Jessica Small

Jessica Small

Thoughtful, kind, generous, excited, artistic

“What is my purpose in life?”

This was a question Jess asked herself often. Though she might not have found the answer herself, everyone who met her knew. Jess was joy, kindness, and love in human form. A singer, a crafter, a laugher, and a deep thinker, she touched more lives than she knew and changed them for the better.

To say that Jess had an active mind would be an understatement. Diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, she was always thinking of a dozen different things at once. It was difficult for her to focus on one task because she had so many goals she wanted to accomplish. When she was five years old, she woke up earlier than her mother Tina and, rather than rousing her, decided to amuse herself. This meant that when Tina awakened, there was Playdough in one corner of the room, an explosion of glitter and glue in another, a puzzle in still another, and toast that she had made Tina for breakfast.

“We called her the ‘Tasmanian devil,’” Tina shared. “She would come into the house like a whirlwind, leaving a trail of her stuff wherever she went.”

Even as she grew older, this never changed–it was Jess. Her hobbies ranged everywhere from wire-wrapping crystal jewelry to crocheting to wood-burning. She wanted to do anything and everything. Singing was the only hobby that stuck; she dreamed of being a singer when she was a child, joined a choir, and traveled with them.

But even her solitary hobbies weren’t truly solitary. Jess loved her family dearly and shared herself and her interests with them. When she began crocheting, she crocheted scarves for nearly every family member. When she started singing, she sang her favorite song, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” for all of them to hear–over and over and over. When she was struggling against her addiction, she shared her time, her story, and her support by volunteering with atTAcK Addiction alongside her mother. When she was away, she often called to ask about family, particularly her siblings, Vikki and Josh.

Jess had an insatiable curiosity about the world, asking questions that revealed both wonder and deep concern about life, death, and what came beyond. No older than six years old, she once asked Tina, “Mommy, everybody dies. We’re all gonna die one day. What happens then?” She would wake up worrying about big things—like what would happen if there was a war in another country, and what would happen to all those people over there. Sometimes she would wake her mother up just to make sure she was okay. This, too, was Jess: trying to understand her place in the world and always ensuring others were alright.

Before she passed, Jess confessed she had never felt she had a purpose, or that she had ever done any good. Everyone at her Celebration of Life, however, felt differently. They shared stories of how she had saved them simply by being there–encouraging them to seek help, giving them Narcan, or always being willing to listen.

“As contradictory as it might sound, I miss her excitement about life the most, even though it didn’t go quite the way she wanted it to,” Tina said. “I miss the way she would call me ‘mommy’ even when she was an adult, the way she loved her family so much, and her kindness.”

Jessica’s mother, Tina Walls, provided the information for this narrative.

December 30, 1984 – August 2, 2019-Age 34

Portrait Artist: Maia Palmer

Narrative Writer: Angela Day

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