Saying OK to Death

My father as a young man.

By Jan Jackson

I remember everything about the day I got the call that informed me that my dad had cancer. I hung up the phone, folded my arms on the table, laid my head face down on my arms and cried. His dying was a three-year process, but how he accepted the verdict made an impact on me.

My dad was a regular one-of-a-kind guy though I’ve never met anyone like him. He was his own man who listened to his own drummer. He was a musician first, but that didn’t impress me because we were all musicians. He was an introvert who liked to entertain people. That was no big deal either because we were all like that. He was not influenced by what his friends and neighbors did, but none of us were. The way he accepted the news of his death however, helped shape my life.

This is what he did..

  1. He went into his lifetime collection of music recordings – his individual songs, his band he called the Mix Masters (called the Mix Masters because they would form a circle and play their own and the guys next to him’s instruments at the same time – it was cool), songs of his children and grandchildren. He listened to them all, grouped them into new recordings and gifted them to us.
  2. He listed his belonging and gave people the things he wanted them to have. What he didn’t give away while he was alive, he made plans for where they were to go after he was gone.
  3. He wrote his life stories. They were about his school days, how he met my mother, riding the freight trains like a hobo on a wild trip to Idaho with my Uncle Omar, his work, his hunting and fishing and his music.
  4. He fed the birds and raccoons, worked in his yard as long as he could (and a passerby even spotted  him working on his roof in his robe and pajamas).
  5. He played music.

The last time he was admitted to the hospital was the last time because his next trip was to Hospice. He did not want to go. He wanted to go home which he couldn’t do because my mother was in the hospital getting a pacemaker and so there was no one to take care of him. I was the one who had to put him in Hospice. Had I not been made in his mold, I couldn’t have accomplished it. We were locked into the issue. He said he wanted to go home. I said that I understood it, but it could not happen. This went on and on. At the point he saw that he had no choice, he said ok and meant it.

Accepting what you cannot change, is thinking I admire most.  I try to emulate it. Kenny Roger sings about it in the Gambler. My dad knew when to hold em, knew when to fold em, knew when to walk away and knew when to run. He was able to do that. I’m still working on it.




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