Alexis Wernsing was the kind of person who made everyone she met better. I am absolutely heartbroken that her life on earth is through, but I also feel great joy knowing that she is in the arms of God tonight. Alexis’ faith in her Creator was deep and unwavering, and I know if there is any wait time to enter His kingdom, she only waited about two minutes…I have met very few people who deserve the joys of Heaven as much as she does. Author Jeni Stepanek once described the concept of a thin space as “ that place where your spirit and God are in closest contact.” She said, “Generally, we're all aware we have a spirit, an essence, that's deep inside us. At your thin space, the veil separating your essence from your being becomes transparent enough that the spirit becomes undeniable. Instead of being a silent voice, your spirit more or less shows itself to you; you know it intimately rather than simply being aware of it.” Alexis was always at her thin space, letting the true essence of her beautiful spirit show itself at all times.
She was unfailingly kind, and always came to the rescue if someone around her was upset. I will always remember her rolling to the door of my dorm room holding a pile of baked goodies to make me feel better. She always made a point to keep track of my favorites and delivered them whenever I needed a pick me up. Eating doesn’t fix all our problems, but it sure helps, and Alexis knew that was especially true when it came to banana bread and peanut butter brownies. I remember the skeptical look on her face when we compared the dining hall brownies to her mom’s brownies. Obviously, the homemade ones were hands down superior in her eyes and in mine. Her sweet tooth was second only to her sweet heart.
When Alexis and I met in the Fall of 2011, I thought we were both 18. It turns out we were a generation apart, but nonetheless she was one of my best friends at U of I. I consider her my soul sister, and our bond transcended the eighteen years between us. She always understood my “old soul” and from the moment we met, I knew we were the kind of friends who could see right into each other’s hearts. Alexis was overjoyed to be a college student, and her work ethic was second to none. When the other students were going out to the bar or heading to bed, the light was on in her room. You could find her with a pencil in her mouth, tapping diligently at the keys of her computer. After all, finishing each paper brought her a step closer to her dream of becoming a professor, even if it made her a little sleep deprived. God may have called her home before she could become a professor in the formal sense, but in every sense of the word she succeeded in teaching others much more than they could ever learn in a textbook. I once asked her what she hoped to teach her beloved nephews Carter and Landon. Quickly, she replied, “compassion and love and to try to get to know people for who they are not what they look like. We’re all different and we’re here to learn something from each other.” If that was her mission in life, she certainly fulfilled it, not only teaching this lesson her nephews, but the rest of us too. Alexis always dreamed of going to Italy to admire the wonderful art. I am devastated that she never had the chance, but the place from which she watches us now is definitely more beautiful than Italy, and filled with perfect, eternal peace.
Alexis, the last time I saw you on earth, I cried because I was so sad to leave you on my last day of college. You said not to cry, because we’d be in touch all the time, and you would see me again. Even though it’s hard to fathom a life on earth without you in it, I still believe what you said, because you always told the truth. I will see you again, beyond the thin space, beyond all the trials of this world. Until then, I will remember your favorite verse, Jeremiah 29: 11-13. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." I’m not always sure what His plan is for me, but I sure feel lucky that it included knowing you.
I’ll miss you, but we’ll be in touch all the time, just like you said. I just have a feeling you’ll be sending me signs to let me know that in some way, you’re still here. Because you loved art so much, I will try to see your passing through the eyes of an artist. You told me once that when you study art, you learn that beauty is subjective, and that it means all different things, depending on how you look at it. Even though it is painful right now, I will listen to your words and remember that our new way of being together is beautiful too. I just need to change the way I look at it. Love you forever.
Image: Alexis, smiling in her wheelchair. She has brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, glasses, and a beautiful smile. She has a track to help her breathe and is wearing a white shirt with multi colored hearts, fall 2012