For Jackie

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We sat together on the couch in our hotel room sipping red wine and whispering. My sister Nancy napped in an adjoining room. Four others of our group were in the lobby wandering through gift shops and purchasing tickets for a comedy show that night. It was late afternoon, the space dimly lit. A re-run of Friends flickered on the television screen.

Heads bent close, we spoke about our daughters born just two months apart. We spoke about marriage and step-parenting. The future. All our futures. And although its presence loomed over all these topics, cancer was not a part of our conversation.

What more was there to say?

Jackie had cancer. For the second time.

In 2012, it had reoccurred in her right breast and then metastasized. Liver. Bone. Still, she remained strong and hopeful, her tether to this world so very tight. She had lost some battles but every one of us believed she would win the war. We wanted to believe. We had to.

That trip was in November, 2014, and although we didn’t know it yet, everything we have done this past year was the last we would share with Jackie.

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Last Labor Day concert in the park.

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The last Vegas trip.

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The last Christmas.

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Last New Year’s Eve.

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The last Super Bowl.

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Her last birthday party, a surprise for our beautiful friend.

Jackie’s years of fighting were drawing to a close, the months, weeks, days accelerating faster than anyone could predict.

People flew in from Iowa. New York. England. Switzerland. We loved her fiercely. Trimmed her nails. Rubbed her feet. Changed her pajamas. We brought her mangoes and daffodils, mashed potatoes and soup. We sat at her bedside with chardonnay on ice toasting to friendship. To love. To hope.

Back in March, a small group of us had attended a dinner hosted by Jackie’s best friend, Laura. Also at the restaurant were Jackie’s mother Hilda and her mother-in-law Mary; her husband Jeff and daughter Jessi; Jessi’s boyfriend Alex. I was lucky to be included and sat at one end of the table with Jen, Rowena, Gail, and Suzie.

People call us The Karate Moms since our children trained together. It’s how we came to be. But over the past three years, our relationship has become much more than that. We’re a unit now. Smiles and tears. Sorrow and joy. We are cherished memories. Forever friends.

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Driving home from the restaurant that night, the other five of us laughed and cried. We raged at the universe a little. We were, all of us, angry and afraid of losing our girl too soon. Eventually, the talk turned to how we had come together in the first place, the six of us so different from each other, yet somehow deeply connected.

What we have in common, I realize now, is Jackie. Hers was the home with the always-open door, the family who not only allowed us in but welcomed everyone.

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 Jackie with her beloved daughter and husband.

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In her final days, we were there to share our support.

This support continues now in her memory.

On May 16th, we will be participating in the Relay for Life as Jackie’s Sole-diers. So will our daughters and sons, our husbands and friends, all of us honoring this woman we will always adore. Jackie herself joined the Relay several times. And the Avon Walk in Santa Barbara. Now we, her soldiers, will continue the fight. We won’t give up.

Jackie never did.

In her honor, we will walk for 24 hours. We will hold hands and cry and hug each other.  Together, we will prove on that day and on every day after, that love is stronger than death.

If you would like to make a donation to our team, click here. And on that morning, if you would, please think of us.

Remember her.

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We love you, Jackie.

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34 thoughts on “For Jackie

  1. Julie, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    A good friend of mine, the drummer in two of my bands (and many of the theatre productions that I play) – his wife had breast cancer at a relatively young age, before he met her. She went into remission. They met & married & shared 19 years together. The cancer returned. The next week, she received word that she likely only had six months to live. The next week, she was no longer with us.

    It’s such a horrible, horrible disease.

    Thank you for writing this – now, there are more who will remember Jackie & the beacon that she was.

  2. Damnit. I am so sorry, Julie. We just had a funeral last week for a friend of the family with cancer. It seems like cancer is no longer and “if” but a “when” for everyone. And I hate it so much. I am so SO sorry for your loss, my friend. You are in my heart as are her family and friends.

  3. Julie,
    This was such a beautiful tribute to you friend, it brought tears to my eyes.
    I’m so sorry for you and her family and community.
    Big hugs,
    Tarja

  4. Jen

    Cheers to our very dear friend. This is so beautiful, Julie. I love you.

  5. Diane

    What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman. She was so lucky, as we all are, to have you in her life. All the way until the end, you were there for her in every way possible. She was loved by a terrific bunch of women. Walk strong in her memory.

  6. oh, my friend… I am so very sorry for your loss, but thankful that you have so many wonderful memories with Jackie. I am sorry you had to write these words, and they made me cry. xoxo

  7. Oh, Julie, what an aching loss. I am so very, very sorry. To have had such friends and family, such light, your friend sounds amazing. You’ve honored her beautifully here.

  8. Oh, Julie, know I am thinking about and praying for you, for Jackie, for her family, and for the Karate Moms. What a beautiful tribute. Putting a reminder on my calendar for May 16.

  9. Jeana Schultz

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I lost my best friend to brain cancer this past September, so your words will hit home for me. What a beautiful tribute. A group of us actually just participated in a 5K last weekend in honor of our friend. Prayers for you!

  10. karyn pacifico

    beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. love is more powerful than death for sure…love lives on in the hearts of those touched.

  11. Oh Julie, my heart aches for you. I’m so very, very sorry for your loss. It seems like these friendships we make as women, the ones who are there through all the trials and laughter of parenting, who see us at our best and worst, the ones for whom our heart expands to include not them, but their entire families – those are the friendships who become our family of the heart. You’ve written an amazing tribute to your friend and sister.

    I participated in Relay for many years after losing a dear friend to lung cancer. There is something healing and magical about it. During the day, it’s celebration and music and laughter through tears. At night, as people doze off or sit whispering at their sites, the track turns into a place of healing as you walk with your thoughts or a friend, the path illuminated by flickering candles. I wish you the peace it brought me, even though I know the pain will linger. xoxo

  12. Elena

    Beautiful tribute to your beautiful friend. What a wonderful way to honor her memory and continue the fight… “Sole-diers” – love it! So sorry for your loss and for those that loved her so… Sending prayers of comfort!

  13. Maureen Vasile

    My dearest sister in law Jackie,

    I will forever cherish our shared laughs, secrets and tears. They are memories that I will never forget and I plan to keep them close to my heart. You were one of a kind and I will never forget the times we were fortunate and blessed to share.

    I miss you very much. Love you always!
    Mosie

  14. Maureen Vasile

    Julie,

    This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing right from the heart!

    Maureen

  15. Lexi

    Julie,I am so sorry. I had hope for you all as well, and I am sorry for your loss. xoxo

  16. Jennifer

    What a beautiful tribute to a lovely person. Thank you for sharing her with us. xoxo, Jen

  17. Heidi K

    Dear Julie,
    What a beautiful tribute to your friend, Jackie, and the relationship the six of you shared. I am truly sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your memories as you remind us all to enjoy each day, take care of each other and cherish our family and friends.

  18. Oh Julie, I’m so sorry. With a title like that, I feared the worst, and reading your heartfelt words really moved and saddened me. I’m terribly sorry for you loss, and her family’s.

  19. I am so sorry, Julie. And so happy that you are doing the Relay for Life together – I’m sure Jackie will be right there with you. xox

  20. Kristi

    Julie, I’m so sorry. Cancer sucks. It took my dear friend (lung cancer, non-smoker, what the hell…) and it hurts so much. Hold on to those memories, keep a picture of her close and say hello every day. She will hear you, and the hole in your heart will not always seem so unbelievably large.

  21. Julie, what a powerful, loving tribute to your friend. I can see she was courageous, beautiful and bright. My heart goes out to you and her loved ones.

  22. I hate cancer. I am so sorry for everyone who is feeling her absence. Love to you, Julie. Hugs and love. I am so sorry.

  23. Oh Julie. 🙁 I knew this was coming. I am so sad. Love you.

  24. Kir

    Oh Julie, I am so so very sorry. I can’t imagine the ache and hole her loss will leave in your heart and your life.

    I will be Praying for your comfort, for her family and that there is,peace along the way as you grieve.

    Please know you are in my heart. I am so incredibly sorry. As,always your writing, this tribute to your friend/other sister/ confidante is so beautiful and touching.

    Crying with you.

  25. So sorry, friend. Beautifully written tribute to your cherished girlfriend. xoxo

  26. ****We loved her fiercely. Trimmed her nails. Rubbed her feet. Changed her pajamas. We brought her mangoes and daffodils, mashed potatoes and soup. We sat at her bedside with chardonnay on ice toasting to friendship. To love. To hope.****

    OOOOo, my heart & prayers…

    reach out to all of you.

    That’s all. That’s all I have.

    xxx Love from MN.

  27. I am so sorry for your loss, Julie. But wow….how incredible that you all had each other, and she had such fierce warriors fighting with her.

  28. Le Ann

    Julie,

    What a beautiful story of true friendship. We lost my grandmother at the young age of 58 from breast cancer, and I know what an empty space it leaves in your heart.

    I am truly sorry for your and her family’s loss….

    Le Ann

  29. Oh Julie, no. I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful friend. My heart goes out to her family and to all of you who loved her.

  30. Oh Julie, no. I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful friend. My heart goes out to her family and to all of you who loved her.

  31. Julie, this view into your friendship was so moving and inspiring. I’m so sorry for your loss. What you did her was a beautiful tribute. As we say in Judaism– may her memory be for a blessing.

  32. I just got to put you to your goal! I never did that before!
    May each step of the walk be as triumphant as Jackie was loving.

  33. What a poignant and heartbreaking post .. .so much love, devotion .. years of friendship to be treasured in your heart always. Thinking of you, your lovely friends and your soul sister smiling down from the heavens .. .you made her world a brighter place, and thank you for sharing your beautiful love here with us …

  34. Cheryl

    Beautiful words for such a beautiful friend to so many. Love you Jackie!

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