Yesterday’s memorial for my mum was truely amazing. It was a powerful confirmation of how deeply my Jacqueline touched the people in her life. I was also so grateful to the friends that came to the memorial that had never met my mum. They came to support the family in this tough time and we are truly grateful for the outpouring of love and support. The memorial was held at the Rowing Club in Stanley Park as was attended by nearly 100 friends and family. We hired Celebrant, Michele Davidson, to host and guide us through the ceremony, and must say it was one of the best decisions we could have made. She helped us thread together all of the pieces needed to celebrate the life of Jacqueline. Above is the video tribute that I created for Jacqueline and below is the transcript of her eulogy as well as excerpts from some words and poems that were read and sung and the event. I have published both to honour her and to keep the memory alive for those that were touched by her loving and supportive ways.
Eulogy for Jacqueline Gore
By Robert Gore, Jackie’s brother.
I’m going to start by reading what I wrote about Jackie’s life for her obituary, just to give you a broad sense of where her life took her. I’ll follow that with a remembrance of Jackie that will try and capture at least a little of her astonishing beauty and complexity as a person.
You can read obituary portion here.
I’m going to start the second part of my talk by reading from a post-it note I found in Jackie’s copy of The Pocket Pema Chodron. Pema Chodron is an American woman who was ordained as a Buddhist nun in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. She is a prolific author and Jackie owned many of her books.
“We don’t set out to change the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.”
I’d like you all to keep those words in mind as I talk about Jackie, and to think about the largeness of her heart.
So many people in the last few days have commented on Jackie’s smile. How it radiated good feelings. In the last few years I remember Jackie smiling much more than she did earlier in her life. I think her relatively recent incarnation as a master jeweler and being with her grandson Noah gave her great joy. In an email on April 16th of this year she wrote to me:
“Today I came out into the bed in the living room and it is much nicer. The whole family was here and even though I was dozing I did enjoy hearing everyone. Especially Noah’s laughter. I told him he gives me two vitamins – and they are both vitamin L. Vitamin love and vitamin laughter.”
Jackie also loved to laugh, particularly belly laughs, and if she said something slightly naughty or nasty, she would often snicker and that would of course make everyone else laugh.
Jackie led a complex spiritual life, creating her own kind of belief system that altered as her life progressed. She combined elements from the High Anglican Church in England, traditional and non-traditional elements of Buddhist teachings, and Hinduism. From when she first came to live in British Columbia, the mythology and teachings of the first peoples of the Northwest Coast were an important element in her life. Jackie also had a longtime belief in angels, but not in a conventional sense. Particularly during her illness she would often surprise one of us by saying that she felt the presence of an angel in the room. Archangel Michael was one of her favorites because she really felt that he wouldn’t take any bullshit.
Friendship (Guiding and Healing)
Such a great friend to so many people, Jackie will be missed in so many different ways. Wherever she went, Jackie made friends. At times she felt overwhelmed because of all of the friends she had in her life and had to pull back because she felt that she didn’t have much left for herself. I’ll repeat what I said earlier because I keep coming back to it in my mind. Jackie’s great gift in life was the love and intelligence that she so freely gave to so many people. She was a healer in the true sense of the word, touching and changing lives through her ability to help people find and believe in their own inner strength. She had a particular gift for helping people with guidance and life coaching. Cara, Stefan’s first girlfriend who Jackie considered her daughter-in-spirit, was sixteen when they first met. Cara feels that Jackie helped save her life. In general, Jackie was very good at giving advice, and as she got older she became even more forthright. Once, when Stefan came to her for advice about one of his jobs, she knew what he would respond to best, She said: “Dump it like the piece of shit it was!”
Education and Lifelong Learning
Jackie was a voracious learner. She was a very gifted student in high school and would have gone to university if my father had been a more generous and understanding parent. She was determined to go to school as a mature student and struggled mightily at first adjusting to an academic world that she found both stimulating and limiting. It took her quite a number of years to finish her degree, but she was so proud and was well-respected by the faculty and other students she worked with. Her love of archaeology took her to field school in Bella Coola where she severely fractured her arm, returned to Vancouver to have it properly attended to, and promptly got back on a plane so she could get course credit. Such was her determination to finish her degree. She would not take no for an answer.
Facebook and E-mail
Jackie loved Facebook and e-mail. She told me in no uncertain terms that I had to get a Facebook account and, because I live in Los Angeles, Facebook gave us a way to keep in touch, as it did for many other people including her friend Janet in Australia (who is here today) and her relatives in England. I know that many people really enjoyed what she posted on Facebook and the comments that she made on their posts. She made so many posts on JP’s page that a friend asked him ‘who the other woman was!’ Not everyone knew that she was his mum because Jackie had gone back to using her maiden name. Jackie liked the instantaneous and spontaneous way she could connect with people through email and Facebook. Many people will leave email in their inbox for days without reading or responding, but Jackie was very dedicated when it came to her e-mail correspondence. It was a very important part of her life.
Family (Unconditional Love)
Family get-togethers were a source of great joy for Jackie. The annual day at the PNE was something that she always looked forward to. The day at the PNE was Denise’s first time meeting the whole family. In recent years, one of the things Jackie enjoyed the most was getting together with family either for a dinner out or a family dinner at one of our houses or apartments. She liked to cook for other people and really, really liked to have a meal prepared for her. One of the hardest things as her health failed was her inability to eat the things that she loved.
Jackie loved her sons JP and Stefan and her grandson Noah with all her heart. She was a constant source of support to everyone in the family, even when times were difficult for her. When I told her I was gay in 1979 she didn’t miss a beat. She told me that she knew what I was going to say before I told her.
Bear, Binker, Bagheera, Lizzie, Anna, Rusty. Just some of the names of the cats and dogs Jackie cherished. Jackie believed quite firmly that animals have spirits, and she felt that we as humans constantly underestimate their intelligence and the depth of their emotions. Jackie was a longtime vegetarian, not in a dogmatic way, but in a gentle firm way that came out of her deep respect and desire to not see animals suffer.
One of the main reasons Jackie returned to the Sunshine Coast in late 2006 was to be closer to nature and to make a real change in her life by concentrating on carving out a creative life for herself making jewelery. I think Jackie’s great love of nature is reflected in the necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and other objects that she made. In a way, I think her jewelery is an extension of the natural world.
One of the things Jackie loved to do on the Sunshine Coast was to swim in the ocean. I remember her being so excited when I talked to her not that long ago about being able to swim off Stefan’s boat. She loved it when Stefan would bring his boat over to Gibsons and take her for a ride.
Another thing Jackie loved to do was spend time in Stanley Park, especially when it involved being with family or a good friend. She always enjoyed seeing how the park changed through the seasons, particularly the transition from winter to spring. During her time as a gardener and gardening consultant I worked with her on occasion and I was always surprised by how much she knew about plants. Jackie had a way of doing everything deeply. She was a wonderful teacher in a completely natural way.
How can I even begin to encapsulate Jackie’s love of books and words? I would not be a poet if it weren’t for Jackie force feeding me literature when I was a little boy. I wanted to read The Hardy Boys and pulp science fiction. She kept trying to steer me toward better books and I think I was thirteen when she told me that she was giving up. Now I’m a librarian – Jackie wins hands down.
Jackie always wanted to talk about what she was reading, and she was good at it. She pointed me and so many other people toward good books to read. During her time working in bookstores, people would ask when Jackie was coming in and often would put a book back on the shelf if it didn’t have her recommendation attached to it. Jackie read widely and her tastes changed over time – I’ve never met anyone else who was so knowledgeable about books in such an all encompassing way.
Hardship and Determination
Jackie did not like unnecessary complaining. “Stop grumbling!” was a favorite expression. Part of the reason for this was the fact that in many ways she had experienced many difficulties in her life, including times when she struggled with depression and anxiety. She moved through these times with real determination but often was exhausted by the effort. Sometimes, like when she broke her arm, she was her own worst enemy, making bad decisions that she later regretted. She constantly struggled to have enough money to live on when she was living on her own. The modest inheritance she received from my mother in 2005 helped change that, even though she still had to be careful managing her affairs. All of this took a toll on her. She told me more about this than anyone else, in her typical way often wanting to protect others who might worry about her.
Jackie and Steve
Jackie and Steve were married for many years, and separated for many as well. They remained lifelong friends. They shared the powerful bond they had with their sons and their grandson. Steve cared for Jackie during her illness and, I believe, gave her the gift of more time with us through his love, kindness, and compassion. When Jackie knew that she did not have very much time left, she told me that what Steve had done for her made the unbearable much more bearable. Steve made his apartment into a kind of a nest for Jackie where she was comfortable and where family and friends could come and go at will. It was a blessing to her and a blessing to us all.
What we will miss
Michele asked family members what they would miss about Jackie:
Stefan said, “She was the person I called when I had sadness and pain. Now I can’t call her.” John Paul echoed that similarly, “She was the one I shared my triumphs with. She was always so proud of us.” Poignantly, Steve responded, “Everything.” JP’s wife Denise, who Jackie called the ‘best daughter-in-law I could have hoped for,’ will miss Jackie’s wonderful support to her around mothering, friendship, and creativity. Her grandson Noah will miss searching for Buddhas in Stanley Park with his Nana. Jackie had a friend who made little Buddha statues and placed them in the nooks of trees around the park. Nana showed him where to look. She taught him about gardening and nature and flowers and reading, and very tellingly… not about toys and TV.
Like Steve, I will miss everything about her. She gave me a place to stand on in the world and much of the richness in my life came from her place in it.
But Jackie will be with all of us. She lives on in our hearts and minds.
THE CODE BETWEEN US – Read by Mitchell Levin
Past one o’clock
my brain switched over to coyote time
snow darkening the street
lights a drug breathing somnolence
through the streets of the city.
The calm outside a focal point
for the energy I spent
all along the day choosing gifts
how more alien I felt with each
passing dollar, wondering if
the piano music I bought for X
would be romantic enough or if
the plate for Y was just the right colour,
the man behind the counter
wrapping it so carefully as it passed
from his hands into mine while I tried to imagine
what it might look like in your apartment,
tried to think with your eyes about beauty
and the small pleasure I thought would
come into the code between us,
our year on year museum of artifacts
an anthropology of our own lives
for the record, for the language we create
when this ritual is unwrapped.
Thoughts of my mum. – Stefan Holecka, her youngest son
First off I would like to thank everyone for the love and support that has been shown; it is wonderful to have you all here.
Losing my mother is a difficult thing and I think something like no other. Today we are here to care for the loss of my mother, but I am not alone as we all have a mother and many of us have lost ours. I share my love with others that have been here and have helped me with my journey.
For me it is an interesting thing how when someone passes you start to see things a little different. As time goes by and the stories go on I start to see my mum more for the person she was and the journey she had just like each and every one of us and not as much as just my mum.
I now see the journey she was on and the adventures she took along the way. She was never afraid to take on something new and just give it a try. This made for many stories.
As I get older and I hope wiser I have gotten to know more mothers in my peer group and see the sacrifices they make for their children. It brings to light what my mum did for me and that she would lay her life down for her children any day she had to as so many mothers would. I don’t think at the time this is something I could see and only age can show us.
My mother brought me into this world and loved me and grew me into the person I am today and I love and thank her for that. In return I had the gift of loving her and caring for her as she left this world and that is something I will carry with me forever.<
Thank you mum and I love you very much
May Jacqueline Live on through us – JP Holecka, Jackie’s oldest son.
Hello, thank you all for coming.
The support and generosity from everyone has been overwhelming and beautiful.
And thank you to our celebrant Michele, who has brought such care and detail to making this event truly wonderful.
For those of you that know me know I am a sensitive guy.
It’s a big part of what I share in common with my mum.
Being sensitive gives you strengths and weaknesses.
One weakness I can think of is the ever closeness of tears to the surface and the inability to hold them back for the little things that upset me.
I will say that the strengths do outweigh the weaknesses and the list is long and I would not trade it for anything.
Growing up my mum recognized that others may not fully understand this aspect of me and was at my side defending me and giving me the skills to use the sensitive and artistic side of me to make my way in the professional and personal world. It’s not easy at times.
She encouraged me when I was discouraged.
She clarified when I was confused.
She fought for me when the numbers were against.
She gently nudged me in better directions. Or better yet would inspire me to do better through example.
She never judged me, but would challenge me if she thought it was to help me in defining who I was.
She would never pressure or make me feel guilty.
My mum did this with so many people that she met in her life.
I have read the comments, heard the stories and seen the results first hand.
I have the same gift it would seem and think everyone does if they look hard enough.
They say that the deceased live on through you.
I understand that now more than ever.
I ask that if you could do the same that my mum did for others you can have her live on too.
Encourage positive change in your environment, friends and family.
Never stop being curious about the world that surrounds.
Always look for the good in everything and everyone around you.
Do not put conditions on the ones you love.
And as she said to my on Facebook just last month “For every negative post, please post two positive ones.”
and Maybe, just maybe, start believing in angels….
If you adopt these philosophies you can continue to have Jacqueline live on through you.
That I promise.
In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver – Read by Michele Davidson
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
The Wild Goose (Wade Hemsworth) – Sung by Robert Gore, Jackie’s Brother
On Pukaskwa River so early this morning,
While mending my tumpline I hear the geese calling;
Over the brule a long clamoring cry,
Flying formation against the grey sky,
Comes the wild goose, the wild goose,
High over the North Shore, and I’m going home.
And the river is open but the lake’s frozen over,
It’s time to pack out when so late in October;
Winter’s a-coming, the wild geese know,
We’ve had a long fall and it’s time to go,
With the wild goose, the wild goose,
High over the North Shore, and I’m going home.
And I’ve made lots of money, got money to burn,
And when I have spent it I know I’ll return;
After the freeze-up, when snow is dry,
For to work in the tall woods – I wish that I,
Were a wild goose, a wild goose,
High over the North Shore, and I’m going home.
And I’ve worked in the bush and spent money in town,
I’d like to get married but I can’t settle down;
At the last portage, when I’ll pack no more,
Let me fly with the wild goose high over North Shore,
With the wild goose, the wild goose,
High over the North Shore, and I’m going home.
In Jackie’s memory, a tree will be adopted at VanDusen Gardens in Vancouver. Tax deductible contributions can be made via the Paypal button below or mailed to VBGA – Adopt a Tree Program, VanDusen Botanical Garden Association, 5251 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC, V6M 4H1.