EACH LIFE THAT TOUCHES US
by Angela Hawkins
One of the first things people notice about Jamie Gibson is the peaceful smile that is permanently glued on. It never reveals the constant pain she feels. The smile also hides an inspiring masterpiece of a life. Another thing people notice about Jamie are the white bandages wrapped around her arms. She fights a genetic skin disorder, Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), that makes ordinary life difficult. Despite much opposition, Jamie’s life inspires everyone who knows her. It motivates all to triumph over adversity.
EB can cover up to 75% of skin with sores similar to serious burns. It makes eating, bathing, and brushing teeth painful, and causes the skin and mucous membranes to blister and scar. This scar tissue builds up and limits bone growth, especially in the hands, feet, and tongue. It means that it’s hard to walk, talk, and write. It means that sports are off limits. It means a diet of soft foods and drinks. It means wrapping skin daily in bandages to prevent bruising and infection, which takes about an hour with help.
The thought of having a different life than her friends never crossed Jamie’s mind. Her parents had always tried to provide her with a normal life and encouraged her to be involved in extra-curricular activities. Jamie made friends in band, choir, pottery, and school clubs. By the end of high school these friends began making college plans. Jamie naturally made plans as well.
When Jamie’s parents saw her applying for Rick’s College, they were concerned that she wasn’t being realistic. Jamie had always depended on their help when it came to EB, and life away from home in college appeared impossible. Jamie considered this advice but didn’t back out of her original plan. Instead, she taught herself to change bandages, do the laundry, and cook. She also applied for scholarships and received the money she needed for tuition.
Rick’s was everything Jamie hoped for. In addition to normal college living, Rick’s was filled with all night parties with her roommates, the first “sisters” she’d ever had. Although she “got no sleep,” she loved “[living] with girls . . . My roommates would borrow my stuff and I would be excited to let them borrow it because I never had any sisters . . . It was just fun.”
Knowing that she couldn’t depend on her roommates to take care of her needs, Jamie did everything herself. Everything. Cooking took a lot of time, bandages required up to three hours, and laundry consumed almost all day. She proved that she could do it but, by the end of the term, Jamie was “run down” and had acquired a serious infection. She returned home worn out and with the realization that she needed help. Thanks to many people and special programs, Jamie obtained personal assistance that freed up a lot of time. Jamie recognized that “Heavenly Father was going to take care of me through other people.”
With the daily difficulties of EB, Jamie could easily complain and assume that Heavenly Father doesn’t love her. At one time Jamie had doubted His love, feeling angry and bitter when He didn’t seem to answer important prayers. “I thought all He wanted was for me to be happy,” she says, but after much struggling and prayer, Jamie realized “that Heavenly Father had something even more for me. [This] huge test of my faith [helped me want] to do what is right even though I didn’t understand.”
Jamie’s knowledge of the Lord’s love has been a great strength to her life. “Realizing that all Heavenly Father wants is for me to be happy has really influenced [me],” she declares. “Whatever happens to me is somehow going to turn out for my good. I feel like there’s nothing more important than what the Lord wants us to do. In turn, all He wants is for us to be happy.”
Because Jamie understands the Lord’s love, He is the focal point of her life. Music has enabled her to do this in a unique way. So far Jamie has recorded two CDs: etherealchristmas and Good Night Christmas. These songs testify of the healing power and love of Jesus Christ. Not only have thousands ascended heavenly by listening to her music, but Jamie has also donated the proceeds to the EB Research Foundation.
Although Jamie always enjoyed music, becoming a singer was never a dream. She played percussion in band during junior and high school until her fingers scarred together so much that she couldn’t hold the mallets. One day she heard the simple, pure voice of a boy soprano. “What is this?” she wondered. “Why am I crying?” Jamie went home to pray “that . . . if [Heavenly Father] would bless me to sing like that . . . to touch people with the Spirit, then I would never misuse it. I would use it for His purposes.”
Jamie began singing even when doctors said it was impossible. Her mouth and throat were raw with sores and blisters, and her scarred tongue made it difficult to enunciate, but Jamie began voice lessons. At times, the practicing was discouraging and embarrassing, but she persisted. This hard work, dedication, and heavenly help in answer to her prayer has made her voice clear and resonant. It wraps around and heals hearts with love, joy, and hope. People who listen to her often remark about the special spirit in her music.
Jamie also loves people. For several years she’s volunteered time as a camp counselor in Crosslake, Minnesota to help younger girls with skin disorders. Jamie says it’s “an outside experience of anything I’ve ever done in my life.” After being singled out for most of their lives, Camp Discovery has helped children with skin disorders feel “like a regular person.” No “one in the crowd [is] picked out because everyone [has] something like you.”
After loving and caring for the friends she made at Camp Discovery, Jamie realized that they didn’t “have the most important thing to me in my whole life . . . [I didn’t] know how the gospel influenced my life until I met people who didn’t have it.” Camp Discovery became an opportunity for her to share the gospel. Being the only member of the Church among hundreds, Jamie began to “realize what I believe and how I was going to live when nobody was watching me [or] knew what my standards are.” Although Jamie feels that sharing the gospel is “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” she speaks about it courageously with her friends, and has given away several copies of The Book of Mormon. She still keeps in contact with “her girls” and continues to support and inspire to them as a friend and with the gospel.
It may not have appeared that Jamie Gibson was born with masterpiece material, but she has definitely spun what the Lord has given her into a work of genius. Underneath her smile and bandages is a heart ready to work, give, and love. Through the challenges most of us will never experience, Jamie has molded her life to touch and inspire all who know her. Her knowledge of Heavenly Father’s love has sealed her eye single to His glory. Through tribulation, Jamie’s life proclaims to the world that by magnifying our talents, sharing the gospel, and loving people we all can succeed.