Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of a difficult day saying ‘I will fight again tomorrow.' It is a private heroism that we do not see. It does not beget medals or honors. But it is the most valiant courage of all. A combination of great dignity and an unshakable spirit that is unwavering in a time of fear and crisis.
I suspect there were many tomorrows in Jamie's life. Far more than we realized or she would allow us to know about. And it is that quiet, daily struggle she fought by herself, that led me to understand that Jamie… was the bravest person I have ever known.
And, to tell you the truth, I never saw it. Not for the longest time. Not until it was almost too late.
I should have seen it twenty years ago when I found myself on a half-empty plane from Denver to LA with Janie. She had just received some difficult news. We sat in silence for most of the trip. I struggled to find words of comfort. But I couldn't. Then, out of the blue, Jamie leaned over and put her hand in mine and said: Richard, did you know it takes 46 muscles to frown but only 4 to give someone the finger? And just like that, she wrapped her arms around this burden and took it upon herself. Where she knew it would be handled. It was the first glimpse of that unshakable hope and spirit that lay deep inside her. But I missed it that day.
I met Jamie in 1978. Francine told me she had three beautiful daughters and that I should meet them. Jamie was the first. She had just returned from being in Paris for a year. Her bags were open and sprawled across the floor. As she unpacked, we talked and I was taken by her bubbly nature and he stunning beauty, which she seemed completely unaware of. I finally worked up the courage to ask her if she wanted to go out sometime. You know, for dinner or something. And Jamie smiled that smile of hers, and said : That's sooooooooooooooooo sweet. No. And I swear she said it in such a way that she made me feel like she was doing me a favor.
That was Jamie. She had that way of putting you in your place and making you feel okay about it. Without anger or malice. And to understand that you must first understand the Tao of Jamie.
The first part of the Tao of Jamie is the smile. A thousand kilowatt smile that could light up a room or your soul if you needed it. It was so effervescent, so mesmerizing that if there were a prettier girl in the room you would have never noticed. It could be an annoying smile sometimes because you weren't always sure why she was smiling or so damned happy. Of course I would give my soul right now for a few more…
The second part of the Tao of Jamie is the hair. That mane of perfect blonde tresses that always fell just right… no matter what. It even had its own pronunciation: “Haih”. Or, “my haihs”. Up, down, wind swept, blown out or curly, Jamie was like the Breck girl walking into a room. Light hitting it just so, her full locks bouncing just right. She was indelible.
The next part of the Tao is “the glass hold”. She held her glass high. Higher than anyone else. Go back and look at the pictures. If you can get past the smile and the hair you'll see her glass. Chest high or above. And out a little further. Like she was toasting something only she knew about. Very annoying . Of course I now suspect I know why: Perhaps Jamie was more thankful for that small moment than any of us. Maybe that small flash of a moment was THAT precious.
Packing was a big part of the Tao of Jamie. Her motto? Pack like you're never coming back. Laurie would pack the five of us in a diaper bag and two zip-lock baggies and here would come Jamie, duffle bag, two carry-ons and a burrow with a steamer trunk across its back. MOST annoying. Especially if you had to carry them up to the pool house or lug them into a cramped elevator. I remember one particularly frustrating trip where Jamie packed so much stuff, she had one suitcase that contained only shoes. Already in a bad mood I chastised her, telling her: You're supposed to make choices BEFORE you leave. To which she replied: Who said?
The last part of the Tao of Jamie was her love for babies. Hers, yours, mine, the Sparklett man's. VERY annoying. In my children's first 52,560 hours of life, Jamie held them, fed them, changed them or did something with them for 31,850 of those hours. According to the video tape, Jamie spent over 9,000 hours on our tire swing with one of them. She positively lit up when she was around children. And I will admit, much to my chagrin, Jamie was the greatest Aunt you could ever want in your life. Adventurous, caring and tireless.
But that love and devotion extended to everyone. And I mean everyone. If you were a friend of Jamie's then you officially had your biggest fan. Her home was shrine to her Uncle's work in the theater and her mother's literary success. And if you talked to her she would extol the virtues of anyone in her world. Marla is the best Travel Agent. Richard Arlook the best agent ever. Laurie was the greatest baker of all time. On and on it went… No review would ever come close to the one Jamie glowingly gave you. She was selfless, loyal and beautiful both inside and out.
Of course the most important element in the Tao of Jamie is her son, John.
John, you were, are and always will be her monument. Her life began and ended each day with you. You, you, you, you! That's almost ALL she ever talked about. Very, VERY annoying. Yet you embody all that was good and great in your mother. Her bottomless well of compassion, he complete acceptance and unending forgiveness coarse through you and will forever. So continue to live as your mother wanted: With intention. Play with abandon, take care of your body, never stop learning, appreciate your friends, get up when knocked down, do what you love and love with all you are. Because in the end, love is all we have. Oh yes, she wanted me to tell you that if you ever have to borrow money, borrow it from a pessimist. They won't expect it back.
The past two years were difficult for Jamie. Time weighed heavily and was not to be on her side. But if she knew that, she kept it to herself with that remarkable inner strength. The kind of strength that lives deep in the marrow of one's soul. A strength that does not reside in having never been broken, but in its ability to grow strong in broken places.
Finally whipped by forces her body could not stem, not even with the help of Fran's Herculean will, Laurie's inhuman-sized heart and Susan's devotion, Jamie came to grips with what was to be. And once again she wrapped her arms around it and took it upon herself to shoulder the inevitable. And only Jamie's unconquerable will would allow such a perverse act of nature – two mothers, under the same roof, asked to say goodbye to their child - to be handled with such pure love and honesty.
Through it all Jamie shed no tears for herself. Wore no self pity, and, when she could, smiled that smile. There was one simple request that she made. Only one thing she asked for:
Talk about me. Remember me out loud.
That's all. I wish I were there to hear her ask. Because I would have promised her that. Because I am certain, as someone once said, that what we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. Jamie's legacy will not be written with the words we say here today, but in the words we speak tomorrow, next month, next year and the years to come. Death may end a life but it does not need to end a relationship.
And while time will heal what reason cannot, don't let time diminish who Jamie was and always will be. Talk about her. Out loud. Often and with great passion. Talk about her as she talked about us. With unbridled enthusiasm and joy.
It's all she asked.
And the next time you find yourself at a party, event or gathering, be it on a terrace in the south of France or in an apartment in New York or a backyard in southern California, and you find yourself holding a drink in your hand… hold it a little higher and whisper Jamie's name. And say a prayer for the girl who loved you all… no matter what.