Throughout life we meet many people that through some simple display of concern, reaching out, and caring; they become forever sacred and revered in our memories. That would accurately describe Jack and Jewls. Both were exceptionally good people, but in other ways they could not have been more different.
Saturday, we received a telephone call from one of Jack’s friends. Jack had died at home.
Arriving at his home to find the Scotland County EMT and some friends waiting, I stepped inside to see the earthen vessel of an almost 89-year-old friend, sitting peacefully in his recliner. There was no suffering — only peace.
I next glimpsed sitting upon his coffee table the book, “Songs, Merry and Sad” by North Carolina Poet Laureate and Scotland County native, John Charles McNeill. We both shared a love of his poetry.
Picking up his book of poems, my thumb instantly opened to the poem, “Sundown,” and by heart I recited the words as a tribute to my departed friend:
“Hills, wrapped in gray, standing along the west;
Clouds, dimly lighted, gathering slowly;
The star of peace at watch above the crest—
Oh, holy, holy, holy!
We know, O Lord, so little what is best;
Wingless, we move so lowly;
But in thy calm all-knowledge let us rest—
Oh, holy, holy, holy!”
I can’t recall when I first met Jack, so it is safe to say that I’ve known him all of my life. He had a daughter that started first grade and graduated with me, so seeing him and his lovely wife were memories from my earliest days.
Certainly, it was important that Jack was a US Navy veteran of World War II, a Mason, a Southern Baptist, and there is no telling how many other titles he could carry; but most important he was genuine and caring – traits that he shared with anyone.
Later, it seemed that many of the men of Jack’s generation now deceased that I had found to be positive influences were also Jack’s close friends: Spec, A.V., B.P., Francis, and the list could go on. Now it appeared to narrow down to three: Bill, Bill and D.J. and some of the younger ones at his breakfast group, or even some at his afternoon “Stubbs Daycare.”
Jack’s most valuable commodity was his time and his attention, and they were in abundance. He was one of those special men who gave you full attention when you spoke and if a reply was necessary, it came with years of precision tested wisdom. You see, Jack was a printer, and precision and accuracy were his trademarks.
After I had heart surgery and returned to work in February, Jack made it a point to pay me a visit: “You know, I can’t die unless you’re here to bury me!”
I replied: “Jack, PaPa didn’t retire until he was 85 and Pa didn’t retire until 84, and I’m not going to break the mold. You’ve got a long time to go!” We both shared a laugh.
Before I could completely focus upon my memories of Jack, news started filtering in about “Jewls,” or Julie. I’m one of the last to believe gossip, so I refused to believe what I heard and read. Her last post on Facebook that day was “Broken heart.”
Julie was a generation younger, a beautiful young lady with a vibrant personality. Following our loss of our son nearly three years ago to a drug overdose, Julie called me. She spoke lovingly of Michael and commended me for being honest with my feelings and frustrations. Momentarily, I would have thought that a psychiatrist was speaking with me, but Julie was honest: “I have the same problems as Michael.”
Michael had many problems that plagued him in life, and as I learned, Julie in some ways was not much different. Both had personalities that were full of charm, and both would sacrifice to help others in need.
I remember thanking her for her frankness and understanding, and offering her assurance that she was a unique and special lady with a wonderful family.
It was Julie’s parting statement that will never be forgotten: “Drugs can alter our physical bodies but not our souls or spiritual bodies. The devil is like that for he is after our physical bodies, so drugs are the devil. When Michael died he broke the bond with the devil and his spirit was freed to be with God.”
To that statement I was both stunned and enlightened at what those words meant to me: Michael is alive spiritually, free from drugs, and in the presence of an omnipotent God!
Thank you, Julie!
Sunday morning the reality that something had happened to Julie became all too real. Her friends left posts on her Facebook page, and others began asking me for more information whilst at I was at church. All I could do at the time was to think about that long and very important telephone call we shared in late 2011.
Julie’s father later called and asked if I could come over that afternoon. The personal reality was there was no “I.” My wife Lynn agreed to go with me for much needed emotional support, and she proved just how much support she can be.
We met with Danny and Carolina, Julie’s parents, for an indefinite length of time. As Danny reminded us upon our arrival, “You’ve already lived this story.” Looking back it is hard to tell just who helped who during our visit. We had lost beloved children in what could be called socially unacceptable ways; and freely sharing our feelings that “we’re not alone in this” was sometimes painful, but always supportive, and uplifting.
We reflected on Julie’s positive side as a caring and giving young lady: her times helping youth, her times helping hurricane relief efforts in Louisiana, and her spontaneous gift of helping others and animals.
Carolina shared Julie’s Bible devotion from Saturday, a devotion that proved to be prophetic from Psalm 37:40 – “The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”
Jewls or Julie is now completely in her spiritual body, or as she has said: “My spirit has been freed to be with God.”
Reflecting back, Jack and Jewls were two unique folks in their own right that left a positive impression not only upon myself, but their families and many, many friends.
Yes, we all have our bad sides, and we can choose to dwell on the negative, but even the worst of us have a positive side that is visible if we chose to look. Jacks positive side was easy to see, as it appeared that was all that he had. Julie had her demons,that at times controlled her actions, but looking on the positive side she was a helping angel in disguise for so many others.
The truly untold story of Julie (and Michael) knowing their abilities, drive, and outgoing personalities: They both had chances to live a long and productive lives of service much like Jack. Just how great their impact could have been within that scenario will never be known. Instead, mind-altering substances not only controlled them, but also denied them of possibly 60 or more years of love, life, and memories — the very real human tragedy.
Beacham McDougald is president of McDougald Funeral Home and Crematorium in Laurinburg. He serves as vice chair of the Scotland County Highland Games, on the Scotland County Tourism Development Authority, and is the founder and liaison of the Scotland High School-Oban High School student exchange program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.