Friday, July 30, 2010

what happened

one year ago, Jarronn and i woke up at home. there was seemingly nothing special about that day. other than the fact that it was national cheesecake day. we got ready for the day in our bedroom, and watched the fox 5 morning news as we got dressed. they announced national cheesecake day and the new red velvet cheesecake flavor. this sent Jarronn into a random song and dance about "red-velvet-cheese-cake, red-velvet-cheese-cake." i bent over laughing. told him we had to make sure we got some.

i left the house before Jarronn and headed to capitol hill. i had a senate foreign relations committee hearing to attend for work. and as i sat in the audience listening to senator kerry and others, i posted my first "tweet" on the twitter account i had signed up for the day before: "hopeful for peace in sudan." by the end of the day, i had a whole new appreciation for the word "hope."

i got into the office and had a regular day. answered emails. checked things off my list. and then i poked around the internet to see what i could find about national cheesecake day. i called Jarronn around 2:30 p.m., which was about the time we'd typically check in with each other. we talked about our days briefly. and talked about cheesecake. i asked him if we were going to go to the cheesecake factory after work. he said he wasn't sure. that he had to pick up his godson from camp. that he wanted to get on his bike. really wanted to get on his bike. i told him the news i saw online said we'd have to dine in if we wanted half price cheesecake. he said he'd figure things out and call me back.

i left work at 5:30 p.m., eager to get home. when i came through the door, i found Jarronn and his godson in the living room, playing on the nintendo wii. i greeted them and headed upstairs to change out of my work clothes.

going to the cheesecake factory was still on my mind as i came back downstairs. i was wondering if we'd still have a chance to go. i went into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, and as my eyes scrolled down the shelves, they stopped as i saw a huge slice of red velvet cheesecake in a to-go container. i got excited. asked Jarronn about it. and he explained that he had been in the parking lot of the cheesecake factory when i spoke to him earlier. we decided we'd eat it later that evening. after that, i sat on the couch and watched Jarronn and his godson play their video games, laughing every now and then at the competition between them.

soon after, three of Jarronn's friends came over on their bikes. we joked about a funny situation from the previous weekend (when me and my girl friends had run into Jarronn and his bike crew in adams morgan). we talked about darfur, and Jarronn made me proud in the way he explained the situation to his friends. and Jarronn tidied up the house. swept the kitchen floor. put things away.

around 7:30 p.m., they decided it was time to go. they were going to take Jarronn's godson home and go get something to eat. as i sat on the couch, i thought to myself that i really didn't want him to go. i wanted him to stay there with me.

Jarronn came over to me on the couch and said he'd be back in a couple hours. that we'd eat that cheesecake when he got back. he bent down to kiss me, and i kissed him on the cheek. he said to me, "i can't get a kiss on the lips?" it softened my attitude, and so i kissed him on the lips. he replied "thank you" or "that's better." and 30 seconds later, he was out the door.

i spent some time on the computer. looking at friends' photos. trying to pick out a baby gift for my former boss. i got on the phone with my mom. talked about my day. told her Jarronn was out on his bike. complained about all of my gray hairs. told her my stomach was really hurting. so i decided it was best for me to take a nap. i got off the phone and stretched out on the couch.

it seems that within minutes, just after 9:00 p.m., the doorbell rang. i jumped up, a little confused and not having a clue about who it could be. i opened the door and found kim, who was dating one of the friends who had been with Jarronn. i said hey, and she said, "Jarronn got in an accident." panic ran through my body as i said, "oh my god." but she quickly reassured me that he was fine. that he would be alright. and it wasn't something she was just telling me. i knew it's what she believed. she said an ambulance had taken him to the hospital and that she would take me there. so i grabbed my shoes. and i blew out the candle Jarronn had lit earlier that evening.

we headed to the hospital and had some difficulty finding it. i was anxious to get there, to see Jarronn. but i didn't have any feelings of dread or worry. i even cracked a couple jokes on the way. when we got to the hospital, Jarronn's friend aaron met us in the parking lot. as he held back tears, he explained that Jarronn was in bad shape. that his foot was broken. that Jarronn had been complaining about pain in his chest.

as we walked into the hospital, i realized that i'd need to cancel a trip i had planned for the following week. that i'd have to stay with Jarronn and make sure he got better. aaron told one of the emergency nurses i was Jarronn's wife. i was eager to get an update and hoping to see him. the nurse asked us to follow him into the family room.

i started to get confused. why do we need to go to the family room to talk? why is this nurse acting so somber? why is he telling me that they are doing the best they can? that he just needs me to stay strong? i asked the nurse, "you're doing the best you can to do what?" as my mind raced and asked, "isn't it just a broken foot?! isn't he going to be ok?" the nurse told me they were trying to keep him alive.

at this point, i'm in the room with all of Jarronn's friends who had been riding with him. i call my mom. tell her Jarronn's been in an accident, and we need to pray. i get off the phone. i tell everyone in the room that Jarronn is going to be all right. and i believe it. because in my mind i'm thinking, "God, i know there's so much more for Jarronn here. i know how incredibly special he is. there's just no way he can't make it."

minutes later, after we all sat in silence, the nurse returned. this time with a doctor. he asked for mrs. jackson. i raised my hand. he came over to me. explained that Jarronn had a lot of internal bleeding. that they had tried to drain the blood out of his body and give it back to him. but the strain was too much on his heart. he was sorry.

i shot out of my seat.


i sounded like a broken record. and i felt like my "no's" could make it untrue. i asked them if they could go back and try again. feeling as though there had to be a way to bring him back to life. that this couldn't be it. it was supposed to be a broken foot. maybe broken ribs. how did we get here? people in the room were crying. covering their faces.

i sat back down in my seat. and then i prepared myself to make the two most difficult phone calls i've ever had to make. i called Jarronn's parents. my heart broke two more times. i made calls. people called me. people showed up at the hospital. it became a blur.

they invited me to go back and see the body, but i couldn't go right away. i wasn't sure if i wanted to have the image in my mind. knowing that it would be there forever. and that perhaps i wanted all of my memories of Jarronn to be ones of him living.

but eventually i went. he looked so similar to so many nights i had watched him sleeping. i touched him. kissed him. told him how much i loved him. felt like he was hovering over his body, observing the situation and, like me, wondering how this could have happened.

eventually, i had to leave the hospital. and Jarronn wasn't coming with me. and he wouldn't be there the next day.

and i realized how many things would never be for us. no children. no first anniversary. no cruise in january. no jazz in the garden that friday. and no red velvet cheesecake that night.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

remembering Jarronn

next week, friday, july 30 will be one year.

it's pretty hard to believe. some of you have asked what i have planned. to be honest, i'm really just hoping to get through the day. and down the road, i'm more interested in marking the day of Jarronn's birth as opposed to the day of his death.

but i do recognize july 30 as a good time to remember Jarronn's legacy. how amazing he was as a husband, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, friend, and co-worker.

so i've put together a list of ways to honor Jarronn's memory and legacy, for those of you who'd like to do so. feel free to do one or all of the things on the list.
  1. become an organ and tissue donor. Jarronn was an organ and tissue donor, and after he died, knowing that his body gave "life" to other people was a bit of a comfort. in addition, the washington regional transplant community has been a huge support to me since his death and does the same for hundreds of other donor families. they assign a special representative to every family and send regular letters and pieces of literature related to managing loss. i keep many of them around the house for inspiration and comfort. register to be a donor.

  2. make a donation in Jarronn's honor. after Jarronn's death, we set up a memorial fund in his honor through our church. the church meant a lot to us. we joined together. grew together. grew as individuals. went through marriage counseling there. and right before he died, Jarronn had talked about wanting to start a small group for motorcycle riders. they've also been a huge support to me. many of you contributed to the fund last year, which i greatly appreciated. if you'd like to make a donation, please make checks payable to Zion Church, and write "Jarronn Jackson Memorial Fund" in the memo line. mail checks to Zion Church - 1400 Mercantile Lane, Suite 242 - Largo, MD 20774

  3. light a candle. on july 30, during dinner or at some other time, light a candle to represent Jarronn. share good memories about him and take a photo of you with the candle. if it's not too much trouble, email me your photo at i'll collect and share them on the blog.

  4. share a memory. between now and july 30, email one of your favorite memories of Jarronn to i'll collect and share them on the blog.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


it probably sounds strange. but sometimes i feel like my past with Jarronn wasn't real. or i ask, how could it have been real? it's hard to reconcile the thought of him being here at one point, but somehow not here now. the world with him and the world without him seem so distant. so different. so hard to examine side by side.

death means that a person is here one day and gone the next. that's the reality. but wrapping your mind around the concept is a different thing.

and so i find myself at times reminiscing. thinking of moments and memories. and i question. did that really happen? how did i get from there to here?

it doesn't seem like Jarronn's presence should affect the reality of our past together. intellectually i know it was all real. but maybe, intellectually, it's hard to understand why we're not making more memories now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

sudden loss

in my most recent dream about Jarronn, it seemed as though i was straddling time. in one sense, it was as though i had gone a year without seeing him, similar to how things really are. and he was returning from some kind of business trip that had him away for a long period of time. yet, at the same time, it was as though the setting of the dream was one week before he had died. so it was as though we were outside of normal space and time.

in the dream, i remember us talking on the phone, just after he returned. we were making plans to see each other, and i could hear the familiar tone in his voice as he talked to me. that tone that said, "i'm so happy and proud we're together. that i can call you mine."

when i saw him, we caught up. talked and laughed and shared.

and then i got serious. i told him that he may have a hard time believing me, but that in one week, he was going to get in a motorcycle accident. he listened as i told him the details. how it would happen. how he would die. and how i would wish i could have looked into his eyes after the accident and before he passed away.

he seemed to acknowledge everything i said as true. i told him that if he thought i adored him before, that he would really be showered with love now that he was back and given everything that was about to/had happened.

i woke up from the dream and was surprised by how i felt. as i've described on this blog, when i dream about Jarronn, i usually wake up disappointed to realize it was a dream and not reality. and that i'm still struggling to wrap my mind around him really being gone.

but waking up from this dream was different. instead of disappointment, i felt relief. and even a sense of peace.

and as i reflected on the dream, i thought about this: death is never easy. and a loss is a loss, whether the person who passes is eight years old or 80. none of us want to see a loved one deteriorate or suffer with pain, and i'm at times thankful that Jarronn died at such a good place in his life, without any major life pains. but i recognize that there is a significant difference between losing someone after they've struggled against a terminal illness and losing someone suddenly.

i don't think you can ever fully prepare yourself for the death of a loved one. but when there's some kind of notice, you can say your goodbyes. your final i love yous. you can discuss life beyond their death. and how they want to be memorialized. you can hear them say they want you to be happy. or let them know you'll carry on their legacy. you may even feel relief when you know they no longer have to suffer. and you can look into their eyes one last time.

i think my dream gave me some peace, because in it, i was prepared. i could see the death coming, and so i got my chance to say what i wanted to say. i felt like i had my moment. like there was some sense of closure. like i didn't have to rely on my heart to tell me that Jarronn knew everything i felt, because he was there talking with me and acknowledging it all. like he was prepared too.

these are all things i've missed.

so it was a good dream. and more importantly, while i could have stayed and dreamed for longer, it was a good dream to wake up from.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

the pain of the pain

it still hurts.

hurts to know that he's gone. that i'll never get one more conversation. one more hug. one more reaction to news i have to share.

while it still hurts, the pain has gone through changes. it has morphed. evolved. feels different.

it's less physical. it's less about the actual absence (which over time, i've been forced to learn to live with). it's less about the uncertainty of tomorrow (since, over time, the living becomes proof that making it is possible).

but there is what i've come to call "the pain of the pain." the undeniable recognition that i've had to experience this. endure this. that life could hurt this bad. that it's mine to carry.

somehow the thought of the pain, the reflection on the pain, causes pain.

maybe because though i know it may continue to evolve over time, i also know it has forever changed me.  and i liked the me before the pain. or maybe it's because no other pain before this one seemed to so deeply penetrate every aspect of my life. to the point where i can't separate myself from it. and to the point where i know what others who've experienced this kind of loss have said to be true: the pain doesn't go away; you just learn to live with it.

that doesn't really sit well with me. doesn't seem very optimistic. doesn't seem like much comfort. or like any of those other positive things i've always tended to extract from life.

but as painful as it is, it may in fact be real. real life. real pain. real long. really.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

action jackson

in the weeks following our wedding, Jarronn and i had the chance to run into many of the people who had attended the ceremony and reception. so many of them had nice things to say about the day. how the venue was beautiful. how the food was great. how the dj was on point. how the deer came out of the woods to watch the ceremony, seemingly right on cue.

but more than anything, people commented on our vows. how touching they were. special. amazing.

on most occasions, people seemed to give more attention to Jarronn's vows than mine. this was even the case during the ceremony, when people darn near shouted "amen" and broke out into applause as he read them to me.

Jarronn's vows were amazing. and i understood that hearing a man make a declaration like the one he made was something people don't often hear. but in some ways, i felt like i had missed an opportunity to write and share more in my vows (which i kept short only because Jarronn begged me to). that i had missed the chance to display in front of our beloved family and friends how dedicated i was.

it may seem silly, but my insecurity about this caught up with me one day when we were at home. and after i heard yet another person go on and on about Jarronn's vows. i told Jarronn about how the situation bothered me. at first he brushed it off, telling me not to think about it. but when he could see i was genuinely upset, he made me stop what i was doing, grabbed me by the shoulders, and gave me a talking to.

he told me that my vows were perfect, and that he was the only person whose thoughts mattered. he told me that even though he wrote vows that people thought were eloquent, i was right in acknowledging that much of the fuss had to do with him being a man. and he went on to tell me how he and one of our groomsmen, lennox, had a conversation in which lennox told him, "you and jessica said some really great things up there. it all sounded really good. but now it's time for you to put your words into action." (i loved the fact that my husband surrounded himself with other wise, married men). Jarronn reiterated to me that in the end, the words didn't matter if we couldn't look back years from now and see that we had done the things we'd vowed to do.

and at that point, i was so impressed with, and so thankful for, how much he got it.

it reminds me of something one of Jarronn's rutgers friends reminded me of in a message she sent me a few weeks ago. she told me she spoke to Jarronn in the week before he passed and then had a conversation with her husband about one of Jarronn's facebook status updates that said, "love is a verb." i think it was something we had heard in church.

regardless of where it came from, i'm so glad that Jarronn loved actively. that he backed his words up with action. that i was on the receiving end of those acts.