My friend, Jack deJarnette, was a frequent contributor to Like The Dew. He was a retired United Methodist minister who came to the cloth by way of respiratory therapy.
Jack and I met the first day of the 9th grade at Georgia Military Academy in College Park. (GMA is now Woodward Academy.) I was stone cold alone sitting in study hall when Jack and I started talking. A lifelong friendship was born.
Jack and I were both in the band (me firmly occupying third chair clarinet and him the sole bass drum). I was in the band because it kept me out of PE. I never understood Jack and the bass drum.
We progressed through the ranks, Jack becoming a company commander (sans drum.) I was the drum major for the band.
We marched in the Kennedy inaugural parade, Jack commanding the cadet corps and me in front of the band.
After high school we didn’t see each other as much, but the friendship remained strong. He left medicine some years later, went to Candler School of Theology, paid his dues in small, Alabama churches, and ended up founding the Perdido Bay United Methodist Church in Pensacola.
Jack had all the pieces: he was good-looking, smart, a good father and husband, funny, a compelling preacher, a loving pastor, and a devout human.
God had plans for Jack, but She was going to make him earn every victory. Over time, Jack had a heart transplant, kidney transplants and, just to keep him on his toes, cancer.
They took out his bladder, and he was on dialysis. Finally, Jack, a man of immense faith and courage, had enough and decided he wanted to move on. So he stopped the dialysis.
I went to see Jack on January 15, a couple of days after he stopped the dialysis. He was cheerful, positive and ready to move on. He was happy. The house in Pensacola was full of family. It was, as his wife Beverly said, “a celebration.”
He had new glasses. “I won’t need these next week this time, you know.” Whew.
We told stories we had told before, remembered things we had long forgotten, gossiped about teachers we liked and feared, relived the march down Pennsylvania Avenue. Old times, good times, trying times.
Heaven to Jack was a foregone conclusion, beyond debate. By all conceivable measurements, Jack lived his faith. It’s why he drew people to him, why his church flourished, why he made the world a better place.
And his demonstrable faith, in the most real of all possible ways, was a gift to me. I don’t know about Heaven, and my faith clearly is not as strong as Jack’s.
But your own strength comes from seeing someone live his or hers.
I was with him for about three hours, then he got tired, and it was time to go. He asked me to do a magic trick for his granddaughters who were sitting around his bed. I did. They were amazed. And Jack smiled.
I hugged him, kissed him, and he told me he would save me a seat in Heaven.
Jack died five days later. I don’t know if I’ll see him again, but I’ll be damned if I don’t believe he’s watching.
Editor's Note: Jack wrote 44 stories for LikeTheDew.com - click here for the list.