I swore I was not going to write this post….I was sure I wouldn’t do it, but here I am. I don’t even know why I’m doing it, but I can’t seem to stop my fingers from typing the words…I just can’t look forward to, or get into the festivities of, the 4th of July. There I said it for all the world to see…you know, all three of my readers. On the 4th of July, families often celebrate Independence Day by hosting or attending a picnic or barbecue and take advantage of the day off and, in some years, a long weekend to gather with relatives. Decorations (e.g., streamers, balloons, and clothing) are generally colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades often are in the morning, while fireworks displays occur in the evening at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares. Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs. A salute of one gun for each state in the United States, called a “salute to the union,” is fired on Independence Day at noon by any capable military base. And why, because of this document and all of it’s meaning.
It represents the beginning of the creation of a nation…but not for me.
July 4th 1962 Jacqulyne Claudette Nichols was born, the last child of eight children, born to a physicist father and artist mother. Jackie had both a brilliant analytical mind and was an extremely talented artist. Jackie was a sensitive, gentle, funny, loving soul too smart for her own good. She was an awkward gangly child that grew up into an exotic beauty, an original in every sense of the word.
Jackie’s friends would say you could always count on her, for support, for making you laugh, and helping you with whatever need you had. Jackie’s teachers said she was highly intelligent, phenomenally talented, honest and hard working. Jackie’s siblings called her Boo Boo Bear, and could always count on her listening ear, and clever responses that laid them out on the floor with laughter. Everyone adored her although I don’t think she really knew it. Her sense of justice was extreme and she suffered personally at everyone else’s hardships. She was a defender of the underdog and not afraid to tell someone who was being unkind to another how that unkindness impacts people. She was a spiritual being, an avid reader, talented writer, a studier of the worlds religions, a studier of people…and my little sister.
We used to play creative imagination games as children…Jackie and me. One game we played was Phillipe and Pierre…we pretended to be two French artists. We would set up canvases in the basement, a mock cafe table in the front yard. We would go and get my mothers berets, and use elmers glue to affix black yarn to our upper lips. Then we would go back and forth between the cafe in the front yard… El café Gran Artista and the artist studio in the basement. Painting wildly, pretending to be impressionists, giving our best french accent to our complements of each others work. Then up to the street cafe for some french bread and cheese to go along with the fine red wine (cranberry juice)…and singing the praises of each others work to all the people in the neighborhood as they passed by. On occasion some would join us fore a sip of our finely aged cranberry juice …I mean red wine, and we would invite them to the next exhibition of our work. Days later the kids in the neighborhood would receive their invitation.
We would hang our paintings on the fence in the back yard with a sign on the fence,
La Mejor Galería
Francesa de Trabajo De Arte
And they came…sometimes they brought their whole family and on occasion some understanding parent would give their child some money to buy a painting. I think one even paid three dollars for one of our splatters.
On different occasions our imaginary play would take us to Italy during the renasaunce and we would lay on the floor under the coffee table and draw people, pretending to be Michelangelo and the underside of the coffee table the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We did this at so many different peoples homes when our family had been invited to dinner, or some such occasion that allowed us to sneak away with our pencils. Once my father got a call from a friend who asked him if it was one of his kids that drew under his coffee table. At first he thought they were angry for defacing their table but instead his friend said the drawings were great and he was going to seal it so he would always have the drawings there.
I won’t go into the imaginary play we did with our favorite old west characters Mac and Joe, but I am sure you can figure out what apple juice represented. She was Mac the brains of the outfit and I was Joe the sure shot looking to join Buffalo Bill. I could go on with the creativity we brought out in each other but my eyes are stinging at the moment.
Jackie was born on the 4th of July and it was so fitting. As a child and up through my teenage years it seemed to me that the country was celebrating her birthday…and, as they should… it was clear she was destine for greatness. And for me the one gun salute to the union only makes me think of one thing on this day, the one gun shot Jackie put into her head on June 23, 1985, the day after my birthday, the day of our older sister, Toby’s birthday, who put her shot into her heart October 6, 1980… one week after we were all together for my wedding. Jackie went back home to Denver with Toby after my wedding, when it came time for Jackie to head back to school in Chicago, Toby begged her not to leave her. Jackie left… two days later Toby took her own life. Jackie hung in there OK for two years after Toby’s suicide, but when our brother Phil took his life in September 1982 Jackie fell further and further down into the spiral of profound sadness. She made it three more years before she could no longer climb out. I know this pain, I know it far greater than Jackie…after all she doesn’t have to miss her. Why have I not joined this bandwagon….let me just say this….Jamie needed her mother… and so here I am. But there is no declaration of independence from this sorrow.
Happy Birthday….. Pierre, Mac, Michelangelo………. Jackie!
Well now that I have had the opportunity to expressed my feelings… here are some things Julie has learned.
1) People choose to leave this world when the pain of living becomes greater than the fear of dying.
2) Given time, love and support the pain of great loss can be eased enough to know that just around the bend you can find and see the beauty that life has to offer.
3) Pain and loss can teach you to appreciate the simple things in life…smell the roses as they say.
4) You realize tears of grief only teach you that great love exsisted.
5) Profound struggles can teach you what your made of and help you recognise your gifts.
6) That the greatest joy in life is that you discover what love is when you give it all away.