Category Archives: friends
I met my friend Jake in October of 2000 when I moved to Chicago. He was an up-beat show-tune loving copy writer at an agency. And I was moving there to work at an agency.
That December I received his Christmas letter. In his letter, he had a good portion dedicated to his friend, Miriam Wolfe, who was killed in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Every year since I have been reminded that Jake will never forget Miriam. Or the other 269 people aboard that flight.
With the influx of Social Media, Jake’s status update today was the reminder of this important person, whom I never had the pleasure to meet:
Jake is remembering Miriam Wolfe and the other 269 people murdered in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, 22 years ago today. If you were still here, Miriam, we would totally be spending our days making fun of Bristol Palin on Facebook. I just know it.
The thing about Jake’s updates that I love is that last sentence. Every year for the last ten years I’ve had a glimpse into Miriam’s personality via something socially topical that would have given her a laugh, an eye roll or a tearful hug with Jake.
This year, Jake’s update took on new meaning for me. On October 31, 2010 I lost my friend Jason. Though we still don’t know what took his life, the loss has been profound. As I commented on Jake’s status, he reached out via email to give me some advice on loss. In doing so, I had the opportunity to share my previous posts about Jason and give Jake a sense of who Jason was. Just as Jake has given me a sense of who Miriam was – every December 22 for 10 years.
A few minutes ago, after a few emails back and forth, Jake left me with this:
It’s better to suffer the pain of loss than to have nothing to mourn when it’s gone.
I’m glad I knew Jason as well and as long as I did. I’m glad I was overcome with emotional and physical pain when we lost him. I’m glad I have something to mourn. I’m also glad it gave me something to share with so many new friends and old friends alike. And it reminded me that as long as I have stories about Jason – and can paint a picture of who he was with my words – he’ll never really be gone. And his influence will continue to reach more and more people.
I don’t need any better Christmas present than that.
To read more about Miriam see Jake’s current blog post here.
To read more about Jason please see my previous posts:
It’s been just shy of 2 weeks now since Jason died (yes, I say died – as a good friend put it, he didn’t “pass away.” That’s too passive. He went kicking and screaming). And I’ve been doing a lot of thinking; Sharing some here, sharing some with people in person and some only with myself. But the thing I realized this week is that Jason taught me a LOT. For a 29 year old, he sure had his priorities straight.
Here are 8 things I learned from him:
- Friends matter. A lot.
Jason made time for his friends. Always. Even when he was in pain, he would make time for you. He never refused a dinner invitation and worked his schedule to maximize friend time. In doing so, he left a huge number of people behind (you’ve heard me say this already) who can remember him, cherish him and help one another through the rough times dealing with his loss.
- Shitty stuff happens. Move on.
Jason didn’t let the crap in life stick to his shoes. Bad things would happen – to him or to us – and he would be the first one to say “You know, it sucks. But let’s look at this next opportunity.” He didn’t dwell on the shit in life.
- Be who you are. Always.
Jason was always Jason. You got 100% Jason whenever you were with him – take it or leave it. He didn’t compromise his love of superheroes, comics and tattoos when seeking a girlfriend or friends. He told it like it was whether you wanted to hear it or not and he didn’t apologize for his tattoos, his love of TV shows or any other aspect of who he was. And he didn’t expect us to either.
- Equality Matters. Period.
I’m a gay man who grew up in Iowa and try to stay abreast of political issues, but it was Jason, a straight 29-year old, who kept me up to date on the Iowa Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage. He was a fierce advocate for equal rights for EVERYONE and a true friend of the gay community. As a mutual friend of ours noted – Jason is a 100% straight dude who is just very homo-friendly. He loved everyone and felt everyone should be treated equally.
- Telling people you love that you love them is critical.
Jason was never shy about telling those close to him he loved them. Every single time I saw him our parting ended with a big hug, and a “love you.” One of the best things I remember is being able to remind him I loved him when I saw him a week before he died. And him responding “Love you, too.”
- Funny doesn’t come at someone else’s expense.
Jason was hilarious. And he did funny things – sometimes to his friends. But I never once saw him in a situation where he was laughing at someone or cutting someone down to make himself or others feel better. Even if the joke seemed to be at your expense, you were a part of it. You gave him permission to let you in on it – and you were always laughing with him. He was never laughing at you.
- Superheroes exist.
This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from Jason – and one that was eloquently stated at his funeral. Jason was a superhero. He didn’t fly or bust through walls (as far as we know) but he had a power to connect people. And a power to persuade you to do things that were good for you – or things that were just amusing for you, him and everyone around. He lit up a room when he entered and people WANTED to be close to him. You just wanted to hang out with Jason. And you felt better doing so. If that isn’t superpower, I don’t know what is.
- Count to 5.
Since I was a huge LOST fan, you could say I learned this from LOST. But honestly, the significance didn’t really hit me until Jason and I were talking about his tattoo. It was Jason who taught me how to put this into practice in life. When you’re scared, let the fear in. Let it take over. But just for 5 seconds. Then move on and do what you need to do.
So that’s what I learned from Jason – and what he leaves with me for the rest of my life. I think those 8 things are a pretty good companion to the scar I’ll always have on my heart. But while the scar will get smaller and smaller as time goes by, I hope these 8 lessons get larger and larger – and I’m able to pass them on to others. And keep them in mind every day.
I’ve been fortunate in my nearly 40 years to have never truly experienced the phenomenon of emotional pain manifesting itself as physical pain. Until this week.
When Jason died on Sunday, I found myself first, at a loss for words. And second, clinging to a woman I’d met just 3 hours earlier who was also a part of his life. I held onto her partly because she needed it – and partly because I did. We both needed comfort and quite honestly, standing together holding one another was better than both of us crashing to the floor. The grief, for both of us (and for his family and our other friends who were there) was LITERALLY too much to bear. It was knocking us over.
Once the initial shock began to wear off (though the total shock still hasn’t) I found myself clutching the right side of my chest. I think I worried a few people (had it been the left, I think they would have rushed me in for a heart exam). I didn’t really explain why. But what I was feeling was quite literally the sensation that something sharp had been stabbed through my chest. No explanation for it. Just a deep stabbing pain.
Yesterday, when I woke up, I had a panic attack (I hadn’t had a panic attack since 2003… which is another story). It was my first day back at work since Sunday and I wasn’t sure what to fully expect of myself or my emotions. Once that subsided and I got up to start my day I found that instead of a stabbing pain I had a massive physical emptiness in the center of my chest. Like a 6″ hole had been drilled through me. It’s still there as I write this.
My body reacting to grief like this is new to me. Sure, my grandparents passed away years ago – and I was sad to lose them, but this was a different feeling. As I try to bear the brunt of this grief – I can only imagine what others are feeling. Which leads me to my next point.
There’s the old cliché that “time heals all wounds.” While I believe time passing helps us cope better, I firmly believe that this wound will still be with me until I die. My heart is scarred permanently this time. I think what’s more appropriate, and what I learned recently, is that love makes unbearable grief, bearable.
The first signs of love came from Jason’s Mom, Dad and sister. They embraced Brian and I as part of their family while Jason was in surgery and in the week that came after. As his mom put it “you’re part of our lives forever.” And as we told her, “No worries. You’re not getting rid of us easily.” Unfettered. Unconditional. Love.
We also got to spend time with a very close friend Jason called his brother (to the point where prior to meeting him I didn’t know he wasn’t ACTUALLY his brother by blood). I feel like I’ve known him forever as much as Jason talked about him. We saw each other again last night and shared memories – and of course took a goofy picture Jason would love. (Keep in mind I wasn’t really shocked or disgusted, just making a weird face for effect.)
But the most incredible part has happend over the past 4 days (has it really only been 4 days?): I’ve had the privilege of being inundated with Twitter followers and Facebook friends. What struck me the most about all of them is we only have 1 thing in common – Jason. All of us are trying to find our own way of dealing with his loss and in reaching out via social media, we’re helping one another bear the unbearable grief. I can’t speak for any of them – they have their own voices – but for me, the impact has been profound.
This week I’ve tweeted incessantly with at least 40 different people who knew Jason. Sharing stories. Sharing sadness. Sharing grief. And most of all, sharing love. I’ve been the recipient of so much love from people I’ve never met, it’s been literally overwhelming. I found myself crying this morning not because Jason was gone – but because he had all of these fantastic people in his life, people who have reached out to comfort me – while they’re OWN hearts are breaking. Being on the receiving end of that much love has been one of the biggest blessings Jason could have ever left us. And a true testament to who he was.
Last night social media broke into the real world as I met a ton of Jason’s Denver friends in person as we all raised a glass in his honor at Rackhouse Pub in Denver. The turnout was huge and we raised a little money for his family to help offset expenses as well. An outpouring of love.
This weekend, when we travel to Iowa for the services, I’ll get the chance to meet what I call “half of Des Moines” who loved Jason – and who have in turn, shown their love for me – a total stranger.
No doubt I’ll be overwhelmed again meeting all of those people who were important to Jason. And for whom he was important. But I welcome them with open arms. And an open heart.
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.