The impact of Jack's loss is exactly what I needed to see my true potential as a writer.
(CLICK HERE To Learn More About Jack)
In November of 2017, my Uncle Larry lost his only son to a car accident. My uncle's truck, an old rusty tin can with chipped paint and cracked windows, had broken down on the side of a desolate road. It was the knowledge of a gas station not far from where they were, that drove my uncle to step out of the car to the back of the truck to retrieve a gas can. For reasons we'll never know, little Sammy jumped out of the car and bolted across the road. The car never saw him coming. My uncle witnessed everything.
A few days after the accident, my parents and I drove from Phoenix Arizona down to Ashfork Arizona, after getting calls from family members that something had happened to Sammy. When we arrived, it seemed that the entire family had come to support my uncle and a swarm of relatives, young and old, distant and close, greeted us as we walked through the front door of my uncle's house.
The mood in the house was not somber as I'd expected. For the first few days, the house was full of music and joy, with my grandfather and uncles playing their guitars and singing for the family, who were gathered in the family room. My uncle Larry seemed to be doing as well as he could under the circumstances. But, that's how our family was and still is; we rally together and try to make the best of a bad situation.
After the first week, when some of the family had started to leave, I saw a change in my uncle. He was sleeping more, or so we thought, and he rarely talked with those who were still around to comfort him, his brothers and cousins and nieces and nephews. One day, as I played a game of peekaboo with one of my nephews, I saw him storm out of the house. I walked towards the front door to see what was wrong, then stopped when I overheard his girlfriend speaking to my Mother in the kitchen.
"He just started crying and ran out." She began. "I think he just needs space to deal with this."
Hearing this forced me to stay inside until I saw him again, hours later. I had walked into the family room, the room that once held so much happiness. Now, there was no one but my uncle, sobbing into his hands as he sat hunched over in his rocker. Seeing him in such a vulnerable state hurt me more than words can describe. Wanting to comfort him, but knowing he needed his space, I stepped closer and placed a hand to his shoulder, running my thumb over the soft fabric of his plaid shirt. Seconds later, I suddenly didn't care what he did or did not need. My only instinct in that moment was to comfort, so I wrapped his arms around him. Soon enough, he took off his hat, wrapped his arms around me and held me in the tightest embrace we had ever shared. Without realizing it, I had kissed his hair and leaned my cheek onto his head as he let everything out in the form of deep sobs.
Moments later, his brothers walked into the room and my uncle stood up. They embraced and my uncle walked down the hall into his bedroom where his girlfriend had drawn a hot bath for him.
Maybe an hour after that, as I sat with the family in front of the television, my uncle's girlfriend came out of the bedroom and told us that he had been having a hard time falling asleep.
"He just told me that he wished to never wake up..." she told us.
She was nearly in tears over him. None of us responded. Even the oldest family members, who were the closest to Larry, had nothing to say. We just watched her.
Moments later, after the little ones had been put to bed, my uncle came slowly out of his bedroom, looking tired and sleepless. He sat next to me, the youngest person in the room. He said,
"I'm having a really hard time with this, Taylor... The images of the accident keep flashing back into my mind whenever I try to sleep... How do I make it go away?"
I couldn't believe what he was doing. I looked around me at all of the adults, who were much older than I, who were also in the room.
Why would he choose to come to me, the youngest out of everyone, the niece he hardly got to see, when he also had his siblings and closest friends present?
I pushed this question to the back of my mind as I struggled to think of the perfect response, afraid that I would say something that would make me feel worse. But, of course, due to my stuttering, the words that I had selected perfectly in my mind couldn't escape my lips. So, I did the only other thing I could do when my voice failed me… I wrote.....
I went back to the pain of losing Jack and how certain things helped me through the pain, memories and books and the hope of one day finding a photograph. I typed it all up in my phone and handed it to him.
When he was finished reading, he hugged me and thanked me, then went back into his bedroom. I sat perfectly still, praying that what I had written would be enough to get him to sleep.
In the morning, he came out of his bedroom and started making breakfast for the family. The family, of course, asked him how he was doing and each and every time they did, he pointed towards me and described how I had written to him, saying that he was finally able to get some much need rest.
After breakfast, he came to see me again as I sat on the couch and listened to my grandfather play his guitar.
"I kept waking up in the middle of the night because I couldn't get the accident out if my mind." he said. "But, then, I looked at the picture of Sammy in my wallet and read what you wrote me and I was able to get back to sleep, because Of you, my angel..."
Once again, I sat still, trying to process all that I just heard. Because, in all my life I had never thought of my writing as being that impactful. From that day on, my uncle smiled more, made breakfast every morning and held me to him every chance he got.
We shared two extra hugs, my uncle Larry and I, before my parents and I left for Phoenix. As I sat in the car, still processing everything that had happened in the weeks we were there, I thought about how, when I'd first heard the news, I had wished that something, anything could have been done to save sweet Sammy. But, as I looked out my window and watched the clouds, I thought to myself:
"No... It was meant to happen..."
Because if Sammy hadn't died in the way that he did.. If my uncle wasn't in as much pain as he was... If I hadn't lost Jack… I wouldn't have realized the immense power that I possess with the written word… I realize now, that it wasn't just my uncle who showed me that my words do in fact matter... It was Jack… it was Jack, my first love, who helped me realize that my words can change lives and maybe even save them.