Today I had planned to give some link love, but instead I want to use this space to mark the passing of a beloved friend and a regular commenter. Last week I found out that Jack (username Jack Phoenix) passed away suddenly. I want to take a moment to tell Jack’s story.
When I started Rogue Priest, Jack became one of my first regular readers. What caught my attention was the compassion and warmth with which he wrote. When I talked about the idea of trying to live more like the great heroes he never mocked or doubted me. He was always ready to offer sound advice and sincere encouragement.
This is perhaps even more remarkable because of his trying past. Jack was born in the Ukraine during the Holodomor. If you don’t know what the Holodomor is, it was an artificial famine in the 1930s in the Ukraine. It was engineered by Soviet Russia to reduce the population of the Ukraine and maximize the amount of food Russia got from them. It was a genocide. Jack’s father starved, while hiding food for his children so that they could live.
Jack’s older brother smuggled him out of the country and through Poland to the UK. Jack survived but his brother ultimately did not.
By the time I knew him, Jack was 78 years old: retired, living simply and very happily with his family in Hawaii. I remember him being very excited to hear about people’s dreams. He once wrote:
I adore that the impossible is recreational to this generation.
I’m retired from the impossible these days but when I was young I did the impossible.
I hope you live through your impossible journey too my young friend.
Jack lived a long and, ultimately, happy life. When he died his family found a letter he left for me, which was incredibly moving. Since then I’ve had the chance to chat a little with his wife Nora and discovered that she has the same bright warmth as Jack.
Jack left instructions that he does not want fancy ceremonies or long speeches saying how great he was. So instead, I will ask you to join me in remembering Jack through our actions. Jack was always very touched when he saw people giving food to children. Please consider baking something for the kids in your family or donating food to a food drive to help those who are hungry. If you put a smile on a child’s face I know that is the best thing you can do in honor of this man.
I wish I had a chance to meet him in real life, but as he said, “live well and that will be enough.” Godspeed on your journey, Jack.