There once was a man named Jack Pearson. He was famous for wearing plaid shirts and brightly colored suspenders (his favorite were yellow). He was also famous for the songs he wrote for children. But mostly he was famous for his kindness and his love.
Jack died in January at only 63 years old. It feels immensely unfair that this beautiful man is no longer with us; that he left us so ridiculously soon. His memorial service was on Saturday and it was incredibly moving. The service was his music and photos of him interwoven with personal reflections (and even included a trivia game led by his wife Nancy).
I only knew Jack for a couple of years but I loved him deeply. You couldn’t meet Jack and not love him. He had this intense focus on whoever he was talking to and a kindness so deep. He was gentle. And sweet. And so incredibly talented.
At his memorial service I was struck by three things: 1: How much people loved him. 2: How single minded his focus was. 3: How he basically eulogized himself.
What an incredible thing that is: to be so clear in what you are meant to do that when you are gone your body of work and the life that you lived proves it out so beautifully.
I didn’t know a lot of Jack’s music until the service. But it spoke so clearly of who he is and it has given me hope in these moments of loss. The service opened with his song To All Purple Tree Trunks which includes these words:
Here’s to all of you weirdos, I understand
Born dancing to the music of a different band
The road has been lonely, I know that it’s true
I am a weirdo, too
It goes way back to grade school, to your earliest times
When you were strictly instructed to color within the lines
And at art class they told you while making the rounds
Your purple tree trunks were very interesting
But everyone knows that tree trunks are brown
Here’s to all of you weirdos, you know who you are
Like alien beings from some far away star
You think none understands but I’ve a hunch that I do
I’ll bet I’m even weirder than you
You were raised to be normal but never felt it inside
So like the rest of us weirdos you learned how to hide
But come out long enough now to hear what I say
Being weird has its own problems
But in the meantime you’re really okay
In a video interview recorded about a year before his death, he said this:
“One big theme in my songs is being who you are, being yourself. Because I know many times I was encouraged to not be myself…One of the things I’m proudest of is that I had the guts to do that, and I did it. That is like the one thing, lots of things can go really wrong for a long time, but if you know at the end of your life you had the courage to be yourself and to do your vision, that’s worth it all.”
He was determined to be himself. And in that determination he gave others courage to be themselves.
His life was exemplified in his song Draw Your Circle which says: “at school I drew a circle on the playground one fine day to play a game with friends, keep those other kids away. and my teacher strolled on over and she now saw none could hear I’ll never forget what she whispered in my ear she said draw your circle big draw your circle wide draw so that everyone find a place inside. Open up your heart that’s where you begin to draw the circle wide, the circle to let others in. Oh draw your circle big, draw your circle wide draw it so that ain’t and fear can’t find a place to hide. Open up your heart cuz that’s where you begin. draw your circle wide enough to circle others in.”
And that is continually what Jack did. He drew his circle wider and wider. He made it so that everyone was inside.
And to others who’s circles were small he became a threat. Some people in his life couldn’t handle his outspoken support and love for people in the LGBTQ+ community and they did their best to exclude him. But Jack refused to redraw his circle. He knew that a bigger circle was a better way to live, and once you drew a circle big enough there was no going back. And his determination to draw a wider circle let me know that he was a safe person to be around.
I loved Jack. I continue to love Jack. At his memorial service his wife Nancy (whom I also love) greeted me by saying, “Jack really loved you.” And that was the greatest gift she could have given me in that moment.
I’ll leave you with these lyrics from his song The Arms of Love
And so now we take just one last cup of parting
Starting down the road of our own separate ways
The everlasting arms under and beside you
There to guide you on, to comfort and amaze
So until once more we weave our stories
Though I can’t say where and I don’t know when
May the arms of love bear to mind the glories
Of the times we shared till we meet again
Jack, your love is lifting me up. Your commitment to your own path is giving me courage to walk mine. And your kindness and love and holding me in these days without you.
Thank you for you life, thank you for your legacy, but most of all, thank you for your love.