Friday, February 8, 2013


Last weekend I attended the Celebration of Life for former Camp Goodtimes camper Jacob Sears. Jake was just 19 years of age and was a big part of the camp family, having attended for years. It was a wonderful heartfelt tribute to a young life taken far too soon by cancer. The day was filled with things that Jake loved and was passionate about, his family, his friends, and his music. The music was incredibly moving. "Amazing Grace" and "Let it be" were performed by professional musicians who were close friends with Jake, and the guests also sang along with "Firework" by Katy Perry which got progressively louder as the song went along, with Jake’s camp friends, fittingly, even busting out the hand gestures towards the end.
Jakes’ mother Jonae showed unimaginable strength as she dealt with her own grief while at the same time lovingly embracing the sorrow of others. Tragically this was the second child she has lost to cancer with the passing of Jake’s older brother Nick five years ago. Nick also attended Camp Goodtimes where he is still honored at the ‘Memory Circle’ each year.
Jake's mom Jonae

A hug from a close friend, the Dean of students from Jake's school

Jonae, sharing a happy memory

Nick at camp in June of 2006
The tributes on Saturday came from all facets of Jake’s life, firstly his brave mom, followed by his relatives, the Dean of students at his school, his music teacher, a friend from school, his counselor from Camp Goodtimes, and two of his best friends from camp, Rocky and Maggie. The girls stood holding hands and with voices trembling, poured their hearts out to Jonae, thanking her for the gift that Jake was to them. It took great courage for them to express themselves in that manner and they did so respectfully and reverently.

Rocky and Maggie

 There were so many people in attendance who were hurting and before you knew it, hours had passed, the time lost in the sharing of memories. Maggie said, “We met on Daboata at camp and from the moment he said, ‘Hi!’ we just clicked. He was so special.” There is no doubt that his memory will be cherished and protected and his life will continue to be celebrated because he deeply impacted the lives of everyone he connected with. While listening to the outpouring of emotion it became very clear that Jake was the same loving person to whoever he encountered in life and he loved his family and friends with conviction and without condition.
I personally will miss his enthusiasm and energy at camp and his willingness to try anything. I enjoyed very much hanging out with him and his cabin mates on the beach taking pictures, playing guitar and singing songs as well as our many random duets on the piano.
Playing piano at camp with Jake in 2009
Jake's colorful entrance to the dance in 2011
The last time I saw him was at the hospital last spring. His treatment had left him unable to speak. There were a few other staff from camp visiting as well and I mentioned to Jake that too bad he didn’t have a piano because it would be fun to play. His mom then pointed to an electric keyboard in the corner of the room. I picked it up and sat down on a chair next to his bed, almost falling over in the process, which brought a nice smile to his face and laughter from everyone else (I’m not necessarily known for being graceful). After playing a few silly little things I went into the chords of “Lean on me” and everyone else in the room started singing quietly. It was moment but we just sang a little bit of it because I could tell Jake was tired. Then I said to him, “I’m gonna keep singing camp songs until I see you smile!” Instantly a huge smile came to his face as everyone cracked up, me included. It really was good to see that smile again. I said my warm goodbyes and off I went. As I walked to my car I was so thankful to have been able to have visited him and at the same time I was mystified that a young man so full of life the last time I saw him could be rendered so helpless by the relentless attack of this invisible foe.
I’m just so sad for Jake, his mom, and the rest of his family and friends because he had so much still to give had it not been for cancer taking away that opportunity. I, like so many, are very proud to have known him.

Jonae with Camp Goodtimes director "Beef"(on the left) and Jake's very close friend and former camp counselor "Bacon"

Jonae with Rocky and Maggie
Some of Jake's friends from camp (l to r), Maggie, Rocky, Jack, Drew and Sarah
Some of Jake's Camp Goodtimes family
I have to share a somewhat silly analogy and I think Jake would appreciate this. There was once a great wiseman whom I first quoted in my high school yearbook. I don't know his name but he was actually an actor in an old 50's era Italian Hercules movie with really bad dubbing of English that didn't even come close to matching the lip movements of the actors. This fellow played a wiseman who stopped the fighting between Hercules and the dozen or so warriors that were battling him. I still have never forgotten what this philosopher said as he pushed the men apart...."Life hangs by a thread, who is to say that we will be alive let us be happy today." In my book, those are words to live by and I am confident that Jake would have agreed. He will be deeply missed.

Maggie, saying goodbye

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