Jacqueline Lee Weber was born on June 9, 1950. No star appeared above the hospital that night to signify that she would become an extraordinary person. She never became famous. She never did anything that would get her name in the news. Yet few people I know have ever touched more lives with acts of kindness and friendship than my sister Jackie.
Jackie left this world on December 11, 2007. She had entered the hospital just two and a half weeks earlier. While she was there, her hospital room was always filled with family and friends who loved her. People had to take turns going into the room to see her. When she was transferred to Hospice of Palm Beach, even more people came. The doctor said he had never seen a patient receive so many visitors.
What inspired this outpouring of love toward someone who would be considered by most an ordinary person? Simply the fact that Jackie spent her life being a true friend to those around her.
Do you remember your school days? Do you remember the kids who only associated with the cool people, the popular ones? That wasn't Jackie. All her life she noticed the people that no one else noticed, and reached out to them. She didn't do this so people would praise her. She did it quietly. She did it because she was Jackie.
I once heard a psychologist share that after she spoke to a crowd a woman approached her and said, "I'd like to be your friend." The psychologist replied, "You'll have to wait until one of my friends dies. I can only handle a few friends." That wasn't Jackie, either. I can't count the people who called her "friend." With Jackie there was always room for one more.
In the few days she has left us, many phone calls have flown back and forth. In those conversations, as well as conversations in the hospital and at Hospice, an interesting pattern emerged. Over and over I found that people who would never have met had been introduced to one another by Jackie. She brought people together in friendships that will survive her passing.
But the thing that made Jackie such an unusual person was that she was always doing something for someone else. She was the first to help when people were in need. She was always giving thoughtful little gifts, often things she made herself. She went out of her way to do things for people that they couldn't do for themselves. She always went out of her way to find people who had nowhere to go on holidays, and invited them to her home, where she treated them as family.
After she retired, she spent countless hours caring for her grandchildren when they were babies. She loved those children almost as much as she loved her own two children, and they loved her.
Jackie was young when she passed away, too young. But she was old enough to live in a retirement community close to my older sister, Sylvia. Sylvia and my mother had been each other's support systems for many years, living only two blocks apart. In the two years since my mother's passing, Sylvia and Jackie grew closer and spent a lot of time together. Sometimes people can be friends to others, but ignore their own families. Jackie was a friend to her family.
I hope I haven't painted a picture of a perfect, larger than life individual. Jackie had her faults and her moods, as all of us do. But you could always depend on Jackie. Most of us could live better lives if we emulated the way she treated those around her.
A lot of people believe that if you do a lot of "good deeds," you get to go to heaven. They see life as a large balancing scale; if your good deeds outweigh your bad ones, you pass. If that were true, Jackie would have no trouble getting through the pearly gates. She was always doing good, and I never knew her to deliberately hurt anyone.
But that's not why I know I will see her in Heaven. When she was a teenager, Jackie confessed to Jesus that she was a sinner, and asked Him to come into her heart. In her later years Jackie wasn't in church very much. But when Jesus makes a deal with someone, He doesn't forget it. Jackie is in Heaven today, not because of the good she did, but because of her relationship with the only One Who can truly be called Good.
Jackie didn't have an easy life. Our father was an abusive alcoholic who made life miserable for those around him. All three of us children got out of there as soon as we could. Later in her life, Jackie experienced disappointments that caused her to withdraw to a large extent.
But her friends didn't forget her. And they didn't wait until her funeral to let her know how much she had meant to them, as so many people do. They poured out their love to her in her last days, some of them flying across the country to do so. That's what happens when you are a friend.
This Saturday there will be a memorial service for Jackie at her son Jason's home. Over a hundred people have already called to say they will be there. Some are childhood friends. Some are people from the County office where she worked most of her life. All consider her one of their best friends.
As I finish this, I think of how Hospice of Palm Beach was a friend to Jackie, someone they never knew. She was unconscious when she was brought there, and she never regained consciousness. But the nurses, doctors, social workers and chaplains of Hospice treated her as if she were a beloved family member. Hospice is a wonderful organization, and I hope many of you will do as Ana and I plan to do, and give a Christmas gift to the people who make many people's last days easier. Several hundred thousand people will read this article. If even a small percentage of those give, it will make a difference in millions of people's lives.
Perhaps you can give your gift in the name of Jacqueline Weber. I think she would like that.
"I thank God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3
Hospice of Palm Beach County, Inc
5300 East Ave.
West Palm Beach, FL 33407-2387
Phone: (561) 848-5200
Or to locate a Hospice in your area:
THOUGHTS ON FRIENDSHIP
If you have an ounce of common sense and one good friend you don't need an analyst.
He that is thy friend indeed,
He will help thee in thy need:
If thou sorrow, he will weep;
If you wake, he cannot sleep;
Thus of every grief in heart
He with thee doth bear a part.
Marcus Tullius Cicero:
What sweetness is left in life, if you take away friendship? Robbing life of friendship is like robbing the world of the sun. A true friend is more to be esteemed than kinsfolk.