Jackie Herman is a retired hair dresser from Brooklyn, New York. I met Jackie in Mackenzie bridge, Oregon, where he was spending time with his daughter, Kelly, after losing his wife of 59 years.
We talked about his first date with Sheila, the business they ran together, and his journey of learning how to live without her.
Fair warning, if the f-word bothers you, it might be better to move on to the next story, but if you can manage it, Jackie has some wisdom to share.
“I’m a peacemaker. I try and make everything fair, like I would like it because people are people. We’re all human beings. You know what I mean? You love me. I love you. It’s cool, man. Honey is better than vinegar, you know? Like I always say, encouragement, not discouragement.
I was so in love with Sheila. I was married at 19. We had our differences. I was out there always, but she just leveled me. Kept me pretty much grounded.
Our first date. I was a football player and it was during football season. So I figured since I was a football hero, I’ll take her to a football game. People would recognize me. And then we wound up after that, going to get Chinese. Back in those days, you could get a good combination. Fried rice, egg chowmein, dessert, for $1.95. I was a hitter.
I just wanted anything to keep this girl. It was great. I knew this was it. I knew we were connecting. And from then on it was history, man. We were in love. I was with my wife until she died. I got more in love with her because of my devotion for her, her wanting to get better.
We were a good team. We were an amazing team. People really envied us for working together, bringing children up. We were so young. We had three beautiful daughters.
I look at the pictures of when she was ill. My wife wanted to live and I look back and for some reason I think it’s sort of healing me to see what pain she was in. I mean, she’s not here now and it’s killing me, but I saw how she was suffering. She was a beautiful creature, but she was starting to change so much. Physically, mentally. It was taking her down, you know? And I look at that and say to myself, ‘Well, maybe God was right. She didn’t want to be in that body no more.’
It’s good to talk about it, man. You gotta talk about it.
You know, grief’s not gonna go away, you just gotta learn how to handle it. No one has the tools for that, unless you are trained.
My therapist helps me. He’s cool guy. And my children. This is my mission is to take care of them. My mission was to take care of Sheila, she would want me to make sure everything’s taken care of and that’s what I’m doing. So my mission is for the kids and that’s why I want to be here.
I also wanna start living a little too on my own, you know? It’s still confusing, you know? It’s been a short time. I think I’d like to meet somebody just to hang out with. A female partner just to hang out with. I had a great experience with my woman and it’s not gonna fill Sheila being here, but it’s just gonna help me through my journey of grief.
But along with grief, I have a lot of guilt. You know, was I good enough? Did I take care of her good enough? Why did it happen?
I’m understanding it more and more That I had to let go. She didn’t want to be here.”
“Go for your dream. Don’t let anybody throw a curve ball at you, go for your dream. You can do it, but no one’s gonna come to you. You gotta knock on a lot of doors and go for the dream. You got to move. No one’s knocking on your door. Just go for it. It’s hard to give birth, man. Nine months. So if the dream takes longer, go for it. Do it in segments, but go for it.
Live and let live. You want to have bacon and eggs in the morning. I’m good with that. I’m still gonna have my French toast. I mean, it’s that’s simple. K-I-S-S. It’s easier to have honey than vinegar. Have compassion. Be a good listener. Get out of the box.
Like I said, man, you wanna have spaghetti? Go ahead. It’s cool. I’m gonna have the fish. I just want everyone to get along. Come to my house for dinner. I wanna show you how I live. And then I’m gonna go to your house. You know, get along, man.”
-Do you consider yourself a peacemaker?
-Have you lost your life partner? Or someone close to you?
-How have you navigated grief?
-How do you find hope in the midst of loss?
-Have you experienced guilt interwoven with grief?
-Jackie says, “Honey is better than vinegar.” Have you experienced that in your own life?
-Jackie says, “Encouragement, not discouragement.” When have you seen that work well?