The Measure of a Man

There’s a lot of debate in the world about how you measure a man – number of friends? Wealth? Influence? Power? No one seems to really land on the right measure. For me, knowing one man for the last 4 years has definitively answered that question.

My friend Jason Schippers died on Sunday. He was 29. After being ill off and on he went into surgery last Friday to try to find a root cause and hopefully correct the issues he was having. Saturday I had a chance to visit him thanks to his very loving family – and talk to him a bit. I even got the chance to tell him I loved him. Talk with him about when he’s better; leaving the hospital.  He even tweeted:

Then a day later some complications arose and without getting into details, a week later, he was gone. We’d all lost our Skippy.

But this isn’t about Jason’s death.  It’s about how he lived his life.  His outlook on life was simple. He treated people well. Better than well. Ensured he had fun with friends at every turn. He put himself into everything he did. Everyone who met Jason couldn’t help but LIKE Jason. He wasn’t afraid to express his love. Or to fight to allow others to express theirs. We had him over for dinner more times than I can count and he always left our house with hugs and an “I love you” for both Brian and me – and he meant it.

Jason wasn’t perfect (hey, who is) but he lived his life with an abundance of love and joy for everyone around him. Whether you knew him for 4 days or 14 years – you were special to Jason. And he made sure you knew it.

I think the most telling legacy Jason left behind is reflected in the number of people I’ve met since his death.  People whose only connection to me is Jason. Literally dozens of people in Des Moines have reached out to me and I’ve been reaching out to them. His family has welcomed Brian and I with open arms throughout the last several difficult weeks. I’ve also gotten to know other wonderful people right here in Denver whom I never would have met except for Jason.  My twitter feed is literally blowing up. And I’m making new friends – and finding new support -all because of Jason.

Jason’s death has a lot of us reflecting. For me, the biggest reflection is on how I live my life – and how he lived his life; how he treated others; the joy he spread everywhere he went; the legacy he left behind. I find myself wondering if I can be as good a man as Jason. And as well loved when I’m gone.  They’re some big shoes to fill, but I owe it to him to try.

So if you’re looking for how you measure a man, please find any one of us who knew Jason Schippers.We’re all over the place and we all have stories we’re willing to share. He’s the best measure I’ve found in my nearly 40 years.  By his example: Give love. Get love. And leave love behind when you’re gone.

Peace out, Boy Scout.

We’ll miss you, but you’ll live on inside each and every one of us. Forever.

  • http://hollyworthy.wordpress.com Holly

    Nice post, Rich.
    “Give love. Get love. And leave love behind when you’re gone.”
    Real talk. We really did learn from the best.

    • http://www.richmackey.com/ richmackey

      Thanks, Holly. It’s interesting to reflect on WHY I liked Jason so much. It really was quite simple. And central to who he was.

  • Ann

    Very beautiful Rich and well said. I feel like I knew him from all of the heartfelt tributes I’ve seen today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/benjaminbacon Ben

    Touching. Let me expound on a point: I’d say, “whether one had known Jason for one lifetime or one tweet, they would feel his genuine character.” I knew him for one tweet; you knew him for one lifetime. And yet, we’re both welled up with emotion and tears. You, for him; I, for you. What’s the measure of a man? If it is the things you described above, then you set a worthy example, yourself.

  • Tana

    I sit here dumbfounded, shocked, saddened. Not even sure what to say, with such heavy sadness is weighing down. Not many people can put this scenario into beautiful words, and pull beauty from such a solemn close. Well said Rich, about such a joyous soul.

  • Melissa

    Speechless! Thanks for saying it just right about a man we all will never forget!

  • http://www.neverniche.com Clare

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Jason in person but we were Twitter friends and he was endlessly kind and encouraging. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • http://www.richmackey.com/ richmackey

      I thought it would post these under the comment I reply to – but it doesn’t. Silly wordpress. So let me just thank all of you who have read and commented so far. I had to get down in words what I was thinking and feeling – and after writing it thought others might like to read it too. So I fired up the blog (which has been dormant for a while) and posted.

      Specifically @Ben – thanks for reminding me. I believe it was one tweet (in response to a conversation he and I were having about Tokyo Joe’s) and he invited you to dinner whenever you came to town. That’s Jason.

  • Angela

    What a beautiful message. I went to school with Jason (and even dated him in 7th grade or something crazy like that!), and he was such an amazing guy. Your words have captured his essence. He will be greatly missed. Thank you for having the strength to write this.

  • Holly H.

    I knew Jason from the age of 13 on. He was always such a sweetheart. I moved out of state, and then he found me again through Myspace when I landed back in Iowa. We were looking for our first homes at the same time. I remember him sharing photos of his beautiful wedding. I had the chance to talk with Jason in some particularly down times of his life, and I can say that through everything he went through, he was always kind and encouraging. I’m very sad that I will never have the chance to see or talk to Jason again, and I know he will be mourned a great deal by the Southeast Polk High community.

  • Lisa Kelderman

    I worked with Jason for a little over a year. In that short time I didn’t get to know him well, but I learned to love the unbridled passion he had for life. He was never down despite having hard circumstances, and always tried to make friends with everyone…and usually succeeded! He was at times annoy with how flipping happy he was all the time. Is that how he got his nickname Skippy?? I don’t even know. I just know I miss his energy, his smile and I will miss the person he is. I couldn’t agree more that we could all try to be a little more like him. Apparently heaven needed a few more angels with his glowing personality as well. Thank you for this tribute to him.

  • Laura Thompson

    Jason was a bright and wonderful spirit. Your words depict him perfectly! I too worked with Jason and while I only knew him for a short time I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Even when I was in one of my morning grumps, he’d throw a wad of paper over the cube at me, come bopping around the corner, squeeze me on the head and give me a hug. The grumpiness was gone and I was happy to have such a wonderful friend/co-worker. He made my day! You don’t meet many people that can flip on the happy like a switch in others. They are rare….Jason was and still is a true measure of a wonderful person and we should all strive to have such an impact on the world! Love ya, J-dog! Oh, and “I love gum!” (inside joke) :) See ya at the gate.

  • Brett

    Very well written blog. It saddens me that you are dealing with this loss and that the world lost such a “positive” and extremely young person. It is always a sting to loose such a close friend. Being the polar opposite from Jason (Debbie Downer) I envy the type of person that he was. We all need to be thankful for life and take it a little lighter. Just know I’m here and I love both you and Brian. Keep Jason’s memory shining and he will shine back at you.