Where death makes way for living.
-- Cloverton (2012)
Ninety-one years and a half-mile west of when and where he grew up, Jack McClaskey died at home in rural Girard, Kansas. His last year followed an inevitable, melancholy curve:
Hospital... nursing home... home-based hospice... the great reward.
You look at the world through your own individual prism. Right or wrong, personal experience becomes a yardstick by which you measure your days and nights. Points of reference.
It tends to be that way with in-laws.
I first met Jack when his youngest daughter brought me home. In the intervening years, I've watched this family through the prism of my life experience, grown to marvel at their innate selflessness and strived to be more that way my own bad self.
Jack's wife is an active, caring, community-minded child of God who put her entire personal existence on hold. For the last year, Jean was by Jack's side, pretty much 24-7.
Two daughters who live nearby re-prioritized their busy lives. No, that's wrong... they simply followed existing priorities. One packaged up her own teenage daughter and moved back home to the farm to help her Mom. Help her Dad. Help her sister.
Not thought about twice. Not even a question to be pondered. Actions, quite literally, of course.
Jack & Jean. Door County, Wisconsin, 2005
At the Rosary, the funeral, the cemetery, dozens whose lives Jack touched, comforted his wife and five daughters, all clad in purple. Smiles through tears, sharing favorite memories. As a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, Jack led young men by example and shared a faith born not of words, but of deeds.
Jack grew up Protestant and converted to Catholicism because it meant so much to his wife.
Funny. Me too.
Come to find out, in families of faith, this promise of life everlasting is pretty much the ballgame.
Jack's there, I'm convinced.
And for those of us who are not, there is value to be added while we still tread the planet. Oh, the lives we
lead. I don't think it's coincidence Jack died on Maundy Thursday, just ahead of Easter weekend.
I'll remember Jack trusting me with his Army experiences during World War II. Stories shared with a son-in-law, never told to his youngest daughter.
With a twinkle in his eye and a rock-solid handshake, I'll remember asking Jack permission to marry his youngest daughter. He pulled me close and said, "You have no idea what you're getting yourself into."
Sure I did. That's exactly why I asked him.
Jack's right here.
I see him in Jackie's unconditional love for her family, mentoring young leaders, dedication to agriculture. Her fondness for all things canine.
And she's just one daughter.
Look closely at the FFA emblem and you'll see an owl. Denoting knowledge and wisdom, it represents the advisor, the teacher. The family made sure an owl statue was on Jack's casket.
For the past few days, Jackie's been hearing the hoots of owls. Nighttime and daytime.
I'm no spiritual Goliath but even I can figure this one out. It's a father comforting his daughter when she needs it most.
Then remember Jack and be happy.
When I stop and carefully examine how I live my life as the precipice approaches, I find my thoughts migrating naturally to the yardstick against how I measure my words and deeds.
And the prism through which I view this world.
When I grow up, I wanna be just like Jack.