Friends for over 20 years. Housemates for much of their adult lives. How does one handle such a grievous loss? Losing a piece of history, a link? Losing a confidant? Losing the beauty and turmoil of a mind constantly in motion. The one he turned to in times of creative need.

The way he tells it, I owe my life as it is to this man. We wouldn’t have met if Jackson hadn’t encouraged a relocation, hadn’t offered a desperate Shelby the chance to start again. He supported creativity in my husband. We have his paintings on the walls. He had just promised us a painting for Hannah; a more personal gift than the books he gave her at our baby shower.

And then he died.

I don’t know how to do this. It’s different. When someone dies, I can be strong, I can take care of the logistics and give the space needed for grief to pass through those around me. But he died in our house. The house my husband has to live in. All day, every day. And Shelby found him. He feels everything. I can’t even imagine.

I keep trying to make a comparison, to gain even an inkling of what he might be feeling. I think, what if I found my sister or brother? Because that’s what he was to Shelby, as close or closer than any of his brothers. What panic would I feel? What demons would gnaw at me for having gone to bed before them? What added pain would haunt my loss at having to see their lifeless body somewhere other than a funeral home; somewhere so familiar? He found him dead on our own bathroom floor. Nothing comes to me. I can’t match it, I can’t imagine it, I can’t feel it.

I feel separated. I feel like the man I am sworn to stand beside is falling and I can’t catch him. I’m walking a tightrope of respect and courtesy but watching him disappear farther below me. I don’t know when to push, when to give room. I didn’t have the same connection so I don’t know how far is normal. I don’t know if I’m doing this right.

I don’t fear for Hannah. He can put on a face for her. We bathed her last night and he smiled and played with her. But he’s alone today, no friends to lean on, and he can’t fake it when she cries. He knows I’m just a text or call away. At least I think he knows. He knows. I wish I was closer. I wish he didn’t have to be alone. I wish I knew what was hurting him most. I wish I could help him.

RIP Jackson Hall…Jason…Mule. You are sorely missed.


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