Saturday, December 24, 2011
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
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Wilbur Rudolph Jackson
March 1943 - September 2011
He goes free of the earth.
The sun of his last day sets
clear in the sweetness of his liberty.
The earth recovers from his dying,
the hallow of his life remaining
in all his death leaves.
Radiances know him. Grown lighter
than breath, he is set free
in our remembering. Grown brighter
than vision, he goes dark
into the life of the hill
that holds his peace.
He's hidden among all that is,
and cannot be lost.
September 11 felt thick with emotion this year--much more so than other years. I attributed that to it being the 10th anniversary of "9/11". Little did I know that three towns away, at around 9 that morning, a dear friend was taking his last breath.
I learned of Jackson's passing thanks to an email from our mutual friend Cindy Walker on November 29, and ever since, I have been on a soul search. How could I have let us lose touch? In a coffee shop later that day, feeling shame and regret, I sat in Jackson's (nonphysical) presence while doing energy work with a mentor. When he showed up, I immediately burst into a smile.
"Hey, darlin' " I heard him say, that voice and playful tone so familiar.
Tears streamed down my cheeks. It felt so good to be with him--it had been so long--and I lingered there awhile. The last time I'd seen Jackson was years ago at Landmark on one of our favorite assisting agreements--a sort of volunteer thing we'd each sign up for from time to time. I took the opportunity, if a bit shyly, to slip him a copy of the draft of my second book. I knew full well that he had been walking the line between the two worlds, battling cancer. And though the book wasn't finished, I had wanted him to see the dedication page which reads, simply:
Nine years ago, Jackson was assigned to be my coach in a three-month leadership program. He was tough, and I was accountable, and it worked for both of us. In no time at all, we'd developed quite an affection for one another that would light up like the planets whenever we crossed paths. At the end of the three months, when I sat with him for our final coaching session, he had this to say about the prospect of my signing up for the next level, a rigorous six-month training:
"Girl? If you bring to that course what you brought to this one, you'll be hell on wheels!"
I trusted him. I did it. And ... well, it was the best "bad decision" (with a wink to Jackson) I ever made.
I'm happy he got to see that dedication page. I could tell he was pleased about it. He let me know he wanted a copy. I assured him he'd get one, of course--when the book was done. How I looked forward to putting the finished work into his hands, with pride, pleasure and gratitude.
I have written in this column before about the arc of a life, and how the end defines the whole. Seeing my friend Jackson's arc complete, I see a great light, a bottomless love--magnificence--and I feel deep remorse. I see a lost possibility, a missed opportunity. I see a chance for showing love that I did not take.
I missed the chance to be a closer friend, a true friend. I missed the chance to give love to a great man whom I love when he no doubt needed it the most. And I am sad.
So many times I thought to call or to ask after him. And I did not. I would go to ask, and feel myself stop myself. I was afraid to ask. Afraid of what? Afraid to learn he wasn't doing well--or worse, that he had died?
I think I didn't know how to be his friend, "on the outside." We were coach and coachee, then we were colleagues, work mates. Yes, we were friends in those capacities, but not on the outside. I think I didn't know how to do that, how to make the leap. Was there a leap to make?
Well, now he has died, and I've missed it. I didn't finish the book in time. I wasn't there at the end of Jackson's life. And I feel terrible about that. I feel I let him down.
Yet sitting with him in that coffee shop, I felt not a speck of judgment or disappointment from him. He was affectionate and playful as ever and greeted me warmly. It felt there was nothing there to forgive. And I felt no break in our connection, despite the break in contact. I felt his love alive as ever, and my love alive as ever, and that seemed to be all that mattered.
"You gotta fall in love every day," he coached me once. I've lived by those words since. But there's another part he didn't tell me, except by showing me, showing all of us: you gotta give it away. So I'm thinking now that there's no better way to honor Jackson's life than to pass on that bottomless love.
Can I love now... and now... and now, whenever the opportunity arises (which is, of course, all the time)? Can I love with abandon, with a brimming, a spilling over generosity? Can I love even when it's inconvenient or painful or costly? Can I love with a radiance, joyful in the giving? Am I able to love, that is to say, the way Jackson loves? I sure hope so. Right about now, it feels my life depends upon it.
Thank you, Jackson. I love you, forever.
images courtesy of the Jackson Family.