Jackie’s memorial was held at a winery high in the hills of Saratoga. It was a beautiful setting with neat rows of vines that stretched into the distance, sprawling views of the Bay Area, and an incredible amphitheater that hosted a 100+ concerts last year. As Heather and I drove through the entrance we noticed a sign that read:
“In Concert Tonight – Weird Al Yankovic!!!”
Heather and I had to smile. Jackie, we imagined, would have laughed and said something like, “Of course on the day of my memorial there’s a Weird Al concert. It couldn’t have been something classy, now could it?”
We made our way to the outdoor spot where the memorial was to be held and saw a large crowd was already gathered. Jackie had specified that she wanted her memorial to be a party and not a gloomy affair, so her family asked that guests wear “bright, cheerful colors and your most fabulous shoes.” With this in mind Heather wore a cute dress with birds on it and a pair of high heels that she complained about almost immediately (but kept on for Jackie nonetheless), and I wore the purple shirt and tie that I’d worn to Maddie’s memorial. They were a more vibrant color than my other shirts and ties, and besides, it just felt right to wear them.
Jackie’s father opened the memorial by mentioning the winery was one of Jackie’s favorite places, and that, before her diagnosis, she’d said it was where she hoped to be married one day.
Mr. Oswold went on to give a wonderful speech full of stories about Jackie, including one where a smitten Parisian hopped off his bike and proposed to Jackie after seeing her walking down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, dressed to the nines.
The most powerful and emotional moment came, however, when Mr. Oswold read a note that he’d found between two magazines in Jackie’s apartment. In it Jackie spoke eloquently about her feelings – her anger over what had happened to her, her fear of dying, and her concern that her illness would make her a burden on her family.
Jackie also wrote about how deeply she felt that people should not smoke! This got a laugh from the crowd, but Jackie made a great point I hope everyone hears: cancer is such a horrible disease (something Jackie knew firsthand) that no one should ever court it by smoking. It is not worth it.
The note ended with Jackie addressing her deepest worry: that she would only be remembered as the woman who had cancer, and not as who she was before her diagnosis. It was heartbreaking to hear, and I hope that Jackie knew that there was nothing cancer could have done to her that would’ve made us forget the amazing person she was.
Mr. Oswold’s speech was followed by equally moving ones by Jackie’s mother, sisters, and brother. The incredible love and deep feeling they all expressed for Jackie was palpable to everyone and it was impossible not to shed tears along with them.
Next, three friends of Jackie’s spoke, each of whom was selected to represent a facet of Jackie’s life. There was a dear friend and co-worker who spoke about Jackie’s work life, a friend from San Francisco who talked about Jackie’s life in the Bay Area, and Heather, who shared memories of Jackie’s life in Los Angeles at USC and living in Hermosa Beach. Heather did a tremendous job and had people laughing through their tears. She even got everyone to raise their hands and make USC’s “Fight On!” gesture in honor of Jackie. Everyone did it – even the sizable contingent of University of Washington, Cal, and Stanford fans who never would have under normal circumstances – and Jackie would have appreciated that, I’m certain.
Lastly, there was a moving video showing photos of Jackie from throughout her life, from adorable little girl to the beautiful woman she grew into. There was even a photo of Jackie holding Maddie, a touching sight that made me cry for the umpteenth time that day.
When the video ended the winery fell quiet for a few moments. Everyone, I think, was emotionally drained. But Jackie wanted a party, not a funeral, and so that is what happened next. Jackie’s friends and loved ones enjoyed appetizers, desserts, and drinks as they mingled in the beautiful setting she’d loved so much. It was the party she wanted, and anyone who might have happened by us surely would have been able to see:
Jackie was loved.