Reflections on Jackie by Sr. Clare Walsh, Floating Hospital
Of one thing I am certain; everyone in this church has a Jackie Pequita story. We each know a piece of this valiant young woman, and it is my privilege to share something of my Jackie story. Others who know better than me of her playfulness and passion for life, can take comfort from that. I take comfort in a young woman who was attentive to God's surprises.
Although Jackie believed leukemia was not of God, she did believe that God could bring good from it, and God did so with a great deal of help from Jackie. When leukemia forced months of isolation in a sterile hospital room, she turned it into a 16 year old's dream with New Kids on the Block staring from every corner, and cards and balloons from friends surrounding her.
When Jackie lost her hair to chemotherapy, a special hat became her trademark. Her presence made her room a sanctuary and nurses vied to care for her, for we all took from her spirit.
I take great comfort in the power that one person struggling for life had to inspire the staff, patients, and families in a place known to many as the Floating Hospital. She was for all who spent time there, a source of amazing grace.
I take great comfort in a young woman whose life was centered around God. A daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, a friend, who prayed each day for those who hoped for health and for whom being confirmed and being Sarah's Godmother, became the focus of her energy and her dream - an event in which Jackie truly presided and whose courage made all around her tremble.
I take great comfort in the strength of a frightened, courageous teenager, who when told she would die, said unselfishly as she lived, "Tell Julie and Chris I'll take care of Alison" (a 22 month-old-child fighting a horrible cancer.)
I take great comfort in my young friend who, anticipating heaven, asked me if there was anything I would like her to mention to God. And, oh, there was, and she listened attentively as I entrusted the concerns of my heart.
I take great comfort in the faith of Jackie, who believed that nothing is unholy, everything is charged by the presence of God and who, on the day before she died, hosted a birthday party for her uncle in her hospital room, as if to tell us, life goes on, keep celebrating.
I pray that Jackie and God will enjoy each other, and that nothing of her life will be lost but be held sacred by those who love her.
Her mom often referred to her daughter as a class act and, indeed, she was.
Holy is the name of God. Holy was the young woman named Jackie.
There are over one hundred cars in the funeral procession led by the New Bedford Police. Many of them are off duty officers, not only volunteering their time because of my father, but also in memory of Jackie, the young girl they had heard so much about from Dad.
Before leaving for church, two of Jackie's closest friends, Beth-Anne and Meredith, arrive at the funeral home, dressed in their color guard uniforms in honor of Jackie. As difficult as it is for me to see them dressed that way, their courage and sentiment mean so very much to me. My heart breaks watching them stand at her casket with tears rolling down their faces, and I go embrace them. After all, their hearts are broken too. I can only imagine what it must be like to be sixteen years old and attend the funeral of your best friend.
As our funeral car rounds the curve to our church, my heart stops. Cars are parked everywhere, and people are standing on the sidewalks and in the street. Traffic has come to a complete standstill. To my surprise, the Marching Band, in full dress uniform, has lined the steps of our church, serving as honor guards. The beautiful white hat plumes blowing in the breeze and the color guard uniforms, with their red and silver sequins sparkling in the sun, are extraordinary to behold. The sight takes my breath away.
Hundreds of Jackie's friends are here. To think they have come on this freezing cold February morning, when they could have been in their warm beds at home, enjoying their winter vacation. All are handling their grief so well. The only telltale signs being the tears staining their cheeks. I'm proud to be witness to their impressive and heartfelt tribute.