I am unsure if empathy can be learned. I hope so. I have always felt the plight of others but never as much as I have since I met Jackie Acho. The ability for me to relate to others has always been there without the knowledge of its importance. I now know how necessary it is in order for the people of this world to start to understand those who differ from us in opinions, color, religion, ideals, etc.
Cancer’s lack of empathy took another beautiful soul last week. Jackie’s physical absence is already felt by her family and friends. Her legacy as a humanitarian will never die. With that, however, I feel the same sadness for us a society because we have been deprived of future works.
Jackie and Jacob, two souls gone too soon. We hear it, ad nauseum, when the sequence of death is changed. With current medicines and practices, people who are 54 and 20, respectively, shouldn’t die. We are only left with more questions than answers.
I couldn’t read Jackie’s obituary until today. I didn’t want to accept her death. I still don’t. Here is a small excerpt from her obit. “Jackie will be remembered for her many rich relationships, borne out of true empathy and a desire to support others when they were most in need.” This is the Jackie I love. She didn’t stop caring.
Jacob died 2 years and 5 days before Jackie. I will forever light two candles in remembrance of their deaths. The two J’s lived with parallel intention and died similarly. This is the paradox of cancer. Cancer defines people. Once you get it, you’re the person with it. It defines us in death.
I only knew Jackie BECAUSE of cancer. She and Jacob were diagnosed closely together. We met when she started reading my blogs. I didn’t have a long relationship with Jackie. We are now forever tied by a love of people and life. I was honored to write a blurb in her upcoming book. I was honored that she shared an hour of her week (sometimes more), when she was getting treatments in Istanbul. We talked about the treatments at times. Other times we discussed the current state of empathy care in Turkey vs. the US. Most of our conversations, however, focused around the cool shit her and John were doing in Turkey.
When Jackie wasn’t in treatment, she was exploring the culture of Istanbul with John. She talked for hours, not so much about sites (but those too), but about the people and history of the city. I treasure our talks. I will forever remember her face and smile. I saw Jackie without makeup. She was as beautiful as ever.
On September 22, Jackie emailed me that they were initiating hospice. Knowing my levels of PTSD, she called me right away, before I even saw the email. Her first thoughts were of comfort for me. She had that ability to smile and reassure me she would be okay, and so would I. I didn’t believe her but I tried. She promised me that she’d be with Jacob and that they would watch over me.
Her last text to me read,” Read Latest (meaning my blog). Love you. Be kind to yourself. Keep on for all of us who have no choice.” I will take these words with me and implant them in my heart. So long sweet Jackie.
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