I watched Jacob’s alma mater, St. Ed’s, play mine, Shaker Heights, in hockey yesterday. I’ve stayed very connected with Ed’s since Jacob got sick and eventually passed away. The game was insignificant in terms in many ways. I didn’t pay attention to details. I have no idea who was who. It didn’t matter.
Coming back to the barn (old hockey term for rink) brought back so many memories. Jacob scored his first goal against their arrival in 2015. It sealed a hard-fought win. I watched a lot of games in that rink with very similar experiences. I watched the games, but I wasn’t very involved. Letting go of coaching instincts was easy. Jacob loved to play. Watching his style was cool. He was at home immediately.
The coaches have changed. The players have changed. The bond of the parents and alumni were the same. Jacob’s death has shaken me. It’s devastated many of us. There are days when getting out of bed is nearly impossible. Pictures in his hockey or running uniforms can paralyze me. How can cancer kill someone so strong? Why? Just. Why?
Yesterday’s game brought a different vibe. I felt at home in the rink. I saw familiar faces and new ones. I was able to see some of the Shaker kids along with younger siblings at Ed’s of Jacob’s teammates. Little “Stecks,” once a rink rat is now a seasoned veteran with his older brothers’ leadership skills. I got to watch my Shaker goalie who was in a crazy accident as an 8-year-old on his way to Michigan and still made the tourney years ago. I THINK he was MVP of that tourney. These kids are now young men.
Some of seen the photo, but few know the story. Jacob’s funeral was on a cold, snowy day. With Covid-19 rearing its ugly side, the temple was closed to the public. This did NOT stop our community. St. Ed’s students lined our entrance. The entire hockey team, along with former hockey and running teammates welcomed us. Knowing they couldn’t enter; these people made a gesture we will never forget. We were enveloped in 250 arms, socially distanced in silent support.
A few days later, a large group of Shaker families and friends, organized a walk past our home. We weren’t sure what to do but luckily, I never take my Adirondack chairs down for the winter. We sat in amazement as 50-100 people toting red “Shaker” hats walked in silent love for us and our Jacob. One neighbor laughingly said, “This is how much we love you. I’m wearing a fucking Trump hat for you.” In fairness, it was RAIDER RED and non-partisan. Some walked by with a waive and loving smile. Others stopped and approached toting needed hugs. So. Much. Love.
The biggest question people who grieve get asked is; “what can we do for you?” It’s the hardest question to answer but so well intended. The truth is simple. We. Don’t. Know. We don’t have that answer. These two communities loved on us. They did it with quiet presence. Shaker’s solidarity intertwined with Ed’s empathy did for our family what we didn’t know we needed.
These gestures were made by great people. They were made because Jacob made an impact. I’m sad. Every day brings challenges but his love for life gives me hope. I’ve never realized until the past three years about the importance of surrounding myself with great people. Jacob’s friends stepped up. The St. Ed’s community stepped up. Shaker friends stepped up. Oxford, OH stepped up. Many others near and far stepped up. They stepped up to love us. The stepped up to support us. They continue to step up because of the person Jacob is. IS. He is still in the present.
Good people find one another. Thanks to all you good people.