Jack was so full of life that the most memorable thing about him was the way that he would exclaim daily- “This was the best ….. ever!” about most everything- from a game of roller hockey to a great combination of snacks to a snuggle with a dear friend. He was as fearless about his love of life as he was eager to share his appreciation in words and hugs. He was awake to the wonder of it all and never embarrassed to express it. This is the heart of the story about the life of a boy that ended too soon.
More than a thousand people witnessed the musical slide show that his brother created in his memory. Hundreds of photos were mixed with dozens of favorite tunes that only the closest of friends would recognize. The slide show told stories of the adventure and intimate connections that made up a life so clearly steeped in “the best ever”. The eulogies were spoken by teachers who broke down as they shared the wonder of a boy discovering himself and the contagious laughter, love and connection that happens when the line is seamless between real learning and teaching. All three teachers wept as they described the many playful nicknames they shared with Jack and the loss of this special student that taught them the love of what they do.
Usually it is the slide show at a memorial of a life that generates the laughter and tears. Witnessing the transformation of baby to child to young adult in all of the crazy costumes, messes and foods that made moments magical is breathtaking. Watching these images that not long ago seemed only the beginning of a path unfolding and now tells an entire life story is sobering and full of grief even as it testifies to the love and wonder that life holds.
The memorial was gracefully lead by a local minister who shared a story about grief that seems right and true. She compared the missing of Jack’s presence, the actual physical imprint of his energy and soul on the many lives he touched as a brick of grief that you carry around with you always in your pocket. The shape and the weight of the grief changes over time, but it is never gone. It is the way that we move forward, the way that we hold onto the love that was the physical presence of the person who is gone.
Jack’s loss may always be beyond our comprehension, she continued, but the enduring message that Jack left to us all was to love and appreciate the world as he did. The final tribute was offered by a local group of musicians that performed “It’s a Wonderful World”. The end of the memorial was for giving thanks for a boy that was awake to every moment of beauty, joy and love that his short life could hold.
Finding gratitude, even for what is left after our losses is the only way forward with each of us carrying our own brick of grief onward in one pocket, with enough room in the other to keep opening to love. Jack already showed us all the way to the best ever…