Jack Brooks

Semper Fi Marine

I am depressed today because I was told I cannot volunteer in the ER at Huntington Hospital if I have an EMT license and the lamp I want from Pottery Barn is on back order until March.  Does anyone else have to live with such hardship?  It’s a wonder I can stay sober.
 Actually, the real reason I am sad today is my Uncle Jack died last week.  I find it interesting people seldom use the phrase “he died”.  More likely they use the term “he passed” or “made his transition” or “lost his fight with cancer”.  I guess saying he died is too harsh but he did.
I went with my Mom to the funeral in Salt Lake and it was amazing.   It was a very traditional funeral and I haven’t been to many if any of those.  It was a cold day with snow on the ground and a bright beautiful blue sky.  I felt a bit shallow thinking it looked just like the movies with the snow and people in black with sunglasses and all but it did.  I was a little nervous about the viewing with an open casket but I didn’t need to be.  It wasn’t Uncle Jack.  It didn’t even look like him anymore.  So much of what forms our features is the spirit and when that is gone the body bears no resemblance to the living person.  I kept staring at him and trying to find him in the face before me but I couldn’t.  Addie told me she wishes she could have gone because she really wants to see a dead body.  I suppose we should start saving for medical school.
Uncle Jack was a devout Mormon but he did not want any funeral services that everyone not could attend.  He loved his sister and her children so much and even in death he was not exclusive.  The best part of Uncle Jack (and there were many) was not only his faith and strong beliefs, but that I never felt judged because mine were different.  I never heard him say a harsh word about anyone.  I know he loved me and respected me.  I learned from him the best way to earn respect is to give it.
He was a Mormon, a Cowboy, and a Marine.   I guess you could say he enjoyed structure.  He was kind and he was tough. He was the man you would call if you needed help. He didn’t have the type of success that most of us mistakenly yearn to achieve but he was the most successful man I ever met.  His life’s work was his family and he did that so very very well.
He was buried with military honors even though he believed he didn’t deserved them.  He fought in Viet Nam and achieved the rank of Captain in both the Army and Marine Corps.  The marine presenting the flag to my Aunt Shawna said, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army, and a grateful nation we present this flag as symbol of your loved ones honorable and faithful service.”  That was my favorite part of the day.  Well, that and the funeral potatoes we had for lunch.  After the services we returned to my Uncle’s ward and the Relief Society fed us lunch.  For those of you that don’t know, funeral potatoes are some kind of cheesy potato casserole and every one makes them as a little different.  There were four variations and I tried them all.  We also got jello salad with cool whip.  That lunch did for me what the missionaries my Uncle sent to me could not and I seriously considered converting. I think all the missionaries should be equipped not only with the Book of Mormon but with funeral potatoes.  Just saying.

I am not sure how I am going to adjust to his not being here.  I felt safe knowing he was out there.  Addie says he is watching over me and continues to fight the bad.  I believe that is true.  Semper Fi, Uncle Jack, your grateful niece salutes you and will miss you always.

My Uncle Jack

Salt Lake City Airport… again.  It’s snowing, and I’m here to visit my Uncle Jack.  He has a brain tumor.  Last year at this time I was in Salt Lake often, visiting Sofie at her ”boarding school,” or “spa,” as Don still likes to call it.  I spent a lot of time reconnecting with Uncle Jack and Aunt Shawna.  It was one of the silver linings of Sofie being gone.  
When I was twelve years old, I took a Greyhound bus by myself from Riverside, California to Salt Lake City to visit them.  It was so cool to be on the bus alone.  I read, I wrote in my journal (even then!  Except with pens!  And fewer exclamation points!) and along with the old lady sitting next to me, tried to remember all the state capitals, and named fruits or vegetables starting with each letter of the alphabet.  We had a stop in Barstow to have dinner, one in Las Vegas where we drove by my favorite hotel sign for the now-long-gone Stardust Hotel, and one in Provo at 4:00AM where I had two sugar donuts and a hot chocolate.  When I got off the bus in Salt Lake there was my Uncle Jack waiting for me. 
Jack Brooks 1966
Last year when I told him Sofie would be attending school close to his home, he was waiting for me again.  What I know now is that he and Aunt Shawna are always waiting for me or any family member who needs them.  I was so afraid to leave Sofie at school, but knowing my Uncle Jack was ten minutes away from her made it okay.  If I wanted her out of the school, I knew this marine/cowboy would go get her if we asked him to, and I felt sorry for anyone who tried to stand in his way. 
Uncle Jack is a fighter.  He was born three months premature in a hospital with no neonatal care, and lived.  When he was eight a horse fell on him and tore his spleen, and he lived.  He fought in Vietnam and he lived. He even survived raising five children.  Now he fights for his life again against brain cancer.  Based on what I know about my Uncle, I’m not betting on the cancer.