There are moment in your life when lose legends…death does not escape those that you view as legendary. Death strikes us all. This month I lost one of those men in Jack Sheen. Death sucks. It’s been a reality for me since my class mate in 6th grade was struck dead in a car crash. There are shocking deaths…a car crash…a violent death…pure anticipation. There are less shocking deaths…cancer…a 90something year old…etc.. Shocking or not, what happens when you lose legend???
Three things happen. 1) the initial stun 2) assessment of impact and 3) plan to honor the legacy.
This month was not the first the legend I’ve lost. About a decade ago I got a call that one of my closest scouting advisors had had a medical episode. I called the hospital asking to speak to him…the nurse on the other end clearly interpreting my age told me things did not look good. That life support had been ceased…it was time to say goodbye. I sobbed and then…with reality setting in, made it my goal to drive any kid that wanted to to the hospital to say goodbye. The stubborn bastard kept it going for a week or so before he passed. I made no less than three trips to hospital, each time less attached the actual happenings and more focused on letting others say their goodbyes. The stun was gone.
When i got the text about a week ago from a good friend that Jack had passed, there was less stun. I had heard that he had previously struggled in health but I wasn’t quite ready, you’re never ready. In this case I think it was most difficult because the legend wasn’t a singular legend..he came in a package with his wife and to think of a team split in two was harder to handle than just the loss of single man. It was always Jack and Pat, together, as a package. Those two things, at least in my mind, could not be separated yet in mortality here it was, a splitting of un-splitable things.
Everyone has their favorite Jack memory, My best friend Travis remembered Jack teaching him to light a fire without a match, even stopping by Travis’s house to help him figure it out. Of all the memories that stuck out in my mind, one dominated. In 2005 I traveled the country for Scouting. in May of that year there was the annual BSA meeting in Dallas. On registration day I was walking through the hotel mostly to get my barrings for the events ahead and I ran into Jack and Pat just after they had checked into the conference. It was a taste of home in the middle of Dallas in the middle of a year when I spent more time on planes than with Scouting in my own home. He was a friendly face in a distant land, at that moment it was exactly what i needed.
His celebration of life was one of the few I would not have missed for anything. It was a damn reunion of my most formative years. Awkward given the BSA’s current stance on homo adults? Yes. But nobody gave a damn. Because that’s reality, not policy. I saw old Scoutmasters, Scouts I had helped turn into responsible adults. Pat looked exactly as she did the last time I saw her; she was surprised but pleased to see me. The celebration was a reminder of Jack’s propensity to tinker and his impact across the Scouting program…Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, OA, Day Camp, etc. It was all there…an important reminder of the people who made me who am I yet keep me at arms length.
The stun, having worn off is done. It was less stunning that other only because of the grapevine and other such means of keeping up with other. It was still there but not a full gut punch. Jack’s impact on me may be surprising to most but what I learned most from Jack and Pat is that you’re true match in life is out there. It may take awhile to find that match but don’t quit looking. There is someone who is the perfect match, just have patience. How to honor the legacy? I can’t yet. But some day I’ll be allowed to contribute the organization that gave so much to me and when I do so, it will be part of Jack’s legacy each and every moment I give back. Anything less wouldn’t be honoring the legend that has passed, and I have no intention of forgetting his legacy.