I KNEW OF HER BEFORE I KNEW HER: JESSICA IMSE

Lisa Harris ~ December 12, 2018

In a quiet town off Interstate 94 between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, I became friends with a girl named Jessi Wachendorf. Some may have called us teenagers, but as a mother now, I know we were only kids. As I think back to those gravel roads and Catholic prayers, I am reminded that God had a plan from the very beginning. I would have never imagined 25 years later, that same girl would be the first to encourage me to share my poetry with the world. In 1989, we were merely freshman cheerleaders performing amateur stunts on a high school basketball court - innocent, full of life and full of dreams.

Despite distance and time, Jess and I managed to stay close over the many years. In 2014, I invited Jess to join me on THIS incredible journey - a journey that began with modeling in my soon-to-be published poetry book to sharing her story on the Unveiled Beauty women's empowerment platform. Again, who would have ever thought life would lead us here. Then again, I now know this path was intended for us all along. It has undoubtedly enriched our friendship in countless ways and has revealed to us the power of storytelling.

With snowy flurries, a sign of Elliot's presence, Jessica Imse gracefully took the Unveiled Beauty stage on Sunday, November 11, 2018 at the 2nd Annual Unveiled Beauty X Fashion Show. This video served as an introduction to Jessica and gave the audience a glimpse into our long-standing friendship.

That night, +200 people in the Twin Cities community had the honor of baring witness and supporting Jessica as she revealed her story and spoke about the heartbreaking loss of her baby boy, Elliot and how she has spent countless hours in a state of both grief and joy on her journey towards peace. Here at Fashion Meets Poetry, it is our promise and commitment to the women on our platform to never share the intimate details of their story  unless that is their intention. Today, I would like to share with you my thoughts of the evening and a little bit of what Jess had to say.

Looking at this picture, I can feel the intensity of the space. It reminds me of the quiet right before a storm when you know something powerful is about to happen. Jessica is standing in her divine beauty as her story begins to unfold. Her body language reveals her secrets and suggests that we might witness the internal struggle between her fears and the fierceness of her heart. In this fight, in this space, her heart wins and declares, "I am brave. I will be seen." More than anything, I see my dearest friend who knows she must lean into her inner strength to allow her vulnerability to take center stage. On November 11, 2018, she did just that. Jessica Imse removed the masks, peeled back the layers, and captivated a room full of people with her story. Standing before us, she unapologetically said, "This is me."

I wish everyone could have been there to witness the beauty of that moment and the richness of her story. Like I said before, Jessica's story is not mine to tell, but I will leave you with a few words she shared with us that night:

"If it is my dear friend Lisa’s intention to bring a community together to tell stories for their own healing as she has most masterfully done here tonight, then it is my intention to let you know how to hear those stories with grace. HEAL YOUR OWN HEART FIRST. I am giving you permission to go out there and throw your own sand around for any of the reasons that I have mentioned . . . I have learned that the most gracious thing you could do for yourself, is to learn how to sit with your own desire to throw sand into the wind. Give yourself the space to be imperfect, sad, tired, hurt, ornery, abandoned, or any other feeling that breaks your heart and spills your guts on the floor. Cry a million tears. Give yourself permission to sit with that pain."

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PERMISSION TO THROW SAND: 
LIVING WITH GRIEF

Grief is not a four-letter word, not literally or figuratively. Although, anyone trapped in its desolated walls, will tell you it is living H-E-L-L. Jessica knows... because her sweet Elliot is no longer here. Experiencing the heartbreaking loss of her baby boy and raising her three beautiful children, Jessica has spent countless hours in a state of both grief and joy. While the world expected her to grieve in the moment, smile and move on, Jessica realized feeling the pain and anger was the best thing she could do for her own happiness. How can being sad lead to our happiness? Repressing our emotions is dangerous and sitting with grief is actually the ONLY way we can become one with our souls and find peace. In this moving talk, Jessica will share her emotional journey of loss and love and remind us that it is certainly ok to occasionally throw sand. At times it is even necessary.

Jessica embraces the richness of life’s journey. For Jess, most days are filled with the adventures of mothering four children and working alongside her husband, as co-owner of General Property Solutions, a building contracting business. With two bachelor’s degrees in business and English from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s certificate in teaching, Jess worked as a high school English teacher at a magnet art school before devoting herself to motherhood. With faith and hope, Jessica continues to persevere after losing her son. Today, Jessica believes that giving lightness to our dark sides is when darkness losses control over who we are and who we are to become.

 

Video courtesy of The Producers, Kirstie House & Ellie Dress
Photos courtesy of Andrew Schroyer and Amy Jeanchaiyaphum

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