Three years ago, yesterday, our lives were altered forever. Jacob, after completing a run, wasn’t feeling great. Allergy season was in full bloom which means swollen glands and heavy breathing. He called his mom on Facetime who told him to go to the clinic. A couple of days later, from what I remember, his glands were swollen enough to go to the clinic. Jacob refused to miss classes, so he went between them, leaving ample time to make his next class. After being treated, he was referred to the local hospital. They drew labs and he was off to his last class of the day. Minutes later, Jacob was called to return. “May I come in after class?” “No.”
My phone rang that afternoon, while I was at work. He explained that someone in oncology needed to see him immediately. I knew. We talked as he headed back to the hospital. When he arrived, he put the phone on speaker. The doctor asked a million questions. Then, he asked THE question: “Is there a history of cancer in your family?” I told him “No”, then proceeded to tell him, “Doctor, just tell us.” I knew where this was going. He then called my wife. I picked up and headed down to Oxford, OH to bring Jacob home.
This isn’t a logistical tale of events. Not today. On the three-year anniversary of his diagnosis, Naomi and I were finally able to visit Jacob’s grave with his permanent headstone. The pandemic had ripple effects on supply chain. Finally, we were able to sit together and just be with his headstone. When Ana comes home, all four of us will be together at the grave. The front of his headstone has his Hebrew and English name along with the chronology of his life. Atop, the granite to words, “Shower the People you Love with Love.” These are lyrics by James Taylor. Not coincidentally, JT was Jacob’s choice of music as he passed.
Do I heed these words? Do I shower those closest to me with love? I want to think I do but I fall short. Jacob treated everyone as his equal. He rarely put people on pedestals. He never treated those less fortunate differently. Jacob showered everyone with love. This is a lesson I need. Jacob’s ability to accept people as they are, is a true indication of his own self-love. It was never necessary for him to portray any fictitious bravado. Being loving, caring and genuine was an organic action for Jacob.
I need to work harder than Jacob. Naomi, Ana, and the rest of my family are the closest people to me. Treating strangers with love is easy for me. Often, showering those closest to me with love, gets forgotten. They see me at my worst. Those closest witness my angst, fear, and insecurities. They bear witness to my tantrums and actions, for which, I don’t show the world. Too often, I don’t say the things I want to say. Too often, I don’t tell Naomi what I tell everyone else. She’s the strongest, baddest chick on the planet. Ana takes after her.
Ana moved to the country’s third largest city, entered college, met new friends, and developed a support system. All of this, months after losing her big brother. How was she able to do this? Two things stick out to me. Ana has an inner strength that people now see. This power allows her to be vulnerable while steadfast. The other reason is Jacob. Jacob showered his sister with love before he died. His love came in his words to her. No matter where Ana goes, Jacob is there first, leading her way. She is not alone, and she knows this.
Words mean a lot. Words can comfort us when we are sad. Words can make us laugh, as much as they can hurt. Jacob used his words wisely. His showering of love was about more. He showered people with actions of love and passion. I owe my family actions. I’ve fallen short. At the very least, the basement needs to be organized. I have a few other “projects” that I’ve put off for various inadequate excuses. My words without action are meaningless. I see that. Everything we do requires action. Inaction leads to stagnation. I will continue to learn from Jacob.
When I don’t take actions to stay proactive, I suffer. Personal suffering isn’t real when people have loved ones. No one suffers alone. Jacob wasn’t alone nor am I. Inaction is the enemy of everyone around me, when I choose it. My actions (or inactions) effect those around me. I will make dinner tonight and start slowly.
Be good to one another, and shower those around you with love and empathy.