We lost a good man this week. A man everyone looked up to and gravitated towards. A man who I was proud to call a cousin and a man whose heart was filled with perpetual love and pride.
Jackie had been fighting a tough fight with blood cancer which resulted in a number of complications. I was honored beyond believe when I learned that I was the one he wanted to talk to early in his diagnosis as he was trying to wrap his head around what his medical team at Penn was telling him.
Jackie didn’t talk with too many people in the beginning but asked to speak with me. I have these conversations all the time but they are generally with complete strangers and rarely do I ever even meet them face to face.
But this was different. This was family. This was Jackie. For the first time I was actually nervous about saying something wrong.
We exchanged a number of phone calls and text messages and my wife and I had a great visit with him at UPENN. We talked about every aspect of the disease and treatments. I essentially just wanted to be a sounding board or a safety net for Jackie to pull hope or inspiration from in any way he needed. I fully recognize that I am a poster child for things going the right way with my disease. I have been lucky and am always to share my positive experiences if it helps someone else. My wife made a very cool “FC” bracelet for Jackie to wear, which he wore with much pride and conviction. (FC = “fight cancer”).
I tried to take my cues from Jackie and not be overbearing with anything that I have experienced or witnessed – good or bad. If he wanted to talk about something, we talked. At times I think he just needed to know that support was there, even if waiting quietly in the wings. As one can imagine, he experienced a number of physical and emotional highs and lows but he was strong in his resolve to beat this beast. He knew he had too much to live for. And too many people who adored him were waiting for him to come home.
Our communication had trailed off recently and my messages eventually were not being answered. I understand enough to know that could possibly be a bad thing, but it isn’t always the case. So I held onto much hope.
We received the news that Jackie passed and an instant hollowness filled my body. Please no. Not Jackie. Not now. Jackie wasn’t done here and I wasn’t done talking to Jackie. This fight isn’t over.
Sadness, anger, emptiness, can all be used to sum up my feelings. So for what it’s worth, I have a few things I would like to tell Jackie:
You are one of the bravest individuals I have ever had the honor of knowing. Thank you for turning to me during your diagnosis and for opening up to me. I only wish there was more I could have said, or done. You were never alone Jackie. Everyone who loves you prayed and thought about you constantly. You will forever be loved and cherished the way that you loved and cherished those who were dear to you. You are a good man Jackie. Losing you only strengthens my commitment to continue to fight blood cancer head on. In your honor and in the honor of others who have lost their battle before you, we will win this war. I’m sorry Jackie.