One Week, One Weak

It has been a week since I drove to Batesville to Jermaine’s wake. I didn’t know what to expect, nor did I truly care. I simply wanted this to be a moment where I would arrive and I would be told that all of this was a joke and that I was on some sort of candid camera show. I would have been livid for a moment, but then I would let forgiveness rule the day. Unfortunately, it was all too real.

I arrived at the funeral home uncertain what to think or what to feel. I loaded my pocket with handkerchiefs, gathered myself, and walked in. I was directed where to go and informed the family had yet to arrive. I stood for a moment just staring. He just looked like he was taking a nap. So calm; so peaceful. I held it together, but only by the grace of God. I was glad that I had the opportunity before the family arrived simply for the fact that I had to be strong for them.

His brother, sister, and mother soon arrived. I greeted them as they arrived. First, I spoke to his brother Marc. Marc and I have always enjoyed trading jabs and jokes over the years. He arrived with his daughter, who is one of the most adorable children I have ever had the pleasure to see. Then I spoke to his sister Keosha. She is the one who informed me of Jermaine’s death and also acted as my contact with the family for information. Her strength and determination throughout this time were unparalleled. I saw so much of Jermaine in her, especially throughout all of this.

I then spoke to Ms. Claudine. Ms. Claudine has always been a very quiet woman; but when she did speak, all were commanded to listen. It was not because of force of personality, but because if she had something to say, it was going to be something you needed to hear. During our encounters, she always had a smile on her face and cheer in her heart. I remember sharing so many laughs with Jermaine’s family that I will never forget.

Soon, there were other family members who arrived. They were followed by colleagues from Ole Miss and high school friends. Then many friends from Ole Miss trickled in. They were there to pay their respects, but it did my heart good to see some of them. Some of them I have kept in contact with for many years. Some I had not seen in five years. But all in all, it was good to see each of them. Jermaine would be glad to see each of them and want to catch up with them all.  As we all know, Jermaine never met a stranger. If he didn’t know them, they knew him.  If neither he nor the other person knew one another, it was soon changed. He had a way to make people feel comfortable in the most awkward of situations. His calmness under pressure is something I can only hope to one day I am able to do.

I find myself still weak. I have cried until my eyes produced no more tears. I have talked with those closest to me in an attempt to both seek answers, but also to answer the question everyone was asking me, “Why?” I have prayed; I have negotiated; I have pled with God for answers. To paraphrase the Psalm, “Weeping may last for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” We are not meant to deal with tragedy all at once, but as a process. As long as there is a tomorrow, we have the ability to grow and realize there is hope.

Jermaine always described me as a realistic optimist. I have always tried to see the good in all situations, no matter how terrible they may be. This situation is certainly no different. I have reconnected with old friends, reunited with people I never thought I would see or speak to again, and renewed my faith both in my fellow man and Almighty God.  No matter how much darkness there is, there is always light to be found.  We will find closure and peace as time progresses. As long as there is laughter, kindness, faith, determination, and love, we will remember him. Peace be with you.

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Remembering Jermaine (from Amanda Pannell)

The passing of Jermaine brings me great sadness, but when I think of all of those years hustling and grinding to get the story – I can only smile. Jermaine and I first met during my time as a producer for NewsWatch at the Student Media Center (SMC) at Ole Miss. After becoming manager, Jermaine who often knew the ropes before the ropes were even sown together, always challenged me to accomplish more, to dig deeper, and truly kept me on my toes as a manager and as a journalist.

Before I knew it, years had passed and this place where I wanted to get experience for the work world had evolved into my family, my friends, my collegues. Countless nights were spent alongside Jermaine working on the ASB debates, calling every contact to get the big news story of the day, and in all honesty laughing and joking along the way. Jermaine’s wittiness, sense of purpose and direction was a huge part in my daily creative process and so many great ideas came from the man himself – not to mention, he was pretty damn funny too.

During my time spent at SMC, Jermaine was a huge part of what we then called “media convergence” and he played an intregal role in creating, designing, and producing what is now known as the TheDMOnline. Jermaine was not only a student and alum of Ole Miss, but he was a part of history. With his efforts, journalism at Ole Miss was revolutionized and he changed the way we all thought about reporting the news.

Not just that, Jermaine sat on the same Student Leadership Council as I when the monument for James Meredith was placed on campus. This day will always be embedded in my mind and I consider this one of our biggest accomplishments. I’m so glad I shared in this historical moment with Jermaine and I know how much this meant for him as well.

There are countless memories of sitting at SMC in the late night hours rehashing the days news or trying to mediate the next day’s work – countless memories of playing games at my house or grabbing drinks at the square after a long day’s work. Just countless memories of his spontaneity, sarcasm, wit, intelligence. My time spent working with Jermaine in the Ole Miss Student Media Center is more than a memory to me – it was the best time of my life and molded my career, my personality, and my work ethic.

May angels lead you in friend.

In Memoriam J. T. J (by Brandon Walters)

Note: This is my post from Facebook last night. I plan to post some additional thoughts later, but this should suffice for now. As I said in my Facebook post, usually I would ask him to edit this for me. He would laugh at my word choices and rag me about the use of Oxford commas. Something tells me he’s reading this and taking notes as we speak.  -BHW

In Memoriam J.T.J.

Jermaine and I first met as next door neighbors at Kincannon Hall. For the first few months we were at Ole Miss, he was gone so much that I always thought the room was empty. Our paths never crossed even once. However, one day as I was running for the Associated Student Body Senate, I saw where Jermaine wrote an endorsement on his famous door white board. “Vote Brandon Walters, ASB Senator for Kincannon. He gets it!” it said. I was surprised; as I said, I had yet to meet the guy. A few days later I met the famously-mysterious Jermaine Jackson through a mutual friend. It was from that day that we became fast friends. I may have lost that election, but I will never forget that initial act of kindness.

Jermaine lived by a code that was eerily similar to that of my own grandfather. First, don’t just work hard, work harder than everyone around you. Secondly, read everything you can get your hands on and educate yourself. Finally, never, ever be idle. After our freshman year, he was one of my roommates. He was always up later than me at night and up before me in the morning. While I would be in the kitchen fumbling with the coffee maker, he would be cheerfully trying to talk about news of the day. It annoyed me at the time, but I would give anything for one more of those talks. It could be about politics, which we both loved. It could even be entertainment news, which I loathed. Anything.

When I would get down about something I thought was significant in life, he would tell me, “God is not through with your situation yet, and you shouldn’t be either.” He was right. God is not through with my situation, nor is He through with yours. He’s not even through with Jermaine’s situation yet. Look at the number of people he influenced. They number not in the hundreds, but in the thousands. He was loved by so many and his legacy will rest in those of us who had the honor to know him until our own final days.

I believe there are thoughts Jermaine had but would never have said. For those who knew Jermaine, I know that might be hard to believe that this was the case. But, I hope you will allow my indulgence. Love is always greater than hate. Forgiveness is always greater than long held grudges. Optimism is always greater than failure. Risk is always greater than comfort. Loyalty is always greater than deception.

He was not just a friend; he was my brother. We will remember him in death as we did in life. In my heart and in my soul, he will always be the nice guy who was just as quick with a joke and a smile as he was a listening ear and sound advice. Without his life, I know not where I would be today. Requiescat in pace, old friend.