Friday March 18, 2011. It was a day of the HIGHEST of HIGHS and the LOWEST of LOWS...Got to visit my dear friend Jackie in the hospital, talk to her before leaving for Columbus for the Lady Firebirds game in the Semi-finals of the State Basketball Tournament. It was an exciting game - and the Firebirds were victorious...we went out to celebrate after the game...only to receive of phone call of Jackie's passing....
Fort on her 30th birthday with the Moraine Meadows group - including Mike (Jackie's husband)Debbie, Carrie, Jackie & Missy...
Jackie and I met in August of 1991...we were hired on the same day, along with Josh, by Rusty Clifford.
There was an instant connection. I was the librarian,she was the Title 1 Reading teacher, and we BOTH LOVED reading. We were hooked. Plus, she had two kids, a girl (oldest) and boy. Just like me. Our girls were similar, both smart and athletes, and our boys were similar, smart and athletes...so we had a lot to talk about right from the beginning. And we found out many years later that we were on common ground POLITICALLY speaking (lets just say Fort got us both hooked on Rachel Maddow...)
As the years passed, Moraine Meadows became a true FAMILY. In the early years, several staff members would take personal days to go SWEATER shopping. Probably couldn't do that today, but hey, this was the 90s. (you know, TEACHER sweaters, like the ones in the pictures below...)
That evolved to "Mental Health Weekends". Overnights where we left right after school on Friday and came home Saturday afternoon. In the beginning, it was usually to Embassy Suites in Covington, and to Covington Landing. I remember leaving one Friday after school, we all piled into one car (or van) and the song "I DON'T WANT TO WORK, I WANT TO BANG ON THE DRUM ALL DAY" came on...Jackie LOVED it. Kind of became our theme song for awhile on Fridays. I can see Jackie singing and DANCING to that song even today...
We took several trips to "the BOAT" too...(Jackie wanted to get back to the BOAT too, she was excited because I was teaching her how to play the nickle slots...when we first went to the boat, Jackie -and Debbie, and Carrie- would get $5 worth of nickles and carry them around in a cup for two hours...and have $4.50 when we were ready to go. I remember Jackie screaming when she would win...15 cents...people would come around the corner to see who won and WHAT they won...we laughed so hard..
Eventually, one night overnight was not enough. Our first big vacation was to Hilton Head - me, Jackie, Debbie, Sharon K and Sally (RIP). For ten days. Then Josh and Rodney wanted to go on a "real" vacation. Always right after school was out at the end of the year. Actually Debbie planned the first one - we went to Gatlinburg.
Then we went to Jamestown and Williamsburg. (If Rodney was planning it, it was educational - one year he even had FOLDERS for all of us with information about our destination...we were all worried that we were going to be tested at the end of the week....)That vacation was hotter than H*LL. We did the tour of the battlefields IN THE VAN...never got out - LAUGHED and LAUGHED ... we did that alot.
The last trip we took together was to Cape Cod. It was all planned by Sept 2008. There were 7 of us going. Then Melissa went into the hospital, then Hospice.
Then she was gone. And I was in NO shape to do anything. Much less go on a vacation- even six months later. So I told them to get someone to go in my place. But they wouldn't. They said "you can decide the day before" and that's EXACTLY when I decided to go.
BEST VACATION EVER. I am SO glad I went (because it was the last vacation Jackie went on with us)...we rented a van, drove to Hyannis Port the first day. Went to Martha's Vineyard from there, then on to Provincetown. During the week we went to the beach for a day, whale watching, Boston, and Salem. A lot in a weeks time, but FUN FUN FUN.
It was not long after we got back that Jackie was diagnosed with Uterine cancer.
She fought it CONSTANTLY for a year and a half. No breaks in treatment. She reminded me a lot of FORT. ALWAYS positive, always ready to try whatever it was going to take to BEAT THIS F*ing disease.
She continued to enjoy life - even after the closing of Moraine Meadows - and packing up her classroom and moving to Southdale. I remember going over the week before school started to see her classroom ... Mike was helping her get the room ready for the first day of school.
She went back - I'm guessing for about a week or two, before deciding that it was taking too much out of her. So she worked half days for awhile, before deciding that if she was going to get better, she needed to focus on her HEALTH and not on work.
Like Fort, there were good days and not so good days. But she NEVER complained. Ever.
In November, she was going through a rough time, and her daughter was able to come home from Japan to visit for a month - I'm pretty sure it was a pretty good Christmas for ALL of them. Jackie was happy and the new chemo was making her feel better.
But as you know chemo works for awhile, then (it seems like) your body stops responding, so they find something new. And that only works for awhile....
Last weekend, Jackie went into the hospital to be hydrated and get fluids taken out of her abdomen (one of MANY times)...and was prepared to spend the night then come home on Monday. I stopped by to see her on Monday because she hadn't gone home yet - she ended up spending the night...for a week. Then to Hospice on Friday.
She was an INCREDIBLE woman. She loved LIFE. It showed in her family, her work, her friends. EVERYBODY loved Jackie. She had a laugh (ok giggle) that was infectious. She was understanding - she was there for me before I lost Melissa and AFTER I lost Melissa.
In fact, she was diagnosed just 9 months after Melissa passed away. I couldn't do much. After taking care of Melissa, I was lost without her. I could help Jackie with HER journey with cancer. I helped her, but OH she probably had no IDEA how much she helped ME.
She was a TRUE blessing in my life. She treated me as an equal (little known fact about me...I've always been a little self concious - maybe even intimidated by the fact that I don't have a college degree) but Jackie ALWAYS called me a TEACHER.
In fact, when I went to see her in the hospital the other day, she introduced me to the nurse - she said "I was teaching second grade. Pam is still teaching"...
Not sure if she ever knew how much THAT meant to me.
As difficult as it was to say goodbye, I KNOW in my heart that Melissa was waiting for Jackie - and took her on the GRAND TOUR of heaven. Melissa loved Jackie as much as I loved Jackie. And Jackie loved Melissa too. I have to find comfort in that...
Rest in Peace Jackie, until we meet again....
A few (maybe several) years ago, after Jackie & I figured out how to use email (ok...we were computer illiterate for awhile)...she bought me a frame that says
www.friends.com - these are some of the photos I found in the frame - now sits above the computer. I get to look at her whenever I'm on the computer now...I love it...
Every year fifth graders at Moraine Meadows put their handprints on the wall around the gym...for some reason, Jackie never got hers up there, but made sure it was there before leaving for the final time...
Closing up Moraine Meadows after 20 years...teacher, secretary WHATEVER it took, Jackie could take care of it!
Mrs. Geary having fun with her class!
Pam, Jackie, Carrie, Debbie & Sharon in the loft in Jackie's room-mid to late 90s...
Me, Jackie and her class in the library - we were a little younger then....
Mardi Gras @ Moraine Meadows - Every year I planned a Reading Incentive Program...this was Reading Across America. We started at the Statue of Liberty and worked our way around the United States, learning about different cities. One of our "stops" was New Orleans, I planned it so we would be "in" New Orleans on Fat Tuesday - and all the students who read enough "miles" (minutes) got to go to the Mardi Gras - Jackie LOVED the Reading Incentive Programs - (I think all the teachers did!) - anything to get the kids excited about reading. She was a truc inspiration to me and 100s of kids at Moraine Meadows over the 20 years we were there...
I am in the back row on the left - Jackie is middle bottom row (in the purple sweater) During the Mardi Gras, Jackie pushed ANOTHER teacher (Mary Miller) around on a cart and Mary threw "READING" beads to the kids. The kids ALWAYS had fun at Moraine Meadows and learned a lot at the same time!
Josh, Pam, Jackie, Rodney...if Jackie was up to it, we were out to breakfast, lunch, WHATEVER!
Here's to YOU Jackie! I love you and miss you and KNOW you are celebrating with Melissa! Hope you gave her a hug for me....
CONGRATULATIONS on a GREAT SEASON FIREBIRDS!!!!!
Fort's alma matre, Lady FAIRMONT FIREBIRDS in the State Semi-finals
Friday, March 18.
Beat Toledo Start 59-50.
Played Twinsburg in the State Finals Saturday March 19....lose 55-42.
HOWEVER...it was a close game until the final quarter. Fairmont got into foul trouble, and Twinsburg didn't miss a foul shot.
WE ARE SO PROUD of these girls. They started one senior, two sophomores, two freshman, and a bench FULL of freshmen! They had an incredible season 26-2, the second loss coming in the State finals.
THEY WILL BE BACK NEXT YEAR...count on it!
Fort would be SO proud of them...
the fans prepare for the game...
Luke aka THE FIREBIRD HULK (ok, there are lots of pictures of Luke...I watch him after school a couple of nights a week - he's like one of my grandsons - even calls me Pam-ma!)
Luke loves Kelly....EVERYBODY loves Kelly!
WILD and CRAZY Firebird fans!
Kelly Hart on the BIG SCREEN at Value City Arena!
Brutus the Buckeye loves the FIREBIRDS!
Kara & Kelly - Kelly LOVES her fans!
This is Chelsea Welch, Fairmont's point guard (just voted FIRST TEAM ALL AREA, along with Kathryn Westbeld-freshman and Makayla Waterman-freshman)! Chelsea & her sister both went to Moraine Meadows! (ok, Chelsea just went in Kindergarten, but she went there!)...we had our picture with her because she'll be playing somewhere big after she graduates (she's a sophomore!)and after we get her autograph on the picture it will be REALLY valuable!
This is the LONE senior - Kelly Hart. I can't say ENOUGH about this girl. Not only was she a great basketball player, she is an incredible young women...kind, friendly, smart....EVERYONE loves Kelly.
We stayed in Columbus Friday and Saturday night during the girls State Basketball Tournament. On Sunday morning, we were having breakfast in the hotel lobby. Sitting next to us was a man with two little girls (one was his daughter, the other her friend). They were having a blast - he was teasing them, they were laughing...their table was pretty close to ours and it was hard not to hear their conversation. I said "You are having WAY too much fun". He said something about having fun like this all the time...then he asked us "Do you have a little girl?" Donny and I both got teary eyed and told he "we used to"....we told him a little about Melissa and he told us his daughter was diagnosed with lukemia when she was just over a year old (she is 9 now).
Kind of put things into perspective for us after the emotional weekend. The girls lost a big game and more importantly, I lost a dear friend. We need to remember what is REALLY important, that today is just a blip on the radar...we should enjoy EVERY moment that we have...
Oh...and in memory of my friend Jackie, read a book or two to your kids tonight...and EVERY night!!!!