By: JANA GREENE
I’m writing this through tears today.
Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to a man I called “Dad” for 20 years. His name was Jerry, and he was one of the best humans I’ve ever known. The world will be darker without him in it. I wasn’t expecting to lose him. I thought I had more time.
We always think we have more time.
We met when I’d first moved to the island in 1999. Everyone knew Jerry and I can’t quite remember exactly how we met. There are a few possibilities, but all I know for sure is that we knew eachother right away. Instant friends.
I cannot imagine never having met him.
Jerry looked like a wizened fisherman, a little rough around the edges but thoroughly handsome. He had piercing blue eyes and a white beard, and often played Santa to the kids on the island. He was a jovial Southern Gentleman, born and bred.
When I became a single mother under sudden and traumatic circumstances, Jerry stepped in.
My daughters were 9 and 12 when I went through my divorce. I wasn’t close to anyone on the island, save for one or two friends. But when I needed help, Jerry (and an incredible woman named Lynne) showed up.
They both taught me that the important thing in life is showing up.
I was so broken at the time. But I got to learn how to receive, and I stepped out in trust.
That’s how it was there, that community. I’d read about such geographical camaraderie but I’d never known it. It’s a real thing, it turns out.
When I had to work four jobs to support my children by myself. Jerry was there to give me an “Atta’ girl!”
When I was depressed, he would break out in a silly song.
Christmas was his favorite time of year. And it has become my favorite, too.
When I had no one to help me move into a tiny house I rented for me and the children, Jerry moved me. He and I moved every single thing ourselves. He stayed to help that day until I felt steady on my feet.
And then he took me to get a Christmas tree and set it up for us in our new place. My girls were so happy.
When I had a broken heart, he fathered me.
And when I met my husband, I couldn’t wait to introduce him to Jerry.
“Hi, Man,” he said to the man I would soon be engaged to. And then with a sly smile, “You know, if you hurt her, I”m gonna kick your ass!”
And the truth is that I had never been parented like that. I’d never had someone have my back, no matter what. I’d never had anyone threaten mock-violence on my behalf. And it tickled me to no end. He and my husband would become fast friends.
“Jerry,” I said one day in the summer of 2007. “Will you give me away to Bob at my wedding?”
With a tear in his eye, he said he’d be honored. And he did.
And I was honored too. I told him after the wedding that he and his “bride” (he forever referred to her as such, even though they’d been together forever) that his marriage was EXACTLY the kind of marriage I wanted. They were best friends. They laughed together. They knew each other so well, they were one. I wanted that.
And after the wedding, life went on. My husband and I blended a family of three tween/ teen girls at the time. To say things got crazy is the biggest understatement. It was a brutally difficult season for us, but Jerry and I would send eachother funny memes, short messages, and always, always, “I love you.”
If Jerry knew you, he loved you.
And if Jerry loved you, you were blessed beyond measure.
Like my beloved friend Lynne, he put feet to his faith. He didn’t knock you over the head with a Bible, but you knew he loved God.
He said naughty words on occasion and told the occasional off-color joke, and we ALL loved him for it.
He himself had been though some stuff. So he understood going through stuff. And when you’re going through stuff, you need a Jerry.
The past few years, he and his bride did some traveling, and my husband and I welcomed a granddaughter. My little girls grew up and moved out (and back in. And back out….) My husband and I celebrated one anniversary after another, and I always got a little teary thinking about Jerry walking me down the aisle, so happy and proud.
Since his unexpected passing, the whole community is grieving.
Losing a Jerry is a tremendously big deal. They don’t make they like him anymore. He called himself an “old fart,” and we all laughed with him.
He gave the BEST hugs. He wasn’t in a hurry to let go, like he knew his hugs were like being plugged into a charger. And they were. I could be in the depths of despair, and he would lift me out somehow.
For many years, when we would see Jerry, he would part ways with a hug and an “I love you,” for me. And a hearty, “LOVE YOU, MAN!” to my husband
You were a father when I needed one and a cherished friend always.
You didn’t preach what you wouldn’t practice.
You set the bar for loving people.
You set the example of a happy marriage.
You saw things in people they couldn’t see in themselves, and I thank you.
Rest in peace. On second thought, I’ll see you later, Dad.
Make new friends in your Heavenly community. Rejoice with them. Dance in the streets of gold. Crack them jokes to Jesus. Feast with the Father.
And please look after us, your friends and family who love you too the moon and back, and will miss you so much.
Love you, Man.