|The email notification was simple: Jack had died after a seven-year battle with bone marrow cancer. The truth was pretty simple, but the story is much more compelling, and it serves as a reminder of how to appreciate each moment we draw breath. Life is precious and living is a brief, precious gift. Jack taught us all that.
Jack was a warrior for life. His ordeal prompted Job to ask God, “Can’t you give this man some slack? Some kind of break?” Or, so I believe. I shared that observation with his wife, Sue, several times over the years. She was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and together they have battled cancer. Sort of. They both battled more for life and living than against cancer.
After Sue was diagnosed, she said that they would both beat cancer, not in the sense of defeating the disease, but by not letting the disease beat them of the chance for living.
Jack’s passing causes one to pause and see what it means to have a life well lived, and lived fully no matter the challenges. As a young man, Jack was a wunderkind of sorts during the Apollo program era. Ever humble, he was also good-spirited, based on what I know and saw of him. He was certainly that way when I visited him in the hospital recently and all the times before that I had seen him. Tired, weak but not so much so that he wasn’t looking forward to what the next day offered as a chance to live. I don’t profess to be a close family friend, but I treasure the connection that I did have.
Years ago, a university professor described to me someone he knew who had “sucked the marrow of life.” I think Jack did, not in the sense of being the grand adventurer (though he had several), but being one who believed in the grandness of life. He set for all of us a wonderful, spirited, warrior-for-life example.
I will miss Jack, and I will pray for Sue. I ask that you do, too.