by Froswa’ Booker-Drew, Ph.D.
I remember grabbing my phone the first thing on Friday morning to check messages. There it was. The message that I was not prepared to read from one of my dear cousins who has been my role model and friend: “Our cousin, Jackie, passed away in her sleep last night.” It was a bittersweet moment. This was the same day I was in Ohio to graduate with my PhD. I felt like a ton of bricks hit my chest. I was in shock. I hadn’t seen Jackie in a number of years. She had recently friended me on Facebook and I found myself flooded with memories of our childhood. It was strange to move forward with pomp and circumstance and at the same time, deal with the news and my feelings.
I grew in Shreveport, Louisiana and in the summers, I went to Houston, Texas to spend time with my family members. I would spend several weeks at a time with Niecy (Jackie’s eldest sister) who was a few years old than me, Jackie was a year younger than I was and Tausha, the baby girl, was the youngest. As a little girl, I looked forward to seeing them to play and have a ball! Not only was Jackie closer in age to me but she was so funny so I loved hanging out with her. For a girl who was painfully shy like I was, Jackie did the things I only dreamed of like prank calling folks well before caller IDs were ever invented or playing harmless jokes on Niecy who was always a good sport in allowing us to have a great laugh at her expense. Jackie and I grew up together and I even remember when she started dating and fell in love. As we got older, our lives grew apart. She got married and became a mother. I focused on pursuing my education and a career. Although we didn’t see each other as much even with the separation of space and time, when I would see her, that pretty smile of hers reminded me of all the special times we shared.
Hearing of her death devastated me. She was only 44 years old with so much life to experience and so much more love to give. I was so surprised that it hurt me so badly considering we hadn’t talked in a while but I realized that her death symbolized a piece of my childhood that had to deal with the finality of everything. When we were playing as kids and teens, I never thought in my wildest dreams that she would be gone so soon. Her life and passing has forced me to do some reaffirming and re-evaluating of my life journey.
- Love never fails. Regardless of the twists and turns life presents, it is the love that we have and shared with others that will remain in the end.
- Our passing (or the passing of others) is an opportunity to reflect on living. I have never been to a funeral in which time was spent sharing how much money we made but how many lives we touched. Hopefully, we all are living lives that encourage, inspire and bless others.
- Life is so short. If we are not taking care of our bodies, our spirits, and our minds, we are cheating ourselves out of the fullness we could experience in living. If there are people, situations, or things that take away from our existence, we have to move on. Otherwise, we find ourselves spending more time dealing with the pain these problems cause than the pleasures life has to offer.
- Make Meaning and Memories. Each day, we leave a piece of ourselves with those we encounter. Are we making deposits or withdrawing in our interactions? How will others view those exchanges? I have some amazing memories of Jackie and the beautiful spirit that she was for our family and her friends. I am hoping that all of us make meaning of our lives that leave a positive legacy of love, life and laughter for those who remain to carry those moments with them forever.
The acronym LOLM comes to mind—L(iving) or L(oving) O(out) L(oud) M(atters). Each day we have on the planet is a gift. Make sure that you are living in a way that is authentic for you filled with love, life, and laughter boldly that when you pass on, your life mattered for those whose lives’ have been touched by your presence. Jackie, thanks for all the great moments… you will always be with us and you will NEVER be forgotten! I love you, pretty lady!