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Friday, February 21, 2014

My friend Jack died last week




2/19

Cara is here for her first official day as porter. Work that much need to be done.

And of course Eldridge wanting his round trip to the doctor and no I don’t need to see the leg.

Still no lights under the scaffolding.

I decide to go visit my old friend Jack. I call. His phone is disconnected. I feel a sense of panic. Call Rudy who I know goes to visit him, too. Rudy knows nothing, offers to visit tomorrow. I tell him I’m going now. When I get to the Aurora, they tell me, Oh, he died last Wednesday. And then when they see the look on my face, they apologize and send for his social worker. Who tells me she’s not allowed to tell me anything but will tell the family I was there.

I feel a sense of shock and of deep and profound sadness. Both at how I will miss him and my sadness that I didn’t get to see him in those last days.  Any of those days I felt moved to see him would have gotten me there. At the bus stop, I’m feeling cold and wet and alone.

Jack was an amazing man. A jazz musician.  A college dean.  A playwright. And after his first stroke he turned to poetry and after his next one, minimalist poetry.  He used his speech impairment as an instrument. He was a photographer whose photo of a poem on his hand graced our city buses for awhile as part of their poetry in motion series. He was like the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who as each limb gets cut off, keeps on coming. When my oldest son Micah was in high school, he was his writing coach. And one time put Micah into a poem he’d written.  His Men’s Spirituality and Writing group reawakened my writing. It was a safe space for exploration and growth. Conflicts from other parts of church life were set aside at these meetings. Later, we moved to his apartment for our meetings as mobility became more difficult. Even after death and other falling  aways ended our group, I still continued to visit him. During the West-Park fight to come back, he knew instinctively what we were trying to do here and kept pushing, supporting and congratulating. He desperately wanted to come back to church, but that was just not possible. I wanted to do a celebration  of his life here, including his jazz. His very unique old recordings.  Not to be. He held on to life at every minute, taking it as it could be.  During my lowest moments last summer, his apartment with the late afternoon sun was a safe house for  me. I will miss him beyond words, although he’d try and make me find the right ones.

You can't ever put off that visit, that phone call, that good bye....

I’ve got some research to do here….

Some of Jack's music from the 1940's....

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