I’m am so sad to have to write here that J.C. (from my song “J.C.”) is gone. I got the news about his passing from his sister Edna in Nebraska. She sent me a text message and I immediately closed my phone and put it in my purse as though if I don’t read it it can’t be so. Funny how the human brain works isn’t it? I realize now that I was in shock. A few minutes later I knew I would have to face the truth, and retrieved the phone, contacting the family.
My first reaction was great crushing disappointment and sadness. I had just booked a January show in Hattiesburg, MS less than 30 minutes away from J.C., and I was so excited that he was going to come and hear me sing for the first time. He had seen youtube videos of me performing his song, and he had the CD of course, but I never got to perform his song for him live. In addition, I had only just found him two years ago, and I still had so many things I wanted to ask him and so many things I wanted to tell him. J.C. died of a heart attack but he also had bone cancer, and in the next few days as I spoke with friends who have lost a loved one to bone cancer, I learned that his heart attack may have been a blessing in disguise. Bone cancer is a very slow and painful way to die.
When I got the news, I had been on the road for six weeks and the last thing I wanted to do was get in the car and drive 14 hours round-trip to Mississippi. But something inside me kept saying go, and so I went. I am so grateful that I paid attention to that wee small voice, because being with J.C.’s family at the funeral and getting to finally meet his other two children was a special time that I will never forget. I had met Tony previously but this was my first chance to meet Charles and Loretta.
I got down to Sumrall, MS in time for the visitation, and being one of the last ones there I had a chance to sit with him alone for a little while. I then headed over to his house where I was so warmly received by his family I felt like I had been part of it all my life. There was a fish fry in his honor and I make a pretty good Cajun catfish myself but this was probably the best fried fish I’ve ever eaten. After dinner I spent a couple of hours playing dominoes with J.C.’s brother Jesse (who also worked for my dad a little) and J.C.’s sons Charles and Tony. They pretty much kicked my butt, but I made a good enough showing that I didn’t embarrass myself, and I finally got the hang of slapping the dominoes down. I had no idea the slapping was a part of playing dominoes!
The next day was the funeral and I rode to the church with the family, who honored me greatly by inviting me into the family pew with them. J.C. was a very respected leader in his community and the church was standing room only. I sang his song at the request of his daughter, and I held it together pretty well considering the circumstances except that when I got to the end my voice broke. It was definitely the hardest time I’ve ever had singing that song.
The most moving part of the service for me however, was getting to hear many wonderful testimonials where people told of the generous and kind things J.C. had done for them. I was also particularly moved to witness how great the loss of him impacted his grandchildren. My own grandfather told me that “if you leave the world a better place for your having been here, your life was a success”. If that is true, then J.C. was a very successful, well-loved man, and I feel so blessed to have known him.