Live, Love, Laugh…I am reminded to live out that motto more so now than ever before. Recently, I loss my 25-year old cousin. In his short life he taught me so much about being happy and not “sweating” the small stuff. My cousin, Jacqwon, at the age of three, became deaf from falling off the back of a moving truck. My grandmother never really got over the fact that she did not persist on taking him to Disney World that summer with the rest of the cousins–though he was much younger and my uncle (his father) was unable to come.
It’s hard to describe Jacqwon’s life. He lived with my grandmother and uncle for the first few years of his life. Later, moving back with his mom. He did not live in innocent environments, but he somehow managed to remain somewhat sheltered and untouched by what life had offered him. I was always grateful that his mother allowed us to be a part of his life. I deemed it one of my life’s missions to protect him as much as I could. I would later learn that it was much harder than I thought. Nevertheless, we had some great and challenging times .
Jacqwon was more like a little brother to me–and we know how younger siblings can act (ha, I know because I’m one). He taught me about the deaf and hard of hearing community, American Sign Language (ASL), and how to lip read. He inspired me so much that every major school project from high school to graduate school was about the hearing-impaired community. He was passionate about life, learning, and developing himself. That passion and love resonated to everyone he encountered. We didn’t always agree, sometimes, we just stopped to talking to each other–you know, like those sibling tantrums. But one thing about Jacqwon, he always knew who really loved him and those he could always count on. I promised him that no matter where he was in life, no matter how many times we became disconnected due to outside forces–I would ALWAYS find him. I am so grateful that God allowed me to hold true to that promise.
Skipping a lot of details and fast forwarding to those last moments of Jacqwon’s life.
I remember is mom reaching out to us informing us of Jacqwon’s failing health–none of us knew what it really meant and a lot of the details were a blur. It was about eight months prior to Jacqwon’s death and I was traveling a lot for work and couldn’t conceive the notion of Jacqwon possibly dying. It just didn’t seem fitting for someone of his age and passion for life. I would visit Jacqwon each time I returned from traveling–he never seemed to be in any grave conditions.
I remember receiving a phone call from him mom–I believe in September, she was planning to throw Jacqwon a big birthday party (even though his birthday was in June). Jacqwon LOVED his family, especially his cousins (that was the last birthday party he would ever have). Due to prearranged work travels, I was unable to attend–til this day I regret missing that party, but it was that very party that caused me to stop traveling for work and spend the next few months with Jacqwon. My eyes always get watery when I share this part of the story.
I watched his health decline week after week. I remember Jacqwon being told to remain in bed, but he was strong-minded and determined to get up. One particular incident, was when he had to use the bathroom–he struggled to get out of bed–weak and barely able to stand–yet, he fought, because he knew that was the proper thing to do. Let me tell you, Jacqwon was a very heavy guy! He had gained lots of weight from the medication. Can you imagine his mom and I trying to help him to the bathroom, help him stand upright, while he was heavily sedated. Oh my!
I recall him struggling to greet each person and attempting to sit at the dining table to entertain his guest. I watched him, heavily sedated to the point where he could barely open his eyes nor sign, but he always attempted to–sometimes he would stop in the middle of signing and we would have put his hand down. It was by far, one of the hardest things I had to endure. Jacqwon, just loved people and loved entertaining others. He was so grateful and excited to see everyone who came to visit him.
It was December 11, 2014, the day before Jacqwon passed away. I planned to stop by to visit him for two hours before heading to the gym and going into work. That plan never happened. I arrived at his mom’s house to find that he was having a bad day–barely able to breath and agitated. I stayed with him for several hours, not realizing that would be the last time I saw him alive.
I received a called on December 12th at 4:30 am. Jacqwon had passed…speechless, unable to move, breathe, nor hear…my entire world had turned upside down. For the last six months, I was there holding his hands at various hospitals, taking him on outings, and visiting him at his mom’s, and all at once it ended. It didn’t seem fair. Did God mean for that to happen? What about all the plans he had…we had to help him?
Keys2Hope-I just keep saying “God doesn’t make any mistakes….He makes all things beautiful in his time.” I had a lot of questions, but I knew ultimately, God was at work. It certainly did not make the situation better. I tried to remember all the things I was thankful for…like being one of the few cousins to really know Jacqwon and live life with him. I thought of all the weekends we spent together, all times he wanted me to teach him how to write in English, or how we could laugh at wrestling on TV, and I don’t even like wrestling. This was probably one of the hardest times to not question God. I thought about his life and all the challenges and roadblocks he kept having. I knew that God saw the bigger picture and always does what’s best for us.
At his funeral, one of speaker’s said Jacqwon wrote on his Facebook page:
“That a friend is someone you can be completely stupid with.” Jacqwon was that friend. I am honored to have lived life with him.
I have learned that love does not die when the person passes away, rather it increases with the memories you have of them. If you love, care, and appreciate someone, spend time with them and tell them often. Give your flowers while they are still alive. While you’re at it be sure to LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH everyday!