Monday, October 28, 2013

an open letter to the district attorney's office of rutherford county, nc

my mother tells me that the DA's office would like each of the surviving children to write a letter detailing how the loss of our father has impacted our lives. these letters would then be available to be read in court if and when the court date regarding his accident ever comes--right now it's been pushed out and is scheduled for november 5th, a day when none of us can go. i have thought long and hard about whether or not to comply with this request, and in the end, i decided that if it was to be a public declaration, then it deserves a place here on the blog.

To: The Office of the District Attorney, District 29A, Mr. David S. Norris, Jr., Assistant D.A.
From: Jackie Jones
RE: The death of Jerry M. Jones, June 13, 2013

Dear Mr. Norris,

Dealing with my father's death is an ongoing process. I have finished the paperwork dealing with the settlements of two insurance companies regarding the valuation of my father's property and his life. Both settlements are done and the money paid--money for a life, which could never be replaced, even for a hundred thousand times the amount. I wrote another letter for that settlement, in which i described the financial impact of his life, his health at the time of his death, and the expenses resulting from losing him. That one was hard, too.

The physical impact of my father's death is everything you would expect from any life cut short, and more, because he was simply tremendous. He was charismatic and a natural leader, and the holes he left with our family, in the Rutherford Country community, and in the organizations he cared about are unfillable. Talk to the people at Habitat for Humanity about the work he did for them--that place was my father's church and the calling of his retirement. They have not yet been able to replace him, through an entire building season.

Here's the thing--how can you say what the emotional impact of a person's death is? I feel so cheated. My father was in good health and could well have lived well into his nineties, like his mother and her father before him. Or not--cancer and heart disease can strike any of us at any time, with no warning. He could have lived through June 13th only to find out a week later he was going to die of a slow horrible cancer. There is no way to know, right? But he didn't live, and he didn't die of any natural cause. He died because another driver on the road made a mistake. Right after the accident, I went and looked at the road where he died. It was easy to see how it could have happened. There's a 4 inch drop off a shoulder that isn't wide enough for the curve--a tire goes off, you over-correct, pop back up over the shoulder, and before you know it, you are on the wrong side of a curve slamming into a motorcycle. I empathize with Caleb Owens and his family and what they must be going through. But it's hard to see through the rage of grief sometimes, too. My father is gone, and I miss him every single day.

I am angry that my young sons will barely remember their grandfather, if at all. I am angry that he will not get to impart to them his knowledge of the world or teach them his amazing work ethic. I am sad they will not get to hear the stories he told with such humor and enthusiasm. I am sad they will not learn to hone an argument as I did, with him as an opponent. I am sad that he will not get to teach them to give back to their community and take care of their families the way my father always did. 

I am mortified for my mother, who has lost her companion of 55 years. She is alone now in a house that she has always thought of as his, taking care of his dogs on her own, forced into a new level of independence that was utterly unwanted in her golden years. She's dealing with the day to day things that now remain undone because of my father's death: a new roof, oil changes for the car, yard work. Simple things, until they aren't. As his death becomes more and more real, she is ever more lonely. I worry about her every day.

I am sad for my sister who has lost so much financial and logistics support in losing our dad. As a single parent with an inflexible manufacturing job, she probably relied on my dad more than any of us for the day-to-day support that only family can bring. And my mother is stepping into that void, but she is not able to maintain the same pace and level of involvement as my father, and it's setting limits for both my sister and her daughter.

And maybe most of all, I am depressed for my brother. As long as I can remember, it's been the three of them, Jay, Doug, and Daddy. We lost Doug two years ago to kidney cancer, which is something from which our family, and especially Jay, is still recovering. When Doug died, I was holding his hand in one of mine, and Daddy's hand in my other. And now my father is gone, too. There are so many pictures of the three of them--it's hard to see those and know that only one remains. Jay's entire adult life has been modeled after our dad's. They worked together, played together, fought and laughed together. And now, Jay feels the weight of responsibility for our entire family with Daddy gone--he is the last man standing.

For me, I miss the security of knowing my father was there to help me if I needed him. I miss hugging him. I miss the sound of his voice. There are small reminders of him literally everywhere I go--I cry in the car a lot. I have trouble on the highway when I see anyone on a motorcycle, fearing for the unknown driver. The outgoing message on my mother's answering machine is still my father's voice--I downloaded software so I could call and record that message, feeling a bit foolish, but clinging to that sound all the same. I wear his watch on my arm for the comfort of his presence. I miss watching the blooming relationship between my father and my partner, Jason--they had just begun to find their way through a sometimes rocky friendship. And I am so very disappointed that if Jason and I decide to get married, my father will not be there to witness it.

We are entering a holiday season, our first without my dad--who will sit at the head of the table now?

Whatever happens, please consider that my father was a large presence, hugely impactful on everyone with whom he came into contact. His legacy is far-reaching and impossible to describe, much like the man himself. His loss is quite a hard weight to bear, for all of us.

Thank-you for your time,
Jackie Jones, youngest daughter of Jerry Jones