, she already had offers to work as a technologist in Boston, MA. Silly enough, I decided not to follow her there mostly due to my own fears.
However, after about a year or so I did make the trek to Boston to join her. Joining back together strengthened our bond and after that we were essentially inseparable. We decided to get married a few months later and also chose to move back to Arizona. It wouldn’t be a surprise to mention that Jessica had picked out her ring, bought her dress, planned most of the wedding, and set up other arrangements all long before I had formally proposed.
We moved back to AZ in 2001, and began to build a brand new home in the dusty farmlands of Gilbert, AZ. On February 2, 2002, we had our intimate destination wedding among family at Walt Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge in Orlando, FL. And yes, we did have the opportunity to take photos in front of Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom before the park opened. It was definitely surreal being driven down an empty Main Street at 3 am. It was an amazing experience to finally marry my princess.
Day-by-day Jessica kept leading the way, helping me to grow into a better person. Her guidance and love were absolutely crucial to who I would become.
Jessica and I did attempt to have a child around this time, but multiple health issues unfortunately did not lend us to being parents, even with the help of fertility treatments. We explored other options, but none really suited us. Our little family ended up being just the two of us and our cats.
Throughout the early parts of our marriage, Jessica continued to climb the corporate ladder. Each job was bigger than the last. Each new role challenged her. But Jessica was more than up to the task, learning whatever skills and technologies were necessary. She was good at what she did and she was rewarded. Even without a CIS degree, nothing was going to stop her.
She did eventually get her technology degree. In 2008, Jessica received her Master of Science in Information Management from ASU. I was tremendously proud of her. She had worked her butt off to get here, and now she had finally gotten the technology degree she had long sought.
Jessica always had a love of genealogy, music, technology, photography, and travel. She was an active genealogist who connected multiple families, plotted family trees, and scoured records at the behest of others. She always wanted to experience new sights and sounds: listening to boisterous music, exploring the latest tech, and visiting far off places. She attended hundreds of concerts, learned multiple computer languages, took thousands of photos, and traveled all over the US and Europe. Jessica was always looking to improve herself by learning new hobbies and skills. She must have tried a plethora of different hobbies over the years, diving deep into each whenever she could. Very few things scared her and Jessica was always looking to try something new, even if I wasn’t necessarily willing to tag along. Her appetite for experiences was insatiable.
We did visit a multitude of places over the years: every corner of Arizona, multiple trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, regular pilgrimages to Las Vegas, an escorted tour of the United Kingdom, an Alaskan cruise with the Schaars, and visits to practically every state in the union. Notable US trips included Hawaii, Seattle, Memphis, Graceland, and the Mall of America among many others. Jessica also traveled quite a bit on her own, including a solo trip to Poland in 2017 with some first class travel.
As the years went on, she continued to tutor and support me in infinite ways. I could always count on her hand being there to lead me on, or her shoulder there for me to lean on. To say I am a completely different person because of her presence is an understatement. More than half of who I am today is easily due to Jessica’s love. I had just hoped that I was reciprocating as best as I could to make it up to her.
Sadly, in the back of both of our heads we always somewhat assumed that Jessica would be taken from us via some form of cancer. There was always a nagging sensation that the dreaded disease might rear its ugly head. Even as far back at 2000, there was a cervical cancer scare that pretty much remained in the background for our entire relationship. Other more recent health concerns included a possible brain tumor that cancelled a European vacation, a threat of breast cancer that ended up being nothing, and then the mystery illnesses that preceded her MDS diagnosis.
I don’t want to belabor it, but when we finally found out that she had myelodysplastic syndrome (preleukemia) in November 2017, it gave us some answers as to why she had not been feeling well for so long. She had been tired for years (~6 years by her estimation), and we now had an answer. With this diagnosis we also had a possible cure via a stem cell transplant that could repair her bone marrow, and Jessica moved forward with treatments.
Unfortunately, the leukemia beat us to it just before both of her scheduled stem cell transplants. Jessica, the doctors, and the chemotherapy all tried to get her past her disease. Regrettably the leukemia was too aggressive for her and the treatments just weren’t enough. Not counting the numerous outpatient visits and the regular transfusions of blood and platelets, Jessica had spent 41 days at the Mayo Clinic during her first stay, 33 days during the second, and then 4 days in hospice. It was a very long and arduous 7 months for her and I. Her acute myeloid leukemia was just too strong to overcome.
I had to say my final goodbye to Jessica on June 12, 2018 in the early morning. My mother and I had stayed by her side that entire night. She had finally been able to sleep peacefully since the previous afternoon; after finally receiving a significant dose of pain medication. She was getting much needed rest and pain relief. However without new transfusions to fuel her, and with the disease progressing very quickly, Jessica unfortunately ran out of energy that morning. Her breathing began to slow and she gently passed away in her sleep. She was not in pain, nor did she looked stressed. Jessica appeared to be done with her illness and ready to get some long deserved rest.
To say I am devastated is an understatement. While Jessica had been sick for a long time, it is an entirely different matter to not have her available in any capacity. The love of my life is gone. My partner is no longer by my side. She is no longer there for me to talk to. She is no longer able to share experiences with me. I can no longer care for her like I once did.
It has been a little over a week from when she passed, and yet it feels like it has been multiple weeks or months. Each night I dream that I am at the hospital alongside her, still able to talk with her and able to attend to her. There is a tremendous void in my life now, and no matter how much I try to ignore it and move on, it still tears at me whenever my mind gets a chance to wander.
Jessica’s wishes were to be cremated and then have her ashes spread in the ocean at a later date. She did not want a formal or expensive funeral; she instead wanted a celebration or party. She didn’t want people to necessarily mourn. She wanted friends and family to commemorate who she was and to share good memories that people had of her. As such, in the next few weeks I will be holding a celebration of Jessica’s life at our house. I will be contacting people with detailed information over the next few days.
I will always love Jessica. I thank those that helped to teach her and guide her into becoming the wonderful woman that she was: her family, her teachers, her friends, and her coworkers. It was thanks to their help that I was able to spend an amazing 21 years alongside her. More so, I am also grateful that I was able have her as my beloved wife for 16 of those years.
I would not be the person I am today if Jessica had not been part of my life. She will forever be a part of me, and she was a primary reason as to who I am today. Jessica will forever be in my heart.