|It was early Wednesday Morning that my husband and my son’s came into my bedroom to awaken me. They stood quiet. Knowing that this was not their usual behavior, I sensed something was very wrong. My husband came over and sat down beside me on the bed and gently whispered, “Honey, Jack didn’t make it”. A flood of emotion instantly engulfed me as I heard the reality that we had lost our dear uncle Jack. Grief hit me like a sledge hammer.
It was not suppose to turn out like this. He was only 57 years of age. When he had gone into the hospital on Monday, he assured us that he had a slight touch of pneumonia and that he would soon be home. Keith went that evening and talked to him. Obviously he was a bit weak from the medication and treatment, but he was in good spirits and told us again not to worry because he would be home in about two days and to take good care of the cats.
Less than 36 hours later, his condition had deteriorated drastically to the point that he was being taken to ICU. On the way, he suffered a massive heart attack and at approx. midnight, regardless of every attempt that the medical attendants had made to revive his life, he died.
I was totally unprepared for such shocking news. As I laid back in bed trying to grasp the reality of what I had just heard, my mind started to take me back in time.
The place was Huntington, Indiana. The time was the mid 1970’s. Looking out the window of the old family home on Tipton Street, I watched the snow gracefully floating through the sky and falling upon the ground to form layer after layer of fluffy white snow. My grandmother had just bundled me up in warm clothes and securely wrapped a knit scarf around my head and neck to keep me warm. “Uncle Jack! Hurry up! I am getting hot in all these clothes!” Jack had promised to take me sledding and I was anxious to go. This was just one of the many wonderful memories that I have of my early childhood with Uncle Jack.
Uncle Jack had always been like my big brother. After coming back home after serving in Viet Nam, he stayed with my grandparents. Since I was very close to my grandparents, I spent a lot of time at their home as well. I practically grew up with Jack.
It was Jack that taught me how to roller skate when I was only about 5 or 6. He would patiently hold me up to keep me from falling as I gained my balance and self-confidence.
Whenever he would go out to look for a new car, he would be sure to take me with him to help choose. I remember that one of our favorite little cars was a sporty TR6 that we had found at a dealership in Marion, Indiana in the mid-70’s. I remember riding with him with the convertible top down that same evening that he bought the car as he took me to the VFW Street Fair for a night of carnival rides and games.
In the Spring- time at Aunt Jerrie and Charles lake home on Tippecanoe Lake, the family would meet to “put out the pier”. It was a big family event and Aunt Jerrie and mommom (my grandmother) would prepare a big turkey dinner to all celebrate being together. Many times Jack would get out a big tractor tire tube and several of us would go out floating out on the lake.
Jack loved the water and several years ago he finally had been able to buy a boat. He had the boat for several years before selling it. It was a ski boat. When my family lived in Indiana on Lake Webster in North Webster, Indiana, Jack and my then two small children, Nathan and Shauna would go out for the day with him for a time of swimming and boating. We always had so much fun.
As my uncle loved and spent so much time with my little brother Troy and I, he continued to extend his love to my children as they came along through the years.
Shauna and Nathan were very close to uncle Jack as they were growing up. He taught them things that he had taught me when I was just a child. As our family grew, each of the children found a special love in their hearts for Jack that will never be replaced. I remember Jack telling me not too long ago that he thought it was so special that he could do things with my children that he did with my brother and I when we were growing up. It seemed to give him purpose and a reason to go on. He lived for his family.
During Florida’s infamous 2004 Hurricane season, Jack and his two cats weathered three storms with us. We were together for several-days for each one of them. During these times, we talked of past family times and the fun that we always seemed to have together. We also shared sorrowful times and gave each other hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Uncle Jack had recently gone through a situation with us that had caused our entire family so much pain. He was always willing to do what he could to help us to feel better and to offer words of encouragement that someday things would be better. He never could understand how this situation could have happened to such a close and loving family. I hope that his words will come true and reconciliation will occur someday even though he is not here to see this happen.
Jack never had many material things. He never married and as he got older and was in more pain from headaches and other complications from years of suffering various ailments, he told me that he never wanted to have to have someone “take care of him, so it was best that he remained alone”. He was always very sensitive of being a burden on anyone. He never wanted to put anyone out.
His family was very important to him. He would do anything that he could to bring a smile to someone’s face. I had seen him pay his last dollar out just so my children could have something that would make them happy. He was just that type of guy.
Nathan, our oldest son, had been very close to Jack in the past few months. Jack was helping Nathan to prepare for his enlistment into the Navy or Coast Guard. Each day they would work out exercising and lifting weights. He would also help Nathan on working on his studies for his ASVAB exam. In their free time, they would go to the library and get movies to watch together, go to the beach and other things. They so enjoyed spending time together. Nathan was probably one of the closest people to him in Jack’s last days with us.
Joshua (10), also misses Uncle Jack very much. He use to go spend the night with him and watch movies and run errands with him.
My girls, Hannah (7) and Jessica (8) had such a good time with him during our “Hurricane Parties”. They would spend hours talking and playing with him. The last time that he was here, just several weeks ago, they had built a big fort around him out of pillows and blankets. He had such a good time with him and they miss him so very much.
Ari, our baby just three years old, also loved his uncle Jack. He would watch out the window for him to come over in his little red VW car. It is sad that he will not get to know him as our other children did, but we will make a special effort to teach him about Jack and so he will know that he knew his uncle and that he loved Ari very much.
My husband, Keith, had also grown very attached to Jack. Jack would give him haircuts and help Keith out with little things around the house as we prepared for the storms. Keith was the last one in the family to see Jack before his passing. Jack will always hold a very special place in Keith’s heart as well as a good friend.
I could go on and on with wonderful memory after wonderful memory of the times that we spent with Uncle Jack. It would take many pages and much time to compile.
After all, how could one ever express to others in just a few short words how much this very special relative meant to all his family? He was a devoted and respectful son to his parents, a loving and faithful brother to his sister and a committed and loyal uncle to his many nieces and nephews who will miss him all so very much.|