Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Day 92: Beautiful letters, and more to come

It’s Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. I’m at home, and Anna’s at BodyChoir dancing for joy and thanks. I’m not ready for that yet, but I’m thrilled that Anna can—I’ll be back before long.

As one small expression of my gratitude, I want to go back ten days, to the weekend before we left M.D. Anderson, to say thanks for yet more beautiful letters.

It was Anna’s birthday last Sunday (the 12th). The previous night, five women friends from BodyChoir made the journey to Houston, to spend the night in adjoining rooms and then go dancing with Anna at a Houstonian incarnation of BodyChoir (where they were joined by five or six more folks from Austin). On Saturday night the seven of us were sitting in our living room at Rotary House—me, Anna, Nicky, Colleen, Sara Lo, Amy, and Gina—and we thought it would be nice to invite them to open some letters with us and read them aloud to me. So that’s what we did, each person (except me, of course) taking two envelopes. It was wonderful, hearing the quiet voices reading in the near-dark, so curious to know what they would say and so careful to get it right. I didn’t note who read what, but here they are, “in the order it was received,” as the voice mail systems say.

First was a lovely collage called “The Meaning of Love.” Several people tried to decipher the signature but couldn’t, and then the phrase “my family here in the United States” leapt out at me along with the initial “L” at the end, and I thought it must have come from Luciana, a beautiful, sweet dancer from Brazil whom we met at BodyChoir sometime last fall.  Next was a card showing a beautiful orange tiger at the feet of a Buddha beneath a hand-drawn background with a golden moon, and inside was a healing message from Scott and Cherry, more BodyChoir friends—Scott had gone in for scary heart surgery not long after I came back to BodyChoir in the fall last year; Cherry’s a naturopathic nurse; both helped keep me strong during the dance and with a magical though quick visit while I was at Seton back in June. Then there was a sweet letter from Ivana Slavnic, who came to Austin from Sarajevo in 1991 with her husband, Ivo, and son, Marko, for what was supposed to be a six-month Fulbright stay in the English Department, then got trapped by the terrible war in what had been Yugoslavia—nostalgic for her childhood in Dubrovnik, praying for my health, and including Blake’s poem “The Nurse’s Song” to help me on the way.  Ivana’s letter and poem were followed by a long letter fro Amparo Garcia—BodyChoir dancer, playwright, improviser, story-teller—that included the two poems she had read at our leave-taking ceremony in August, her own “God’s Real Name” and 7-year-old Sria’s lovely, funny, startlingly articulate poem about the bike ride of life.   Amparo has had her own struggles with serious illness in the past couple of years; so has her friend Charley, a jazz musician and BodyChoir facilitator, who sent a poem about his own experience of cancer and a letter that included a Hebrew prayer to the God of healing that Charley had found healing as well—as if somehow Charley had tuned in to the prayers that Neil Blumofe would chant at the celebration.

Then there was a card from Liz, Alan, and Daniel—Liz and I shared a house for about 6 weeks in the fall of 1979 when we were both newly arrived in Austin; she and Alan and I have been friends ever since,; they were at our wedding and we were at theirs, and we share their delight in Daniel, now in his second (or is it third?) year at UT. On the card was a blue and white dove, and inside was Yeats’ poem “A Friend’s Illness” (Liz is one of the foremost Yeats scholars in the world, and Alan too is a student of Irish writers, especially Joyce and Beckett). It was Liz and Alan who introduced us to Ivo and Ivana and Marko…  Following that was a card from Allison Orr, a fine choreographer whom we met at Deborah Hay’s “Immensity at Work” workshop in 2001. Along with the card, which shoed a an abundance of vegetables and fruit in a still life that was also somehow a cornucopia, was a letter in which Allison talked about the dance, “Sextet,” which she had choreographed in late 2002 and early 2003 for “an English professor, a Zen priest, their guide dogs, and two trained dancers,” with live audio description by Celia Hughes; it was an extraordinary thing for all of us, changing all of our lives. The sound of Dillon’s feet galloping across the stage, solo, to thunderous applause is something I’ll never forget.  Next came a letter from Mark Sullivan, another BodyChoir dancer; Mark, who brought me a beautiful meal of salmon with herbs from his own garden when I was at St. David’s in the summer of 2005 and had regained the ability to eat, celebrated the love between me and Anna and sent two poems, one a short piece of his own and the other W.E. Henley’s “Master of My Soul.”

Then there was a postcard, hand-made, whimsical, from Honoria Starbuck, mail artist and historian of mail art, grower of nasturtiums, that reminded me of the mail-art mystery stories she used to send me when I was teaching in Paris in 1992—the card showed  a woman in a big hat (Honoria sometimes wears big hats) holding up her hand in “a tropical area”; above the hand were tiny men in blue suits, hugging, legs in air (I keep thinking of Magritte’s men in bowler hats raining down on the streets of Paris), as the legend said, “to provoke the copulation between art and non-art” (from a mail-art manifesto). Next to be opened was an envelope containing a card signed only “Daniel” (I think this is Alejandra’s husband, a wonderful, kind man from San Antonio, a photographer who seems always to have a smile in his voice) containing a short message of great gravity (but not heaviness)—the Hebrew prayer Shehma Israel (Hear, O Israel…), such a powerful prayer, so resonant in my memory—I had flashbacks of going to synagogue with my family when I was little, not understanding the words but loving the chanting, voices of old men who had been praying at their own pace throughout the service suddenly coming together, then diverging again.  At the end there was Gina, who shares her tiny house in Fredericksburg with no fewer than seven cats, holding up the card she had sent—a picture of many kittens rolling around, and a healing mantra from Ram Das: Be here now.

Then we all sat quietly for a while, taking it all in; I still marvel at the beauty of each letter and the beauty of the round-robin reading.

The next evening—Anna’s actual birthday—it was just the two of us (Anna had danced in the morning, as I said above, and I had joined the group for lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Los Cucos on Memorial Drive, near the place where the dancing had been; we sat outside in the cool, clear, sunny air), and we opened just two envelopes. But what envelopes they were. The first was from Damaun Gracenin, a very tall man with a deep voice and an East Coast accent with whom I’ve danced a few times at BodyChoir and with whom I had a long conversation that took many twists and turns exactly a year ago that night—I remember it because we were in Laura Rose’s back yard at a surprise birthday party she had organized for Anna (my job had been just to get her there, to Laura Rose’s house, where she thought the wonderful massages by Layla and Gina were the entire surprise, until she stepped out the back door and the yard erupted into Happy Birthday; and I was still weak and shaky from (what we thought was) the last round of chemo that had ended two weeks earlier—and now here was Damaun’s voice coming off the page. It was an elegant, beautifully written discourse on shallow truths and deep truths and on the nature of the self and on love, and it ended with the simple phrase “I love you,” and all I could do was sit there stunned and grateful, not realizing for a moment that I had been holding my breath. And then Anna opened an envelope with a card from Paul and Kari Taylor (who has had her own hospital stay this year) depicting a beautiful Mayan forest and enclosing a letter from Paul, who will I think be pleased to know that he succeeded in finding a poem I would never have expected from him (when I met him in 1986 in what was then just beginning to be the CWRL, Paul was a medievalist who liked the really early stuff, on his way to becoming a rhetorician). The poem was Ted Hughes’ “Wodwo,” a startling piece when it was first published in the 60s, one I hadn’t read for a very long time. The speaker is a crow, and the poem is a kind of harsh meditation on life and death and the boundaries between self and world; then Paul went on to talk about his experiences as a long-distance bicycle rider and how the long rides test the limits of self; he wanted me to know that I had affected many lives, including his, and again I sat stunned and grateful beyond words.

They are such gifts, these letters and poems and drawings. I know that they have played a critical role in helping me come through the transplant in such good shape so far, and I think my doctors know it, too, though they can’t explain it any more than I can.

This isn’t the end of the letters, either. We’re back in Austin now, but there are so many letters we couldn’t possibly open them all while we were still in Houston without rushing through them, which felt like it would have violated the spirit of care and thoughtfulness and tenderness with which they were composed and brought to us. So we’ve brought them home, and will continue opening them until we reach the last one. And then, for the sheer beauty of it, maybe we’ll read them all again.

Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Day 89: Home at last!

Written on Thursday

It appears to be true—barring some unforeseen something, we’re heading home tomorrow! It’s a joyful, exciting, slightly bittersweet time—in the three months we’ve been here we’ve met some wonderful people, formed some intense relationships, been terrified, been elated, been watchful, learned a lot about ourselves individually and together, become even closer. And now this phase of our lives is coming to a close, and the next stage of the adventure begins. We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from all of you, including people we may not even know, to whom these posts, I’ve heard, are being forwarded. There are people here whom we’ll miss very much, with whom we’ll try to stay in touch, both through the blog (which will continue) and more directly; we’ll see some of them when we come back for follow-up visits, but others, like us, will have gone home. There’s a certain sadness in this, the more since some of our friends are having a harder time in the aftermath of transplant than I’ve had so far. And in the past two days I’ve learned about two others—not people at M.D. Anderson—have relapsed or been newly diagnosed. Makes it hard to breathe. But at the same time I’m just beside myself with joy—sudden fits of tears, sudden bursts of laughter at some image popping up in my head out of nowhere.

Some poignant moments— Sunday night we had dinner with Lisa, one of the great nurses in the ATC—an ebullient woman who lights up the clinic with her caring, her good humor, her thoughtfulness. Tuesday night we had a surprise dinner with Rose and Frank Jackson, Sr., Frank’s parents, who had driven back to Houston for the hard task of cleaning out the apartment where Rose and Frank had spent so much time. It was a beautiful, joyous evening—Rose and Frank are such wonderful, strong, happy people, interested in others and in the world, and committed to making sure that their son’s life will continue to make a difference in the lives of others. Last night we ate with Mary Alma, the PA for Dr. Giles, the leukemia doctor who treated me in May and June and brought me back into remission to prepare for the transplant. Mary Alma was a terrific human presence during that terrible, difficult time, returning pages at all sorts of times, answering questions patiently and clearly, then answering them again when we forgot or didn’t understand what she’d said, helping us get some perspective. The treatment prescribed by Dr. Giles saved my life, together with the radiation treatments planned with care and precision by Dr. Dabaja, whom we visited in her clinic this afternoon for just long enough to say thanks and to give her a present—a soft, cuddly, stuffed yellow lab toy from Guide Dogs for the Blind (several people said it looked just like Dillon!) for her daughter, who wants a dog; and another soft cuddly thing for her brand-new son, Abbas, just a month old, who’s been in the hospital since he was born but may be coming out next week—what wonderful news. We said good-bye and thanks to the folks down in Physical Therapy, too—Steve, BJ, Gail, Shami—who’ve been terrific in helping me regain my strength. Tomorrow morning we’ll go to the ATC for the last time; besides saying good-bye to Lisa and the other people who’ve taken such good care of me for the past 60 days—Namshi, Tessie, Elsie, Juanita, Julie, Jennifer, Glenn, Craig, Elaine, Stacy, Andy, Ro, Michelle, Lisa< AND I’m sure others as well whose names I never caught. And we’ll see Dr. Andersson, who has to be the one to sign off on my discharge.

Post script, Friday

And today’s the day! JayByrd’s back at the room packing up the last or next-to-last of the stuff while we’re in the ATC. Before we got here, of course, we went to the Lab on the second floor for a blood draw. JoAnn, a matronly African-American woman with a deep, calm voice and a soft spot for Dillon—she’s done more of my blood draws than anyone else down in that labyrinth—walked me back out to the waiting area when we were finished; she turned to Anna and said, “There’s just one more thing I need from him,” then reached for me and gave me a great big hug and told me to take care of myself and stay away from sick people. What a nice woman.

Dr. Andersson came in with Elaine and the PharmD, liked at me for a minute, and said, “I think you should get out of here.” “Me, too,” I said, grinning. He did the usual exam, then—looked in my mouth, listened to my lungs, heart, and belly (which he also prodded), checked for swelling in the ankles—and said “You just couldn’t be doing any better.” Then we talked about follow-up, both at M.D. Anderson and here in Austin. First, we’ll have to go back on Monday afternoon for the Day 90 bone marrow biopsy, plus a 90-minute IV dose of Pentamidine, a drug they administer every three weeks to prevent a particularly nasty type of fungal pneumonia. Then we’ll go back to Houston on December 11 for another lumbar puncture (to check that the spinal fluid is still clear and give me a tiny dose of AraC just in case) and whatever else they think of between now and then. And in the meantime I’ll see Dr. Tucker on Wednesday afternoon at the Southwest Regional Cancer Center in Austin.

Then came the Big Moment. We heard footsteps and voices coming down the hall toward the room, and then they were all there—at least all the nurses and other staff people who weren’t tending to other patients elsewhere in the clinic—and they sang the “graduation” song for us this time: Shan a na na, sha na na na, hey hey, you’re going home! Anna and I were standing over on the far side of the bed, holding onto each other, laughing and crying, trying to say thanks but not able to get the words out for a while. Lisa hung a medal around my neck, like an Olympic medal on a red, white, and blue ribbon, and then bent down and gave one to Dillon, too (I don’t know that he was especially thrilled by this, but he didn’t object, just stood there as if of course he deserved a medal). There were hugs all around, and a few more tears, and then we packed up and left the clinic.

The one disappointment in all that was that they didn’t remove my catheter as we thought they would—they’ll use it to deliver Monday’s dose of Pentamidine and then I can get it out of my chest. So instead of going downstairs to deal with that—a very quick procedure—we went instead to the Infusion Therapy area on the second floor to have the dressing changed. That’s a quick procedure, too—about 15 minutes—but not today. Today the waiting area wasn’t just packed, it was thronged with people—people waiting to attend the 1:30 Catheter Care class, people waiting for their turn at chemo, people waiting to have their dressings changes, people waiting for God knows what. So we sat. And sat. Anna couldn’t stand the suspense any more and went to the library area to run an errand and find some reading material. She came back 30 or 45 minutes later, and I was still sitting where she’d left me. We sat some more. Finally I got up and walked toward the desk to see how many people were still in front of me, and just as I approached the tech called my name. So in I went, and from there it was indeed quick, maybe about 5 minutes or a little longer.

Now we were ready to go. We walked back across the Skybridge into Rotary House and across the second floor to the garage and into the car. Hurray! We were finally off! Anna put Asleep at the Wheel’s “Ride with Bob” CD on—it’s become our travel CD, a lively, happy rendering of classic tunes by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys—and we pulled out of the garage. And into traffic—it took a full hour to get to I-10, normally a 15-minute drive. It was frustrating, but I didn’t care—we were headed home!

Post post script, Sunday

And what a fantastic, glorious welcome we got! As we turned the corner from Tom Green onto E. 35th Street and pulled up in front of the house, Anna suddenly shouted, “John! There are balloons! Our whole yard is covered with balloons!” and we were laughing and crying again, and when we got out of the car there were Jim Thatcher and Diana Seidel, Jim Allan (KC was home with a cold—sorry, KC!), Sharron Rush and Ron Hicks. Grinning, jumping up and down, celebrating with us. Pictures were taken. Dillon jumped up and down and greeted everyone. Then we all went inside and dinner appeared—Diana had made a lasagna and ratatouille, and Peg Syverson came a few minutes later to give me a great big hug and put a salad on the table (I couldn’t eat it, thanks to the continuing restriction on raw food, but I enjoyed hearing about it and smelling it). Later there was tea and coffee and fruit tart and chocolate cookies. The dishwasher was loaded, and Anna and I were there, in our house, in our own bed, weary and overjoyed.

It’s been almost 48 hours now, and the feeling hasn’t left us. Still elated, still deeply, deeply happy, feeling surrounded by love. We went to Hyde Park Gym yesterday afternoon for a workout—I was a bit humbled to discover that the weights I had worked so hard to lift in Physical Therapy were just a bit lighter than the starter weights on the equipment at Hyde Park, but no matter!—and Anna went to BodyChoir this morning while I stayed home and played on my computer, downloading first the newest version of my screen reader, JAWS (8.0), and then, with a gulp, Internet Explorer 7; neither has crashed yet. Nothing’s different, and everything’s different.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Day 83: Coming home! and more of your letters

Great news! We’re coming home Friday—just four days from now! We’ll have to come back to Houston Sunday night, for a bone marrow biopsy on Monday and to have my catheter removed! And then we’ll be home again Monday night to stay. I can hardly bear it!

I wrote the following a few days ago but held off posting it; now I want to send it in a hurry because my computer’s acting very strange and I want this out before the thing crashes again. I love you all, and will see you soon!

I just realized it’s been nearly a month since I last thanked you for your beautiful cards, letters, and other contributions to the 130 Letters project—I’m so sorry! We draw so much sustenance from these beautiful things, and opening the envelops has become an important ritual for us. Anna’s sister, Patti, sent a photo of her granddaughter, Sophie Kate, who’s now 11 months old (or almost). KC Dignan, who works with teachers of the visually impaired throughout Texas and the US, and whom I first met when I was invited to be a guest in a graduate seminar on visual impairment in (I think) 1986—and who also happens to be married to my good friend Jim Allan—sent a fine poem about ripples—ripples in the water, ripples of a life touching other lives. Jim Thatcher and his wife, Diana Seidel, sent a CD of Charlotte’s Web read by the author, E.B. White. I remember my father reading it to us when I was a little boy—it’s probably been 50 years since I last heard it!—and I put it on at bedtime, so it would read me to sleep as of course it should. We also opened another card from Kathy Keller, another accessibility friend, who has sent so many cards, each one a gentle reminder of love. There was a card from Dave Stones and his wife, Christy Swanteson (don’t think I’ve got the spelling right, sorry!). They were our neighbors 20 years ago on Citadel Cove in University Hills, and we became close friends—Dave, who ran the registrar’s computer systems at UT then; he’s now Registrar at Southwestern University in Georgetown, where our friends Larkin and Leonard live, too—drove me to work almost every day, and often home again, too, until he and Christy and their son Dan moved out to Round Rock; Dave and I drove Christy and Anna crazy with an endless series of awful puns… There was also a card from Sue and Kurt Heinzelman, who are among our oldest and best friends in Austin, from whom we bought the Citadel Cove house in 1985—a simple card, picturing what Anna described as beautiful lilies, say that we’re always in their thoughts. Lorraine Fisher’s 2-year-old daughter, Emily, sent a card she had made herself, complete with drawings and a rendition of my name with the hook of the “J” facing right rather than the more customary left; Lorraine and Emily visited us shortly before we came here to Austin—Lorraine had been on a trip home to see her father, Alan Friedman, and his wife, Liz Cullingford—two more of our oldest and best friends; Liz is now chair of the English Department, something I suspect neither of us could have imagined in the fall of 1979 when we both arrived in Austin and sublet different parts of the same house. Jackie Henkel, another English Department colleague and friend, and her husband Cliff—father of one of Ledia’s best friends in high school—sent a thoughtful card as well. Pam Scott and Judy Watford sent a card whose message is in Braille. I think Judy was working in the Technical Evaluation Unit at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center when I went there for the first time in 1980 to learn how new technologies might help; Pam was my Braille teacher—twice, in fact, and even the second time she had to fire me again because I wasn’t doing my homework; it’s no fault of hers that my Braille literacy isn’t what it should be! Pam is also a cancer survivor (in fact, we met a couple of times at the Cancer Center in Austin) who’s helped me by sharing her experiences. Steve and Helen Schoonover sent a card and an intense Phoebe Snow CD; Anna has worked with them for 20 years, I think, and they’ve become good friends, making us welcome in their beautiful home on Cape Cod, literally a stone’s throw from the beach. There was also a sweet, thoughtful letter from Isabel Mendieta, who works quietly and hard to keep our house clean; I couldn’t read her painstaking Spanish, but Anna translated for me, and I was struck all over again by Isabel’s generosity of spirit.

And we’ve heard from many of our BodyChoir friends as well. Gordon and Bee came to visit a few weeks ago, and we had a lovely dinner at a fine Mexican restaurant called Hugo’s, where we celebrated Bee’s birthday. Cards and letters pour in, too. Kunda sent a sweet letter along with detailed notes from some of the readings she’d been doing about chaos and community. Big Al sent a very funny limerick (off-color, of course) to remind me not to take all this too seriously all the time. Macio sent a CD containing beautiful readings of poems by the Sufi poets Rumi and Hafez. Autumn, Bree (sp?), and Gretchen sent lovely letters full of feeling. Michael and Jan Haney sent a thoughtful card. Another card came from Sara Lo, this one showing Labrador puppies and little kittens, with a sweet note inside; I could hear Sara Lo’s strong French accent reading it. Alejandra and her husband Daniel sent a card that featured beautifully photographed dogs in interesting human-like poses, together with two fine CDs that we’ve enjoyed very much. Amanda Winter sent us a string of fine, small bells that tinkle very quietly every time I brush the room divider on which we’ve hung them, a sound that seems to come from far away though the source is right at hand; there was also a small purse with an embroidered elephant and sheaf of poems. Patricia Rollins sent a lovely card with a note written over a photo of Anna and Laura Rose, over which Patricia had written her note. Oscar’s letter contained a simple, beautiful prayer. And here I have to tell a story about Oscar. He was facilitating—that is, doing the music and organizing the dance—one of the first couple of times after Anna and I started going to BodyChoir five years ago this weekend. During opening circle, he called me into the center of the room to stand with him; then he asked all the dancers—there must have been over 100 that day—to move back, back, to stand against the wall. Then he asked each person to make a small sound so that I could hear the dimensions of the room as well as the number of dancers in that space. It was very beautiful—so welcome, so thoughtful, yet so incredibly simple. And I would never have thought to do it, or to ask for it.

Steve Ausbury sent a “spiral letter”—a newsy, artful, loving letter spiraling out from the center, handwritten in letters so tiny Anna had to admit defeat and leave it for JayByrd to read to me next time he came. Anna and I met Steve, a performance artist and opera composer who later spent a few months living at hour house, with whom we collaborated (along with Celia Hughes) on a workshop called Disabled Environments, at the same time we met Allison Orr, who sent a note and a CD compilation. It was Allison who choreographed Sextet, the dance piece in which Dillon and I performed, together with Sozan Schellen and his guide dog, Zeke, as well as Karly Dillard and Allison; what a wonderful experience that was. We met Steve and Allison at a dance workshop—my first ever—led by Deborah Hay, the renowned avant-garde choreographer who’s made her home in Austin for 25 years now (she’s touring in Europe as I write this, having performed her latest work in Paris just a couple of weeks ago, with Rino and Bill Nemir in attendance
. That experience was transformative for me, as Deborah’s previous workshop had been transformative for Anna: at the outset I was resistant, rigid with fear, unwilling to take the risk of moving, of opening myself to whatever might be going on around me. By the end I was dancing, at least in my own estimation, darting quickly from place to place, relishing the contact when I bumped into another dancer or failed to get out of his or her way. That workshop was also where we met Carola, one of the founders of BodyChoir. Deborah sent a gorgeous card that included one of her favorite quotations from T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” the first of his Four Quartets, in which he talks about “The still point at the center of the world…. Except for the point, the still point,/There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” How true that is, and how wonderful of Deborah to send it, and how glad I am to have opened it only now, so close to our coming home to rejoin the dance that’s been going on all the while, the dance in which we’ve been privileged to participate from our distance here and which has kept us moving, too.

Thank you all.
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Day 81: Frank's Homegoing Ceremony (from Anna)

Early this past Wednesday, Anna and her friend Diane started the four and a half hour  drive to Alexandria, Louisiana, to attend funeral services for Frank Jackson, who died on Sunday, to our great sorrow. They returned late that night, tired but not weary, saddened but also exhilarated by the experience. Here’s Anna’s account:drive to

It was a profound experience to have driven with Diane Colvard to Alexandria, Louisiana to the “Homegoing Celebration” for Frank Jackson. We woke up early on Wednesday to a beautiful, sunny day and listened to gospel music as we turned off of I-10 through the gently rolling piney woods from I-10 into Alexandria. As we pulled up to St. Matthews Baptist Church, Reverend Dr. Joe Green and others were standing outside the church and greeted us as if they knew we were coming. We went inside the church and tears welled up in me as I saw Frank’s body and casket with a stethoscope and his gold honors banner next to him. I knew Frank was already a healer, even before receiving his MD or ordination as a minister, two of his greatest ambitions.  

It turned out we were an hour and a half early so the Rev. Green loaded us in his car and drove us to the beautiful home of Annie Rose and Rev. Frank Jackson in the beautiful community of Pineville, about 20 minutes away from the church. On the way we had a very positive visit with the witty, fun, smart and wise pastor who seemed to have the same view of Frank Jr. and his family’s amazing effect on others and how great his impact has been and continues to be. He had heard that Frank had touched many of you reading  John’s blog in Austin and all over the place, as well as many leukemia patients and medical staff in Houston. As we drove to the house among the pines, I noticed the golden light even more than before. We hugged Annie Rose and Rev. Frank and met many family members there.

St. Matthews was packed with hundreds of friends and family, the music beautiful and service totally uplifting. A number of pastors, old friends, family, teachers, and others shared their spiritual insights and memories of Frank. Frank’s mother was a strong and loving presence as always and even rose to clap and sway with others when a friend of Frank sang a beautiful solo. Frank’s father came up to the pulpit and inspired us with his own loving perspectives, and even made a plea for others to help with cures for leukemia and other blood disorders.

Here is the biography printed in the program:

“Frank Jermal Jackson was born on 3/21/85 to Frank and Annie (Rose) Jackson. On the evening of 11/5/06 we released our son into the loving care of our eternal father. Frank’s love and compassion was developed at an early age. He knew and understood his calling and began to pursue a life of ministry and service as a medical doctor. Frank, in 2005, founded and developed his internet company “Premiere Pod,” an internet sales and marketing company. He served as the 2003 class president of Pineville High School where he graduated with honors. During high school, he was an active member of the fellowship of Christian Students. He was a third year student at Xavier University in New Orleans, where he also served on the Student Govt. Assoc. Election Board. He accepted Christ as his Savior and developed a personal relationship with Him at an early age. He embraced his call to the ministry in 2003. He leaves to cherish his memories his loving father and mother, Reverend Frank and Annie Jackson, two sisters Monica Hagan-Lanoix, and Carnetta Rubin, one brother Julius L. Hagan, five nieces whom he cherished; Zyria, Shanna, Gabrielle, Shia, and Summer; one nephew, Devan and a host of aunts, uncles, friends and relatives. A special thank you and we love you to Will, Chris, and Shavun.”

Words can’t express the emotional impact of this service, the drive for 20 plus miles to Colfax, La. for the graveside ceremony and the meal lovingly prepared and served in the Colvax church nearby. Diane and I felt so touched and healed by the love pouring from this young man’s family and community and from the spiritual energy Frank circulates even today. I was only sorry that John had to stay in the clinic for an IV, but I felt his spirit with me the whole time. I am grateful to Diane for sharing this experience with me and to all who touched us on that special day.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Day 76: In memoriam Frank Jackson

Frank Jackson died yesterday, Sunday, at about 3:30 in the afternoon. He was in the hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana, where he’d been taken by StarFlight a week ago Friday, a few days after the doctors here had told him and his parents that there was nothing more they could do for him here. Rest in peace, Frank.

Rose, Frank’s mother, thanks everyone who sent cards and thoughts and who contributed toward the repair of Frank’s computer—the computer got there last Friday. Knowing that it was on its way pleased Frank; knowing that so many people cared—complete strangers—means a lot to his parents in their grief, as it does to me and Anna. Thanks so much.

I continue to do well, though Houston allergies have got hold of my nose. My hemoglobin count today was 13.0, overall white count 5.2, absolute neutrophis 3.24, and platelets 126. And as far as I know we’re still on track to be back in Austin on the 20th, just two weeks from today!

Anna made a whirlwind trip to San Francisco this weekend to see Ledia and Mason and their partners, Paul and Melissa, respectively. She’s back now (got here about 1:00 AM, having left for San Francisco on a 9”30 AM flight Saturday morning). JayByrd and his friend Stephen were here for the weekend, and Peg Syverson and Linda-Ferreira-Buckly spent Friday night and part of Saturday. My dad should be arriving shortly—his flight landed at Hobby Airport about an hour ago, and he’ll be on his way once he gets his luggage and gets on the shuttle.

And tomorrow’s Election Day. Let’s throw the rascals out.