Vancouver poet Zaccheus Jackson’s death by train in Toronto ‘an absolute tragedy’
36-year-old Alberta native is remembered as a passionate educator who was “just fully coming into his power” as a spoken-word poet of Blackfoot descent.
Zaccheus was a good person as well as a good poet. He was a bright light, easy to recognize even at a distance, and he shone constantly and tirelessly and true. Even though I met him years ago, he was one of the only people who could still coax me to come out to a poetry slam.
I am sorry I didn’t get to know him better. I am grateful for how much I did.
Always remember to tell people when you love them. Nothing is permanent. There is no such thing as the future. There is now and then there is maybe, possibly, only potentially a later version of now. Tell people you appreciate them, that they move you, that you respect them, that their taste in clothes is nice, that the way they move is graceful, that you like how they place their hands on the wheel of the car as they drive, that you adore when they sing along to the radio, that their stutter is appealing, that their guitar face is ravishing, that your admiration for their way with words is endless and honest, that you are attracted to them, that you are in awe of how silly they can be, that you think it’s great that thing they did one time, you remember, with the fork and their niece, that thing, you still think about them, you think about them and you smile, that you think about them and cry, that you think about them, that you miss them, that you sympathize, that you admire and recognize their efforts, that you grasp what they are trying to say, that you regard their puns as a necessary evil, that you commend their sensitivity, that you respond to their touch, that you feel the world is better with them in it, that you worship their cooking, that you long for more time with them, that you idolize the same values, that you are fascinated by the same things, that you hold them dear, that you have had your mind changed by their point of view, that you dig their taste in music, that you value their opinion, that you applaud their parenting, that you esteem their criticism, that you enjoy the way they make you laugh, that you luxuriate in their attention, that you treasure their affection, that their approval makes you happy, that you want to make them proud, that they inspire pride, that you care for them, that they satisfy your curiosity, that they are sweet, that they are treasured, that that shirt matches their eyes, that you’re glad to have met them, that it’s no problem to help out, that you are glad to be of service, that you accept their charity, that they are cherished, that they are anything and everything, that we, each one of us, is the world. Remember and tell them and love and love and love.
Tell them, your friends, your loved ones, but the acquaintances, too. Tell everyone. Fight against the inevitable coming of night.
“On March 2, more than four years ago now, Lea died of substance-abuse-related liver failure. June 10 would have been her 27th birthday. This time of year is when she’s always most on my mind, and I’m sure that some Facebook technician who keeps track of what we all do on the site would report that my visits to Lea’s profile increase exponentially as the weather gets warmer. I don’t know how, exactly, I managed to open up my old messages with Lea. I want to say that Facebook put the messages there—that I didn’t click the button, that they just appeared, Lea’s face popping up because she had something to say, she wanted to chat. But I must have clicked. Maybe by accident. Still, I can’t ignore the pull of my bookworm’s interpretation, arguing that technology is the closest human beings come to magic. I know nothing about the way the Internet works. I still half-believe the Internet is simply air. So why isn’t it plausible that Lea’s messages appeared in response to how much I miss her, to my own guilt about her death.
Lea died the first time soon after she joined Facebook, when I witnessed her transformation into someone she would have mocked and pitied. She died again, a smaller death, a year or so before her real-world one, when she basically stopped posting altogether. On March 2, she died publicly, her wall turning into the memorial it is now. To me, she’s died again and again since then. The posts remembering her are fewer and fewer, months apart sometimes. When I rediscovered our messages, she died again—in a different way, because I’d come face to face with how I failed her. Facebook has made her death a sort of high-concept horror movie. How many more times will I grieve her? How many more details from my past, from Lea’s past, are buried online, waiting for me to uncover them?”