Finding Meaning

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Angels Among Us

By Skip Hellewell
A memorial for Jasmen Wilkinson now sits along Laguna Canyon Road. Photo by Allison Jarrell

You may have seen the bare details in last week’s Indy: “14-year-old girl killed after canyon collision.” The girl was Jasmen Wilkinson, a freshman at Laguna Beach High School. She is the daughter of Ieva, a single mom, and caring sister to Lana, an El Morro student who survived the crash with a broken leg. The accident was more than the end of a life—it has become a discovery of the meaning of a life.

The tragedy triggered a succession of good Samaritans. A passing off-duty EMT comforted the dying Jasmen as best he could. Another Samaritan cared for the family dog, arranging for a vet to check its health. Officer Cpl. Cornelius Ashton, school safety officer affectionately known to students as “Officer Corn,” and Officer Kennedy rushed to the hospital, remained for the day, and returned the next. Family friends took shifts with Jasmen’s sister Lana, in a separate hospital room, so the mother could be with Jasmen. A GoFundMe account was created to help with expenses; dozens, then hundreds, responded. When Jasmen’s passing was known, a stranger offered a burial plot. Across Laguna, there arose an outpouring of communal caring.

A memorial service was held last Saturday at Jasmen’s church, just across the street from her high school. Mourners came by the hundreds, filling the chapel, overflowing until there was no more space. The crowd was estimated at 500, the largest in recent memory. The speakers and performers were her peers. Luke Gold-Sine, ASB president, and Cal Nielson, last year’s ASB president, returning from college, spoke. Friends Haven Thacker and Tia Mills told of her life. Children and youth sang the hymns of faith, finishing with the poignant farewell wish, “God be With You Till We Meet Again.” It was a moving service and friends lingered long after it was over, caught up in the spirit of the memorial. For Jasmen, the day wasn’t quite over.

The family had agreed to donate Jasmen’s organs as a gift of life to others. This required transporting her remains from the pediatric ICU (where she had remained on life support) through the hallways to surgery for the procedure. A helicopter awaited to rush Jasmen’s gift to eight organ recipients and up to 75 tissue recipients. Mission Hospital observes a tradition called the Honor Walk, where family, friends, and available hospital staff line the hallway in tribute as the deceased donor passes to the surgical suite. Later Saturday, when it was Jasmen’s time to pass, her mother joined her on the gurney, cradling her as a mother naturally does for her child. Among the many who lined the hall to honor Jasmen as she passed, no dry eyes were observed.

Jasmen’s life had been different, the conditions humble. She once expressed, perhaps in a moment of teenage angst, that if something happened to her, she wouldn’t even be remembered. It is clear that Laguna will long remember Jasmen, and others will also. She will live on through her organ recipients. Nearly a thousand have contributed to her GoFundMe account at this writing. A permanent memorial is begin proposed. Jasmen will ever be with us. It is said that she believed in angels, that she felt their presence. Thanks to Jasmen, we’ve seen and felt them too, right here in Laguna. In many ways, Jasmen will ever be with us. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected]

 

Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, Sunday 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish). Saturday: 4 pm Reconciliation, 5:30 Mass.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

 

 

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