November 27, 2004

Sad, But Beautiful

Sometimes you run across a story in the paper that makes you cry. More rarely, it is a story which is tinged with sadness, but contains in it an element of great beauty. This is one of those.
Relatives say Gracie Jackson's wish was always that she and her husband J.C., the love of her life for seven decades, would go to heaven holding hands.

On Thanksgiving Day, her wish came true.

J.C. Jackson, 97, died of congestive heart failure about 2:30 a.m. Thursday at a nursing home in this Fort Worth suburb. Twenty hours later, Gracie Jackson, 88, joined her husband of 69 years, dying of pneumonia.

The family insists J.C. Jackson did not go to heaven 20 hours sooner than Gracie.

"No, Daddy waited on her, and they went together," daughter Cathy Spence, 62, of Hurst said in Saturday's editions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

I understand that sentiment. My wife is ill, suffering from a degenerative condition that will one day put her in a wheelchair (she already uses a cane in her early 40s, and has for several years), though it is not necessarily life-threatening. I've often said that I don't want to go before her, but don't think I could live without her. I can only imagine this couple felt something like that.

But I was struck by something else. It was the generosity of spirit these dear people showed in life.

Relatives described the Jacksons as a devout, big-hearted couple from East Texas. They married on Christmas Day 1934 in Terrell and raised two sons and three daughters.

During World War II, the couple opened their home -- with hot chocolate and dancing -- to English fly-boys who came to Texas to train.

"The Jackson house was big, with a ballroom. I can still see the winding stairs," said daughter Judy Earhart, 67, of Overton. "It was like a USO show."

J.C. Jackson spent a half-century as a grocer, while Gracie helped make ends meet by sewing. And everyone knew about her cooking, relatives say.

"The tramps and the hobos would be riding the rails through there -- there were a lot of them at the time," Spence said. "She never gave them money, but she would feed them."

Fried eggs mostly -- sometimes bacon, toast and what the family remembers as heavenly biscuits.

I'm told those were tough days, with littel money and rationing for the war effort. But they gave even when there wasn't much to give.

But what seems to be most noted was their love.

"We knew they loved each other, and they loved us," said daughter Toni Hood, 69, of North Richland Hills.
I only hope that the love we each show those we love is such that, when our time here is through, others will be able to speak in this manner of us.

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