It’s been a year since Jay died – his anniversary was March 23. I’ve had a difficult time of it, of course. I haven’t always gotten out of bed, or ensured Stella ate vegetables, or kept my revenge fantasies to myself… As I think back on this past year I realize I’ve not always modeled on this blog what I’ve tried to teach my kids: That the hardest thing you may ever do is be kind to someone who has been unkind to you, but you have to try. In that spirit I will be archiving any blog posts that read as revenge writing and bring my focus back to the real work of living – growing and moving forward.
As a mediation on forgiveness and gratitude I share with you the words I spoke at Jay’s memorial service on April 26, 2014.
Reflections: Live Like Jay
About a year ago our friend Mara found a picture online – you see it on your programs: graffiti on a low wall that reads “Live Like Jay.” That image bloomed into a little phenomenon in our Facebook world – people posted it on their walls, used it as a slogan for life. Friends really started to take it to heart. The day after Jay died I received a picture of a beautiful little girl with a “Live Like Jay” sign held in her hands at the beach. It was really moving. Jay’s heart drew people to him, and his writing spoke to people around the globe - his circle of friends grew wider every day. He was self-effacing, but truthfully he loved the whole Live Like Jay thing. Don’t tell him I told you. He really felt loved.
For the last month of Jay’s life he became more private. He slept increasingly more and his dream life started to supersede his waking life. In the earlier days of this I would watch him constantly and share with him what he said and did as he slept. We were both really engaged by his process. But over time his dream life was where he really lived, and his waking life was spent looking forward to going back… He was leaving incrementally as he slept, and by the last 10 days he was mostly packed and moved. It was through bearing witness to Jay’s leaving that I started to form new ideas about the afterlife. And I really started thinking about how “Living Like Jay” informed his experience of facing death and moving on.
Some call this stage of dying “the life review process,” some call it hallucinating – I can tell you that those were part of Jay’s experience. But what I saw Jay going through was more like taking stock and reliving the characteristics he had cultivated in this life and that he was actually able to take with him to the next. This is what he was packing and moving while he slept.
Jay was very content. In his dreams he had a lot of dinner parties with friends (many of them here!), laughed, read books, he made shopping lists, bought groceries, made food, taught the kids how to cook food… there was a lot of food in his dream life! His life review was a pleasure for him. His honesty, integrity, warmth, bravery, his deep commitment to parenthood, his love of simple pleasures, his humor… he relived the wealth of qualities he accumulated as an exemplary person. When I speak about what it means to Live Like Jay, this is what I mean.
Jay silently taught me a valuable lesson in his final weeks. It became clear to me that we really only have one purpose on this earth, and that is to consistently choose love in its many forms. Be kind, be compassionate, and serve others: be brave enough to become the person you are called to be. In doing this you are growing your soul and are preparing yourself for the next life. It is the only kind of wealth you can take with you. I honestly think it took Jay such a long time to leave us because his karmic storage unit was packed floor to ceiling with greatness!
I don’t want to bring us down, but I think it’s worth remembering that there is a funeral waiting in the future for every single person in this room. We will all face what Jay faced. We should be so blessed as to face it with the grace and openness shown to us by Jay. He did it right! He nailed it! And he crossed over with riches only a person who Lives Like Jay can have. He crossed over with a soul cultivated through an exemplary life. I pray that we all remember him as an example of a life well lived, and strive to cultivate our own lives so that we may not only live like Jay, but have the blessing of one day meeting our maker with a smile on our face and a ready soul.