At The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®, we are all about community. We celebrate the stories of each individual that bring life to our brand, and the unique talents and gifts that they possess through programs such as brewyourbestyear.com.
Early this year, we were fortunate to encounter Jodi Bess Lego on social media after she shared with us the pages of her 2016 Giving Journal which she so lovingly designed. Jodi’s creativity and most of all, deep spiritual faith, resonated with us, evident in the passages that she would write on its pages. We featured her work on our page, garnering praise from the online community who also appreciated her talent.
Beyond social media, Jodi extended herself to us by joining our #ArtxMusicxTheCoffeeBean event, where she participated in the Cup Art Designing activity. She graced our cup with words such as Love, Free, Dance, Joy, Forgiven. Though we didn’t know much about Jodi— who she was and what her story was — one thing was for certain: Jodi was full of life and positivity.
It was only recently that we learned about Jodi’s story – one that moved us tremendously. Hers is an inspiring story of steadfast faith and a belief in the promise of eternal life through Christ, one that should serve as a reminder for everyone to live by.
Her mom BJ wrote us:
I had to consider if i really should send you the artwork my daughter made with your Giving Journal. She really did enjoy using it and I thought you should know. Feel free to use her story should you find it inspiring to others.
A little about Jodi – she was a Graphic Artist at Victory Fort, where she served as a Small Group Leader, while she was taking up her Visual Communication Arts degree from UP Diliman where she graduated Cum Laude. She was also an animator at Toon City where she worked on the series CuriousGeorge which was shown in the UK. She has published works – 2 book illustrations and published artwork with Jr. Inquirer from way back. What’s amazing about her is that she has lived with the challenge of Beta Thalassemia Major, a severe form of hereditary anaemia which posed a lot of medical complications. She was not one to complain and did not allow her medical condition to bring her down. She enjoyed and lived a full life with the short one God blessed her with. She passed away last May 29 due to intracranial hemorrhage.”
Jodi maintained a Tumblr blog and used it to make sporadic updates on her beta thalassemia major, a severe form of anemia that often left her easily fatigued and short of breath.
“When I was a child,” she wrote, “I used to pretend that we were checking in a hotel every time I was confined for blood transfusions. I actually learned to enjoy being hospitalized.”
From age 4, she would go into the hospital every other month for blood transfusions; she would also undergo iron chelation, which was expensive and difficult at the time. In 1998, health complications necessitated the removal of her spleen and gall bladder; iron deposits began to take a toll on her organs, particularly her heart and liver. Despite these health challenges, Jodi remained unfazed and positive, even more so in 1999, when her mother, BJ, took her to church.
“I realized that God does not exist so my life can be the way I want it to be,” she wrote. “At that point I stopped caring so much about the circumstances. I stopped moping around for what I felt God was holding back from me. I started focusing on God and what Jesus had done.”
“I will not let my illness stop me from doing what I believe God wants me to do,” Jodi told her mother. She was able to raise enough funds to go on a Ten Days missions trip to Nepal, but was held back at the last minute because she got sick. In April 2016, Jodi contracted pneumonia and celebrated her birthday in the hospital.
“When you are in the middle of illness,” she wrote in a blog published a year earlier, “believing is not the easiest thing to do. Giving up is. Losing hope is. Being angry and bitter is. To believe that God loves you and that He will heal you,” she added, “is not an easy solution nor is it a balm that eases the pain. But here I am, believing. I believe because I experienced God, I encountered His truth, to not believe would be a complete denial of what I know is true.”
A month later, she was confined a second time. A few days after she was discharged, she complained of a headache, and doctors, suspecting bacterial meningitis, re-admitted her. Over the next few days, Jodi’s situation seemed bleak, as she suffered intracranial bleeding; her family and friends begged God for a miracle. Eleven days later, on May 29, Jodi returned into the arms of her Savior.
Over the next few days, Jodi’s Facebook page was flooded with messages from people whose lives she had touched. From classmates to batchmates, from Victory group members to virtual strangers who were touched by her designs in church, people paid tribute to the faithful Christian woman who loved God, cats, and Japan.
“Those around her,” writes Sheila Marquez, another friend, “even if they didn’t know her so well, couldn’t help but praise God just by watching the way she lived, loved and inspired others. Her sickness may have affected her body, but it never touched her spirit. She remained full of faith, at peace, beaming with joy, thankful and faithful to her call, to the very end.”
One noteworthy thing about the messages left by her friends is the astonishingly high number of photos showing Jodi with them. Despite her lifelong sickness, Jodi clearly spent time with so many people, growing them in the faith and building relationships that would plant seeds of hope, and, hopefully, the gospel. It is a remarkable sign that Jodi intentionally worked to mirror Christ and be Christ to the people around her, making the most of the limited time on Earth that she knew she had.
“I’m not really afraid of dying,” Jodi wrote in 2012. “In fact, sometimes, I long for it. Ultimately, though, what matters to me are these: that I have lived my years on earth fully; that the people I love, know just how much I love them; and that I have lived every ounce of my strength to glorify and please Jesus.”