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July 16, 2014

What I learned from Jack

I met Jack 9 months ago when I started a job in Park City working with special needs adults. He was a 91 year old with special needs who was, happy, funny, friendly and kind. I'd like to share just a few things I learned from Jack.

Everyone in Park City knew Jack.  He was declared Grand Marshall, getting to ride in a parade down the streets of Park City  on the 4th of July and even has a baseball field named after him!  

Forget all those celebrities who come to town, it's Jack who is famous in these parts.  I dont think I ever took him out into the community without at least one person coming up to him to say hello to their friend Jack Sutton. Even if Jack started talking with someone he didn't know, he would show them his new baseball hat sitting a bit lopsided on the top of his head and ask if they knew he had a baseball field named after him. They would talk for a while and then as they left waving goodbye he would laugh and say to me, "I have lots of friends!  He's my buddy 'cause I'm a nice guy!"   Jack was the friendliest guy you'll ever meet and his smile was contagious.
Jack taught me that when you treat everyone with the same kindness you show your friends, you end up with a town full of buddies.
A few days ago I counted  the number of activities I've been able to take Jack to since November. Its about 72.  Grocery shopping, movies, Olive Garden, museums, Jazz Games, The Harlem Globetrotters, bowling, parties, Superbowl pizza party, Festival of Trees, 3D movies at the IMAX, he competed and got a gold medal at the Special Olympics, doctor appointments, shopping at the mall for a new hat to add to his 200+ hat collection, the Aquarium, the Ice Castle in Heber, Benihana's and much more.  Did I mention he is 91?  
Jack taught me you are never to old to enjoy life,  experience new things and have fun.
If I wore something fancy, sparkly or colorful Jack would tell me how much he liked  it.  I would say thanks and he would always smile and say, "I like to give women compliments!"  Sometimes when I tucked him in bed for the night he would reach up and take my hand and say, "I sure think about 'cha when you're gone cuz ya sure are sweet."  He melted my heart when he said this. Every. Single. Time.
Jack had the secret to a women's heart all figured out.  Be kind, make us feel pretty, be sincere and feel free to toss a few compliments our way when we are wearing something sparkly.
Every once in a while Jack would get really frustrated, raise his voice or call one of his buddies a name. But within minutes of doing so he would feel bad and say he was sorry.  It was the cutest thing - the look on his face.  He genuinely felt bad and instantly wanted to make it right - stopping any potential drama dead in it's tracks.

I learned from Jack that when it comes to asking others for forgiveness - the sooner you can say sorry, the better. 
One of the last conversations I had with Jack was about his parents. He desperately wanted to find out where they were buried and visit their graves. It was the one thing his heart truly ached for.  He missed his family and wanted to visit them soon.  I remember driving home from work that night imagining what it must be like to be 91 years old without any family members left on this earth.  It made me so incredibly sad for him and I wondered if I could do anything to grant this last wish.

Then last week the phone rang.  On July 5, 2014 Jack Sutton passed away peacefully in his sleep. His last request was finally granted. He was now with his family.  I smiled, thinking of how happy he must be, being reunited with his parents. I had felt sad for him until I realized that Jack had been surround by people who loved him - his extended family - for many years.  We were all his family.  So to all those who were loving supporting and cheering him on, to everyone who loved him and made him smile:  Thank you for being Jacks family.  He loved us all right back.  And oh, what an honor and blessing it has been. 

They say that everyone who enters our life is there to help us learn something. Sometimes we see qualities we admire, people who make us want to be better.   Other times we learn about the kind of person we hope to never be.  The really cool thing is when, without even knowing what is happening, someone manages to teach us and touch those tender places in our hearts.  Jack did that for me and for many, many others. I learned a lot from Jack but most of all...

I learned that he will forever occupy a permanent spot in my heart.