I have written my name on the closet wall of every room I’ve ever lived in. It’s my own little way of saying, “I was here,” as if etching my name in several locations guaranteed me a sort of permanence – a literal mark on the world. When I was moving out of the apartment I lived in with Jackie, she walked in just as I put my pen to the paint. “What are you doing?” she asked me. I explained, and she laughed at me and said, “You’re crazy. It probably gets painted over!” Then she grabbed my pen and wrote her initials above mine with a heart. “JNO hearts Heather Buchanan.”
I remember the moments I met most of my friends, but I don’t remember meeting Jackie. I think it’s because I’m meant to feel like I’ve always known her. We never had an awkward “get to know each other” phase, we just had friendship. And a good one – one of the best. It was easy, it was loving, and it was pure. Even when we’d fight over who had to take out the garbage (a ridiculous fight that we had entirely too often), we always fell back into our comfortable relationship. Even when we were on opposite sides of the country, or opposite sides of the state, it didn’t matter. Our friendship was as solid as they come.
It’s easy to be there for your friends in the good times, and there were many, many good times to be had. But it’s said that the ones who are there in the hard times are your truest friends. During my rocky pregnancy with Madeline, Jackie was there. She checked up on me often with calls and emails. When I was put in the hospital, she came down from San Francisco to visit. When I was told Madeline was going to be delivered almost twelve weeks early, Jackie heard the news first, because she was on the phone with me when the nurse told me the news.
Her strong support continued during Madeline’s rough time in the NICU. She asked for updates and pictures. She wasn’t horrified by the wires and monitors attached to Maddie, and after every new picture she declared Maddie “gorgeous.” Jackie was my first friend to come over after Maddie was released from the NICU. Jackie walked in and announced, “Time to meet Auntie Jackie!” From the moment my girl with the bright blue eyes looked at my girl with the bright green eyes, they were bonded.
Not long after, Jackie’s brain tumor was discovered, and it was my turn to be there for her. Perhaps because of everything I’d been through up to that point with Maddie, Jackie knew I could handle the dark stuff. She confided in me her desire to beat the disease, but was honest with her fear that she probably wouldn’t. The mere idea that she might not beat cancer seemed absurd to me. She was Jackie! She wasn’t ever going anywhere – we were going to grow old together.
When Madeline suddenly died the following year, Jackie was there the next day. She laid in bed with me while I slept, and comforted Mike when I couldn’t. She took care of my family, and helped plan Maddie’s service. She did all this during a chemo week, which meant she was suffering massive physical side effects to go along with the emotions she was feeling over losing her little buddy. She made sure I never knew about her discomfort, and I didn’t for many years. I only knew that Jackie was there for me when I needed her most.
Losing Madeline made me realize that death isn’t just something that happens to other people, and I remembered Jackie’s confession that the odds were against her beating GBM…in fact, it hit me like a ton of bricks. But if Jackie wasn’t wallowing, I couldn’t either. I adopted her “live in the now” attitude. We visited each other when we could, talked often, and texted almost daily. We weren’t physically close, but emotionally we leaned on each other like never before.
When Jackie learned in February that her cancer had stopped responding to treatments, her first worry was her family. You all know by now that I have an amazing family, but you should know that Jackie’s is equally wonderful but much more massive: loads of siblings, a dozen nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and cousins, and her fabulous parents. She wanted to fight for them; she wanted to live for them. She cried about leaving them, and I cried about her leaving me. But she firmed her chin and started experimental trials with the hope of not only gaining more time, but of helping find a cure for brain cancer.
Jackie’s final days were not unlike the rest of her days: she put her concern for others ahead of her concern for herself. She apologized for not being able to care for herself. She furrowed her brow when we were sad around her. She even managed some jokes to make us smile. It is mind-blowing that anyone would think about anything other than themselves at the end of their life, but that was the true essence of Jackie. Her love for others was even more vast than the love others had for her, which is amazing when you think about just how many people love her.
Jackie never felt the need to graffiti her name on plywood to leave a mark, but she never had to. The way she lived and loved and dedicated herself to finding a cure for cancer has guaranteed that she won’t ever be forgotten – and that’s not even considering the impact of the Jacqueline Oswold Chair in Systems Biology. But even without any of that, her name would be etched on my heart the way our names were once etched on my closet wall ten years ago:
forever and ever and always
Heather, I am so very sorry for your loss, I dream of having the kind of friendship you and Jackie! so clearly had.
I lost my beautiful Mum last year and your lovely words are saying all the things I was never able to.
Beth Mariel says:
That’s so so so so beautiful. I’m so sorry for your great loss of such an amazing friend.
What an amazing friend, gone way too soon. She will live on…in your heart, your memories and your attitude. You were lucky to have each other and this is a beautiful tribute. xo
So much love Heather.
You both seem like such a joy to know! Love and prayers being sent to all!
Where can we donate in your dear friend’s honor to continue her fight against brain cancer? I didn’t see a link on your post about Jackie’s walk. I would love to help her fight on in some small way.
What beautiful words you have written about a beautiful woman.
Thinking of you and sending thoughts and prayers from New Zealand.
Amanda C says:
Such a lovely heartfelt post about your friend and her battle and her spirit. You both are luckier for having one another in your lives. Sending my condolences and keeping you and Jackie!’s family in my thoughts and prayers.
Mrs Woog says:
I am so sorry Heather x
Another Beautiful post, Heather. What a beautiful friendship for you both. I am so very sorry for your loss. Sending warms thoughts and virtual hugs for you all.
Sending lots of hugs and peace to HBS and JNO and their families. What a beautiful friendship forever and always. xo
A beautiful tribute to a truly beautiful person. Thank you for sharing your friend with me. I’m a better person for knowing and loving both of you.
I’m so sorry you’ve lost someone so very special to you and far too soon. You have shared her with the world though and ensured that her name has been etched in us all too. My best thoughts are with you.
This is incredibly beautiful.
My thoughts are with you daily
That was incredibly beautiful. I’m crying at work reading this. I hope someone will write that way about me when I’m gone. What a lovely tribute to a special friend.
She is a wonderful person who will surely be missed. Thinking of you all.
What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful friend. I don’t know either one of you aside from what I’ve read but your family and hers are in my prayers.
I’m sorry for your loss. You are very lucky to have had such a wonderful friend. Most people can only dream of having a friendship like yours. Thinking of you all.
What a very special friendship. If I could make it so, you’d have had more time together and she’d have had more time to live her amazing life.
This is beautiful. I’m so happy you were able to expeirence a frienship so simple and pure – what an amazingly awesome person. Hugs and love to you today.
Beautiful words for a beautiful person. Love and hugs Heather. Keeping Jackie! And all those she touched and loved her in my thoughts.
This is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
Whew!!! Tears are a-fallin’! We should all be so lucky to have such a bond with another person!! I’m so so glad you had each other, through the good and bad. And I can sure tell you were a communications major (gleaned from your photos, sorry) – you communicate in such a heartfelt, pure, loving way. I know Jackie will be with you till the end of your days, just like Maddie. You were all so blessed to know her and I feel blessed just to have these glimpses into a pure pure friendship and love. So very sorry for you and Mike and Annie. But I know, a spirit like Jackie will live on in so many people. Every time you guys laugh about something Jackie said or did, etc you are immortalizing her. And telling strangers like us all about her, gives her even more immortality. I love your willingness to let us all into your heart. I heart you and your family!
I am so sorry for your loss! My thoughts are with you and Jackie’s family.
I am just so sorry that you are having to go through this…
I’m so very sorry for your loss. You are such a wonderful friend. Your posts about Jackie! are so beautiful; I’m just so sad you have to write them.
Weeping from this. This is such a beautiful tribute of words, Heather. You are such an amazing, beautiful woman and it’s easy to see how alike you and Jackie are.
What an amazing friendship. I kind of can’t comprehend that both Maddie and Jackie are now gone. How do people get through what you are going through? I don’t know exactly, but I know that you will, sweetheart.
I’m always here if you need anything, at all.
(I write my name on the inside of closets, too!! Seriously!)
Heather – this is a beautiful tribute to your friend. Thank you for letting us in always. I feel like I know Jackie! from your blog and am saddened by your loss. My thoughts are with you, your family and hers.
You are leaving Jackie one of the most beautiful legacys. THANK YOU for sharing these beautiful stories. I LOVE EVERY ONE OF THEM!!!! My heart aches for you Heather, as I see my own best friend battle breast cancer I know how fraigle life is. I know what it’s like to count your blessings and MEAN IT!!!
You are right, Jackie will ALWAYS be a part of your heart & soul. She’s apart of you ever much as you are apart of you and Heather….Nothing….NOTHING is EVER going to Change That!!!! xoxo
What a wonderfully worded tribute to your dear friend. You were both lucky to have each other in your lives and it’s such a gift to have true friendship like that.
It is so wrong she won’t be there in person for the rest of your life, sharing it with you. But she will be there, just like your Maddie. You are blessed with having loved Jackie, and she was blessed to have you as her friend.
And as a friend of mine said about someone she lost, f**k cancer. My apologies for the rude speech, but f**k it. It takes the people we love too soon, and we need to find a way to stop it.
This was a very beautiful tribute Heather. Thank you for bringing Jackie! into our lives as well.
Incredibly beautiful writing. Jackie! will be missed by even those who didn’t know her. xoxo
Sonya aka Glam-O-Mommy says:
What a gorgeous tribute to a beautiful friend. I’ve been thinking about Jackie!, a w0man I never met, but wished I had known, all week. Y’all are so lucky to have each other, forever and ever. Praying for you all.
Tears. She sounds like such an incredible person, Heather. The kind of person who makes the world better just by being in it. What an enormous loss.
I can’t imagine the pain that you’re feeling right now. I’m so sorry, and my thoughts are with you and your family, and Jackies. Side point: I moved a lot when I was a kid. Not far, Mostly around the same time because my parents had to rent houses for a while before they could buy. Anyway…I wrote my name somewhere in my room and some other rooms in all the houses I lived in. Usually under the window sill bc it wouldn’t get painted over. And I still do it, and probably will continue. It’s really neat to hear that someone else does it too.
I don’t have any other words to share with you over the loss of your phenomenal Jackie other than I’m sorry, as well as more tears and love.
beautiful words to describe a beautiful friendship. while i have some really good friends it makes me sad that i don’t have a friend like jackie in my life. you are so lucky to have known someone so special……
With tears streaming down my face all I can say to you, Heather, is I am so, so sorry that you have lost such an amazing friend. I know you won’t find all that much comfort in those words but they are sincere. Your words about Jackie! are beautiful.
Another beautiful post about your beautiful friend, Jackie!. Thank you for continuing to share her with us. Hugs…
A lovely tribute. May we all be so lucky to have a friendship like you and Jackie.
erica L says:
She was clearly a very, very special lady. You were both lucky and blessed to have each other that much is certain. My Husband lost his Mother to brain tumors/cancer and so just thank you to Jackies!, her family, and all of your friends for supporting that particular cancer research.
No one should have to go through as much heartbreak as you have, Heather. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. Jackie! clearly is a one-in-a-billion friend. Very few of us are as lucky as you to have had such an amazing friend. Thinking of you.
This post is such a beautiful tribute. Perhaps even more than your other posts about Jackie!, it really gets across her awesome personality. Tears are in my eyes as I once again offer my condolences and wish that instead, I could bring her back.
Just wanted to send some love and support to you both. Your friendship with Jackie! leaves those of us who have not had such a friend, a bit envious. Not everyone has had such a privilege to have such a special friendship. It leaves me in awe, but also deeply sad you must morn her loss. Thinking of you both – and of Jackie!’s family.
Your stories about Jackie truly are beautiful and a wonderful reflection of your friendship. She also wrote beautifully about you and Mike and Maddie on her site. Hopefully the words and memories will offer some sustenance to you and her family going forward.
I am so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful post to your wonderful friend.
You have etched her onto the world and in such a beautiful way. Just like you continue to do with your Maddie. Thank you for sharing your stories.
that was beautiful and had me in tears. her memory will live on forever.
i imagine she is now walking hand in hand with maddie, after playing in the swings.
my thoughts are with you all the time heather.
Beautiful words for a beautiful woman from a beautiful friend.
Sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing Jackie! with all of us. For 4 years I followed her blog over at caringbridge. Her dad’s post always made my heart ache. No parent should go through this.
She definitely left her mark… she has been an inspiration of strength and bravery. She fought till the end and she fought hard. Jackie! will live on forever…in your heart and in all the beautiful memories. A friendship like yours and Jackie’s! equals FAMILY!
Peace, strength and comfort to you Heather, to Mike and to the many family members and friends of Jackie! xo
What a beautiful testimony of your friendship with Jackie. I’m glad you had each other, and I pray for your heart, etches, scars, and all, that you would be comforted and surrounded by love.
beautiful words for a beautiful friend. I hope to hear many more Jackie! stories.
lisa d says:
I know this probably doesn’t help you to know, but you are so incredibly lucky to have had her. I’m your age and although I’ve had and still have friends, I’ve never had a friendship like that. My heart absolutely breaks for you that you have to part with her right now, but you’ve given us all such a gift in letting us have a glimpse of your friendship.
Im so very sorry about Jackie. It’s not fair. I look at all of the photos you put on facebook and on here and all i can think is why her?….
For those that want to donate or honor Jackie, has a fund been set up yet? services for Jackie?
Again, deeply sorry about Jackie.
I am happy that you had such an incredible friendship. I am so so sorry, that Jackie! is gone. Thinking of you all.
Your words took my breath away, Heather. The univers works in mysterious (and sometimes really shitty) ways, but I’m so happy that it brought the two of you together. xoxo
I am so sorry for your loss. My mom is fighting GBM right now, and I find Jackie! to be an amazing face for the disease. You can all be very proud of her.
Just want to say I’m thinking of you. And I heard Chasing Cars on the radio last night and it made me cry!
This is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for continuing to share Jackie’s light with us. She is extraordinary, and her story and personality is one that deserves to be told and shared.
Friendships like yours with Jackie are rare. I’m so, so sorry for this loss.
Oh, I have no words.
I’m so sorry for your loss. But so happy for what you gained with her in her life.
Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts says:
One of your most beautiful posts. Fitting that it was in response to such a beautiful person. Etched indeed.
For Mommy and the others who might want to do the same: to donate: http://www.braintumorcommunity.org/site/TR/Events/BTWSF/1246730342?team_id=49611&pg=team&fr_id=1823
For Heather: I think that should be your new tattoo. (HBS<3JNO). I have been reading Jackie's journal and I feel bad that I haven't been a better snooper to find it sooner, that I hadn't donated sooner, that I hadn't helped somehow. I did donate now and will every year. To Maddie and Jackie. I just reached the journal part where you went through Maddie's loss and Jackie describes your emotions so well and it's so apparent how well matched your friendship was. I am so very sorry.
Can you provide a link to the journal?
I wish I would have known her. She couldn’t have had a better friend than you.
Jackie! sounds like an amazing friend and person. I’m so sorry that you didn’t have her here on earth for many more years.
I’m not sure what to say, you said it all. It’s pretty palpable how you feel, with someone so irreplaceable gone. That said, as many already mentioned, living in your memory means she’ll never be truly forgotten.
Mary Ann says:
What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful friend. I saw a little boy about 6 years old in a wheelchair today in Target. He obviously had some type of cancer by his appearance, he had no hair and his body looked worn for it’s age. It made me so sad to see him with his grandparents and my heart broke for them. I can’t stop thinking about him and all he is going through and I pray that he will make it. It made me think about your friend and all the people I have had in my life who were affected by cancer and reminded me to love them more deeply and appreciate every second we have together. I’m sure Jackie is smiling down on you no longer in pain and holding another little angel with big blue eyes by the hand.
An amazing tribute to an awesome friend. Fantastic words.
After reading your blog for the last few days, I’m in awe of you, Jackie, Madeline…
I’m so sorry for your loss, such a tradegy. She sounds like a wonderful & true friend.
Oh, I am so, so sorry. I am losing my own “Jackie!” as I write this, also to GBM. Her family requested that friends and family send fond memories, for her, but also for her little boy in the future and I spent all weekend wrestling with what to say. How do you write down what someone like that means to you? Well, you did it so beautifully here. Thank you. My heart is breaking for you, for Jackie, for the people who love her and for all of the other Jackies out there.
I never knew Jackie, but the way you talk about her makes me wish I did.
That would be an awesome tattoo.
I think you just wrote the perfect eulogy for Jackie. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul. So sorry for your loss.
I was rereading the text of Ted Kennedy’s – another person lost to brain cancer – famous speech at the 1980 Democratic convention today for a project. His words about his journey and its disappointing conclusion echoed for me what I know of the story of Jackie, and the many people who loved her and supported her and her family, and helped the laughter balance the tears, over the past four years.
“There were hard hours on our journey, and often we sailed against the wind. But always we kept our rudder true, and there were so many of you who stayed the course and shared our hope. You gave your help, but even more, you gave your hearts.”
And the most famous lines of this speech, talking then about the platform of the Democratic party, but appropriate here for the commitment to curing brain cancer even in the face of the loss of your beautiful friend.
“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
It is clear to me that Jackie’s concerns, her light, her love, her hopes and her dreams, will indeed not die but live on in the spirits and work of those lucky to have known her.
I have no words, just sending you my most heartfelt sympathy for the loss of your beloved and dear friend.
My heart is broken for you. There is nothing to say to make you feel better about your loss. I’m truly sorry.
Heather, I am so so sorry. My heart goes out to you. I know what it feels like to lose a friend. I am so very sorry.
What beautiful words for a dear friend. I am so very sorry for your loss. I know you will continue to find strength as you honor her memory.
I’m so sorry Heather.
Heather, I was away on family vacation and I am just catching up on your posts.
I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Jackie! Sending hugs to all of you who will miss her.
Love from Florida
Just keep crying for you, your precious Jackie, her family, & yours. She has left a huge hole in your heart that can never be filled by anyone else: but someday you’ll realized that (because Jackie is who she is & you are who you are) that that hole is now a lovely, peaceful pond in your life surrounded by a beautiful garden of memories & love…