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Jessica Anne Lincoln Smith

jessica lincoln smith Jess was the most complex person I have ever known.

She had a multitude of issues.

She had kidney problems and unstable blood chemistry.

She suffered from debilitating Insomnia, from Anxiety Attacks, from Depression and from unstoppable voices in her head full of hate.

She had terrible difficulty with trust.

She had a desperate need to feel in control of her life.

Yet through all this, and through all the problems these issues created for her and for those who loved her, something shone through.

...   Her beautiful soul.

She was a most remarkable human being.

Something shone in Jessica, shone brightly

jessica lincoln smith In person Jessica was an absolute delight.

When we got together it didn't matter what we were doing, we could be fixing a vacuum cleaner, walking by the harbour, watching DVDs, taking a ride on the Manly ferry, dining at a hatted restaurant, striding along a bushwalk, catching a movie, eating gelato on the pier or unblocking a drain.

It just didn't matter.

Whatever it was we were getting up to, a whole day could pass in what seemed like minutes.

Jess was smart, she was observant, she was witty, she had a wonderfully wicked sense of humour. We would find ourselves laughing at the oddest things.

Jess could talk a brick into trying the tango.

She could make the silliest ideas seem perfectly reasonable.

I always told her she would be fabulous at selling expensive cars to old blokes for huge commissions.

Her smile could light up a room.

People looked at her where ever we went.

You could loose yourself in her wonderful pale green eyes.

Jess was a fashionista.

She had an intense love affair with beautiful shoes.

Jess was elegant; she had a true sense of style; she had impeccable taste and a real flair for decoration. What ever she wore; worked.

jessica lincoln smith jessica lincoln smith jessica lincoln smith jessica lincoln smith jessica lincoln smith

She would have made a terrific fashion buyer, fashion writer or interior decorator.

Jess was a great conversationalist, well travelled and well read.

Her face lit with joy was a sight to behold.

She had both beauty and brains. She could have succeeded at so many things.

In all the times we went out during the 6 years I knew her, none were bad and the great majority were simply brilliant.

Sometimes there were heavy conversations as we talked about difficult things, sometimes Jess would start out flat and take time to relax and unwind, but they were joyful days.

They were an escape for Jess, an opportunity to be free for a time.

But darkness lived in her too

Jessica Lincoln Smith Jessica struggled when apart.

Her terrible insomnia would knock her flat for days at a time.

Her recurrent depression sucked the energy from her, making it hard to do even simple things or stick to any sort of plan.

Her anxiety pounded on her, leaving her exhausted and confused.

The voices in her head told her she was unloved and unlovable; that she should kill herself; that we would all be better off if she were dead.

In response she did whatever she thought she needed to do to survive.

She disappeared a lot, sometimes just for the day, sometimes for months at a time.

She was seriously ill and knew it, but she did not trust anyone to help her, particularly doctors.

I will never know with certainty why, but she would always talk about her early experiences in hospitals, of being "committed", of being imprisoned for being sick.

She was terrified of it happening again, terrified of trusting people, terrified of that trust being betrayed.

She was absolutely determined she would be the one who decided what was done to her, that she would not surrender control.

She just “knew” that if she told a doctor about the voices then they would lock her up - so she could not tell them what was going on.

Everyone who cared about her wanted to help. Her father, her mother and her sisters, Emma and Holly, they all rose at her funeral and spoke of how each of them wanted to help, but could not do it for her.

Jessica had to do it for herself, in a way that worked for her.

Escaping the Darkness

jessica lincoln smith Soon after Jess got out of Intensive Care in Jan 2008 we were driving down Condamine Steet in Manly Vale on our way to dinner in the city.

Out of the blue she asked me what I though would happen to her. Taken by surprise I blurted out what I really thought, that she would die is she did not change.

It was a pretty quiet dinner. She ran away again soon after, for months and months this time, and I found out later she did some dreadful things to herself and her loved ones. Yet when Jess finally did come back it was different, she started to talk about how she wanted to live.

Change scared her, there was a certain comfort in the familiar, even the horrible familiar, but Jess did not want to die.

Jess talked to me about her struggle, talked to me how much she wanted to live, talked to me about how she would not have made it to 18 if she did not have this will to live, this will to fight against the voices in her head.

She wanted a way through. She wanted to be better.

It was just so hard and so frustrating. It was hard and frustrating for the people who loved her, but it was worse for Jessica herself. It was worse for her as she had to live with it inside her head, live with the things that made it so difficult to succeed, live with the uncertainty of what would happen to her, live with the fact that no-one - not even the doctors - seeming to know what to do.

She did her best.

We did our best.

And, step by step, Jessica was finding a way that worked for her.

She was finding that while she had to do it her way, she did not have to do it alone.

She was finding that sometimes when your down, the best treatment is a friend.

She was finding it was possible to trust without being rejected, talked down to, or having your trust betrayed.

In the "5 steps forward, 2 to 12 steps back" dance that was Jessica's life she managed many "5 steps forward and just 2 steps back" in that last year.

Then we ran out of time.

jessica lincoln smith

Jess and I

jessica lincoln smith Sometimes you meet a person with whom you just click. It doesn’t matter what your differences are, somehow you go together. It was that way with Jessica and I.

But back in 2003/4 we had both being going through our own separate hells and we had made a big difference in each other’s lives. Having someone from the outside to go out with, to watch a movie with, to have dinner or lunch with, to talk to, to walk with - it was so hugely important to both of us.

She told me often she would have died back then without my support. I don’t know how I would have survived without her's.

After that time, no matter how hard Jessica problems affected her or me, I could never walk away.

She was worth it.

Over the first five years Jessica’s issues drove her to disappear from my life many times, but she always showed up again, and I was always there when she reached out for support.

jessica lincoln smithThen, five years from when we first met and after one of the strangest courtships on record, Jessica and I entered into a serious relationship. We had started down that path a few times before but her insecurities had always got the better of her and she had fled.

This time she did not flee. She stayed.

It was easily the best year of my life. There was real joy in the simplest, most homely things.

Jess also finally started to really trust me. She started to talk honestly about what was happening in her mind, talk about the stuff she had hidden under so much pretence, behind so many masks. She finally let me meet openly the monster that lived with her inside her head.

It took time for her to start to really talk, it took longer for me to learn how to really listen, but by the time she was 26 we were seriously looking for doctors she could trust, doctors who saw a person rather than a diagnosis, an individual rather than a classification. Doctors she could talk to, build a relationship with, work with.

jessica lincoln smith We were also working on building up her self confidence, her belief in herself and in what she could do. In her ability to take charge of her life. In her ability to deal with doctors as equals rather than hide her reality for fear they would lecture rather than learn, for fear that they would treat her like a child instead of provide the help she needed.

We had a GP she had some confidence in, we were looking for a shrink she could talk seriously with.

She had trusted me, she had shared with me and she had not been rejected. Instead she was loved, accepted and respected - and she knew it, valued it, returned it.

It shook her confidence in what was impossible.

We had a long long way to go, and a very uncertain future, but we going together.

It felt good, very good. After so many years, we were making real progress. I started to relax.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, Jessica Lincoln Smith died.

jessica lincoln smith and richard simpson

Losing Jess

jessica anne lincoln smith death noticeJess is dead ...

My beautiful, wonderful, troubled girl is dead.

She died in the early hours of the 22nd of September 2009, just 2 months after her 26th birthday.

Jess suffered from terrible Insomnia. Some days before she had messaged me at midnight "I can't sleep", then again at 2am "Still awake. Miss you. X". Maybe again she could not sleep and just took one sleeping pill too many that night? I don't know. All I know is she went to sleep and never woke up.

She was found by her parents on the 23rd, as a huge red dust storm blanketed Sydney. She was in bed, with a cup of Milo by her side and a DVD playing endlessly. There were no sign of distress - she was just dead.

I was in Chicago when I got the news.

As I raced across the world to get home for her funeral I was torn between grief and disbelief. As I pressed my face to the plane's window to hide my tears I wondered if this was all an elaborate joke, her wicked sense of humour at play. Was this her way of finding out, once and for all, who really would come to her funeral?

jessica anne lincoln smith Arriving first, 45 minutes early, I walking in and her coffin was on display. It was no joke. She was dead. It was as if my middle had suddenly filled with cement.

My girl, my love, my life - gone.

All those dream, all those hopes, all that effort, all that caring, all that commitment - just gone.

She who had survived so much I called her "the cat with 27 lives" had died. Died suddenly, unexpectedly and without fuss.

I wanted to open the casket, to touch her cheek, to hug and kiss her.

Instead I just sat with my hand on her coffin and wept for my gorgous girl before anyone else arrived.

Jess died having found what she thought was impossible ... acceptance.

She died knowing she was loved.

We had nothing left unsaid, no arguments unresolved, nothing left unforgiven.

She told me many times that she would not have survived to 21 without me, so I can know I got her 5 years she would not have otherwise had.

That's supposed to make it easier, isn't it?

jessica anne lincoln smith ... It doesn't.

She is gone, that is all that matters.

My wonderful Jess is gone. Jessica Anne Lincoln Smith is gone.

She will not get her next 50 years. She will never again get to enjoy a day, defeat a problem, taste a triumph or feel loved.

She is just gone and not all the wealth, all the intelligence, all the commitment, all the passion in the world can bring her back or even give her one more breath.

There are about 130,000 twenty six year old girls in Australia at any point in time. Just 45 or so of them don't get to turn 27. My Jess was one who didn't.

When you love someone you care about them more than you care about yourself.

I loved Jess more than words can say.

I have spoken about her, I have writen about her. I have said how much she enriched me, what a difference she made to my life, what rewarding times we had, how good it was to have her, what a delight she could be. It’s all true - every word of it.

But inside I just missed her so terribly, terribly much.

jessica lincoln smith

Remembering Jess

Everyone’s life is a mix of pleasure and pain.

Jessica’s life contained more pain than most.

In 2007 she sent me a letter which read in part "I’ve got disaster written on my forehead" and she was right about that, many times.

But woven in between the times of hurt, there were real times of joy as well.

Woven in-between there was time to love, time to be loved, time to talk, time to experience, time to adventure, time to triumph, time to laugh.

Woven in-between there was a life lived.

Some weeks before she died Jess sent me a SMS. It starts “I think u dont realise the joy you give me ...”

No, beautiful girl, maybe I didn’t.

But I do know the joy you gave me.

I grieve for you. I weep for you. But I also remember you. I remember so many wonderful experiences we shared, often very ordinary things, but special because of you.

I remember sitting through the night in Martin Place with you to get tickets so you could take your parents to the Sydney Festival. It was such an wonderfully silly thing to do.

jessica lincoln smithI remember you enjoying your meal so much you licked your plate at Crown Plaza, Terrigal

I remember standing at the Opera House, looking over Sydney harbour, struggling not to laugh out loud as you told me about wanting to backpack round the world, but were not able to cope with leaving your 100 or so pairs of shoes behind.

I remember you saying to me "I love these shoes" in a voice that made me jealous.

I remember you ringing me, words tumbling out all jumbled up, to tell me about swimming out to play with a pod of dolphins as they passed your parent's place.

I remember the pure joy on your face as you tucked into a Creme Brule at Cafe Opera, luxurated in a Haam Sui Gaau at Zilver, inhaled your favourite combination short soup at Manly Phoenix or chased the last of the hommus at Nada's .

I remember you screaming with excitement as we spun upside down on a roller coaster, then getting off, taking my arm, and saying - in a voice bubbling with laughter - "I want to do this forever!"

I remember you saying, on quite a few different occasions, "THAT, THAT was the best day of my life"

I remember excitement making you clumsy as we sat deep under the Sydney Aquarium and you tried on your new diamond bracelet and studs.

jessica lincoln smithI remember taking you to see the Pasha Bulker, 76,000 tons of ship sitting on the beach at Newcastle, and you finding a dog in the crowd you loved, then telling me about your family's two elderly dogs, Poppy and Blossom, all the way home.

I remember a day when I slipped out from work to meet you for a morning coffee and got back at 4pm after yum cha, a movie, dumplings and a new opal necklace, you bouncing with excitement as we said good bye at Dr DeSaxe's door.

I remember one magical evening, high above Sydney, at a wonderful restaurant called "41".

I remember picking you up all sad and withdrawn, then seeing you slowly relax and come fully alive as our day out progressed.

I remember you calling me out of the blue from Intensive Care, frightened, asking if I could come. I remember sitting with you through the day while you were drowsy, often barely conscious. I remember you reaching out as you dozed to push your hand under mine till I would stroke it gently. I remember being reduced to tears by the message of thanks you sent me later that evening.

I remember dropping you home one evening and you sitting there for a moment before turning to me and saying "Richard John Simpson, you always know how to make me feel better about myself", then bursting from your seat and fleeing on your stiletto's before I could reply.

I remember so many dinners, lunches and brunches, so many movies, plays and bushwalks.

I remember silliness, I remember fun, I remember joy.

I remember you, Jessica Anne Lincoln Smith.

You were by no means a perfect person, but you were a magnificant one.

Being your friend was both the greatest challange and the greatest joy of my life thus far.

All I can really say is "Thank you"

Thank you Jess for sharing your life with me.

Thank you for the joy you gave me.

Thank you for the trust you showed me.

You touched me heart as no one ever has before.

You will not "fade away like a wet footprint on a hot rock".

Your journey has ended, mine goes on, but some part of me will always be yours.

I am a better person for having known you.





Her death notice in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Memories of her by Christina Adler, her yoga teacher.

A tribute to Jess by her sister, the Australian Winter Olympic Athlete Emma Lincoln Smith, before she raced in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Skeleton event (as reported in the Daily Telegraph).

What Jessica had to say about her sister's sport.

Something to say? Drop me a line at: richard@rsimpson.id.au
Note: Click on any photo to enlarge