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About the Author
Ernie has been married twenty-three years to his beautiful wife Kristine. They have two children, Cheyanne and Quinton; now they are grandparents and loving it. While both Ernie and Kristine are honored to share what they have learned, at this point they are simply enjoying the blessings of each day. They share their experiences and beliefs about life after death with friends, family, at conference keynotes, and anyone who reaches out to them with the courage to speak about death. Many ask if they are comfortable speaking about their son's transition. Their answer is "We smile and say of course. We have written two books on the topic so please do not feel uncomfortable asking. We are honored to share."
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By Ernie Jackson
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Ernie Jackson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFound and Lost Again
When I was twenty-seven, a voice sounded crystal clear in my mind. The voice said that I was ready to be a father and that I would be a good father. It got my attention, and it cut through the mindless chatter that usually goes on in my head. The message surprised me with its clarity and timing. I was single and in a great relationship with an older woman who already had two children but couldn't have any more. But the voice was so clear, that I broke it off with her, and Kristine entered my life not long afterward.
At the time, Kristine was working for Honeywell in the accounts payable department. My father, and eventually I, would pick up monthly janitorial contract checks from her. Fearing being laid off, Kristine spoke to my father about looking for work, and at the time, we had an open position in the office. I interviewed her over lunch at a nearby restaurant, but the conversation was awkward; I tried to find some commonality between the two of us, while she was all business, focused entirely on landing a job. We definitely did not hit it off, but I rationalized that I didn't need to hit it off with her for her to be the right person for the job. She had a bubbly personality and was quite attractive with short dark hair, brown eyes, and a curvy physique; she was just cool toward me.
Not long after she started, I could tell that she really didn't like me. She must have thought I was a slacker, because I usually came in after she opened the office. I showed up after working out in a local gym and, oftentimes, after performing janitorial inspections at our accounts. She also seemed to struggle to understand how I could switch back and forth between my all-business mode and my easygoing mode. Although Kristine and I didn't hit it off, she was a cutie—still is, for that matter—and did a great job in the office for us.
She was engaged to a young man in California when we hired her. Because she was engaged, I made it a point to keep an eye on her and often times stuck my head out of my office when the guys came by and invariably flirted with her to remind them that she was engaged. This went on for about six weeks from the time she started in December of 1991 through the month of January. During this period of time, a mutual attraction was developing, but I tried not to give it a thought, even though I was pretty miserable at being single. Ever perceptive, Kristine knew my personal life was pretty miserable, and one day, she asked, "What are you doing this weekend?"
"Nothing," I said.
"Well, my family and I are spending the day at Lake Pleasant this Saturday [February 1, 1992]. Would you like to join us?"
She thought I would decline and was surprised when I accepted. That day is still etched in my mind.
I arrived at the appointed time, which was after they had arrived, settled in, and started cooking breakfast. After parking, I jumped out of my white, four-wheel drive Dodge Ram Charger and walked over to Kristine, who immediately introduced me to her family. The women (Kristine's mother, Nellie, and Kristine's sister, Julie) greeted me with hugs, and Ed, Kristine's father, greeted me with a firm handshake. I was confused; I thought hugs were foreplay, as my immediate family shared very little, if any, of these physical displays. Eventually, I became known for hugs as well, and I am happy to say that I know they are not foreplay! Their welcoming me into their family was a major crossroad as I began to learn what I was intended to learn.
I couldn't argue with the universe at that point. As Kristine points out in her retelling of that day, "We have been together ever since." What is even more interesting is that we look like family. In pictures of me as a baby and a boy, I look almost exactly like our nephews on Kristine's side of the family. How does that happen? We look the same, but we do not have the same blood line. Yes. Kristine and I were intended all along to be married. Kristine and her family taught me the meaning of family and the meaning of love.
My parents moved to Las Vegas not long before our wedding, in part because my father knew that he and I could no longer work together. While we both believed in providing superior service, we had different philosophies on how service should be provided and how our employees should be treated. He also knew that I wanted to feel special by taking care of his company for him; his relationships had become my relationships over the years. My father realized that I had grown to manhood and that if I couldn't manage the company the way I believed it should be managed, I would probably resign. Meanwhile, he saw the success we were having and was ready to take a backseat.
The business flourished as I hired a management team that shared my vision of service and integrity. The team I assembled doubled the size of the business, which eventually had over four hundred employees and billed over five million dollars a year. I touched a lot of lives during this period of my life, and on some level, I was just beginning to understand some of the gifts I had been granted.
Kristine and I quickly married after she broke it off with her fiancé. To be honest, she had begun to cut her ties to him before she met me, because she didn't want him to abandon his family in California for her in Arizona. I was in a hurry to get married in large part because I didn't want her to discover that I was damaged goods. Yes, I am and was a good guy, but at that point in my life, I had serious issues. I didn't understand love, didn't know how to love, and was too into myself—period. That was part of the reason my first marriage failed. At work, fear of failure motivated me, but at home I was completely self-centered. After we were married, Kristine saw me for what I was (a problem), and we almost didn't make it. While we were on a vacation in Colorado, she decided she was through with me, but upon our return to Arizona we discovered that she was pregnant and decided to try and make work. Kristine's pregnancy was absolutely horrible. She had hyperemesis, which is morning sickness that lasts all day long for months. She ended up losing twenty-five pounds while on an IV for five months at home. I was no longer quite so self-centered, but I didn't know how to handle that. I was still ignorant, and I saw that I could not fix the problem, so I kept to myself. I didn't understand that I could comfort her and ease her pain. It is a wonder we stayed married.
When Cheyanne was born on May 27, 1993, in Glendale, Arizona, I glimpsed something that I could not remember ever being exposed to: unconditional love. In a sense, I was found. As I watched Cheyanne be born, I was struck by just how miraculous an event it was. I pondered her beautiful face during birth. She came out of Kristine's birth canal head first and face up. Her eyebrows, nose, and little mouth were perfect. I could not take my eyes off her hands: her fingers were amazing down to the smallest detail; her cuticles and fingernails were perfect. Tears welled up in my eyes as I took in this miracle that happens every day. The obstetrician looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "Now you see why I do what I do." There was a picture taken of me holding Cheyanne when we arrived home. My muscles were flexed as I cradled her, but the look in my face said it all. I loved her unconditionally and would do anything for her.
For six years, I kept it together. I balanced work and my family life just as I expected I could. I kept the two separate, but my family was my priority. Being a good father and a good husband meant more to me than the family business did. While the business excelled, I had plenty for Kristine and Cheyanne when I came home. I awoke early every morning and fed Cheyanne before going to the gym. I treasured our mornings together; after feeding her, I would put her in bed with Kristine. As Cheyanne grew older and began to crawl, sometimes I would sit at my desk in the mornings. She would climb out of her car seat and roam across the top of the desk, eventually coming to the computer keyboard to pound on the keys. I would laugh at her, and we always had a grand time.
After spending twelve years in Phoenix, Arizona (starting in May of 1986), I desperately wanted to move back to Colorado, where I had spent my formative years, but Kristine didn't share my enthusiasm. Her immediate family lived in Phoenix, and much of her extended family lived in California. Meanwhile, competition with a national janitorial firm in Phoenix was becoming tougher, and our profit margins were shrinking. By the time I hired a professional accountant to help me restructure the salaries my parents were earning, our operating cash was all but gone. We lost a major contract to a national bid that represented a fifteen-year relationship, because we only provided service in the state of Arizona.
Shortly thereafter, when I was thirty-four years old, I sold the business to the same janitorial company that had been giving us fits. My father, who was stoned on prescription pills at the time, never understood the details of the deal. I paid off the lines of credit and left my parents with a nice pile of cash that my dad proceeded to blow over the coming years. I had arranged to be transferred to Colorado to take over the Colorado branch of the firm that had purchased ours. Knowing my father well enough by that point in my life (meaning that, if he had his druthers, he would probably not give me a dime), I wired fifty-nine thousand dollars directly to the title company on the home we purchased. Even though I was entitled to much more, that was what I took from the deal. I wanted to leave my parents in great financial shape, and I did what I intended to do, not that my father was pleased by my efforts.
We arrived in Conifer on September 8, 1998, and settled in. Kristine put on a happy face, but she desperately missed her family. Even though she made friends quickly, living so far from home was a struggle for her.
It was at this point that my struggles returned. Away from the family umbrella, out in the world, I began to define myself once again by my job and my performance on the job, all the while becoming less involved as a husband and father. As this condition worsened over the years, it evolved to the point that, oftentimes, when I was physically there with my family, I wasn't mentally present. I would be preoccupied with work or just plain mentally exhausted and wishing to just quietly sit somewhere with no responsibilities. Increasingly, I was losing myself and not enjoying the moment. I viewed my stint with the national janitorial firm as a failure, because I hadn't been able to turn around a branch that had been losing money for years. After less than six months as the branch manager, I knew I had failed, because we were still losing money. They felt the same way and were prepared to terminate my employment, but a funny thing happened. My employer floated a trial balloon with our largest client by telling them of their plans to terminate my employment, and our client told them that, if they did, they would lose the contract. I ended up in sales, and much to my surprise, I had some success.
Meanwhile, we had a new addition to the family. Quinton was born on December 15, 1999, at 9:37 in the evening at Swedish Medical Hospital in Denver, Colorado. His coming was a miracle in the sense that he was totally unexpected. After Kristine's very difficult pregnancy with Cheyanne and two miscarriages afterward, we didn't expect to have another child. We had been told that we had been lucky to have Cheyanne.
Because of those difficulties, when Kristine wasn't feeling well in March of 1999, we hadn't a clue that she might be pregnant. After we showed up in the doctor's office and had an examination, the doctor came out with something of a mixed expression and let Kristine know she was pregnant. The moment was kind of comical, because the doctor didn't know if this would be a happy occasion for us or if being pregnant wouldn't be received well. She asked, "Well, did you want to be pregnant?"
Quinton's timing could not have been better. All of us were equally excited about the addition to our family, especially Cheyanne, who had previously expressed the desire for a sibling. At six years old, Cheyanne was so brave and responsible in how she helped to care for Kristine during the pregnancy. Kristine's pregnancy with Quinton was almost as bad as it had been with Cheyanne. This time, she only lost fifteen pounds. Cheyanne would come home from school and make Kristine Top Ramen noodles.
His arrival changed everything. He came out with fair complexion, brown eyes, and a full head of dark brown hair. It was almost scary how much hair he had. He appeared to have a cone head, which left me momentarily frightened, but we soon realized that everything was normal. Quinton was always a happy baby and almost as happy as Cheyanne had been as a baby. Our family was complete. Cheyanne and Quinton got along great. For that matter, all of us did, but it seemed like I was always working. No more so than most of you reading this book, but I wished I could spend more time with my family.
Despite a measure of success at work, I knew that I could not stay long-term, because the company was having difficulty servicing some of the business I had brought in, and I knew my reputation would be tarnished by their failure. I had always aspired to be a property manager of commercial office buildings, because I had always looked up to the managers I had worked for. My opportunity came in the fall of 2000, and I made the jump.
My people skills and ability to provide service are transferrable to most fields, but it was initially a struggle to mold myself into a corporate being. I tended to be a little too loose with my comments and behavior for a corporate job. Even though I tried desperately to tone down my comments and jokes, I still managed to get myself into quite the predicament during my first year of employment in my new field. Just one flip comment was enough. As my asset manager told me, a hundred atta-boys can be overshadowed by one "Oh shit." Indeed! That lesson was learned and internalized over time. I would interact with tenants and vendors in my usual gregarious way but keep my head down in my office and just do my job. Eventually, I found success while learning the ins and outs of property management, but all the while I was beginning to realize that something was missing.
My ship came in, or so I thought, on the wings of a promotion from assistant general manager to general manager in the spring of 2007. After several years of staying out of trouble and performing well, I was still surprised on some level. I had been looking for some time for a growth opportunity outside the company. When it came within the company, it caught me unprepared. When my boss told me that he and the asset manager needed to talk to me, I immediately said, with a smile, "Well, I know I haven't messed up, so what's up?" He smiled back and indicated that I hadn't messed up.
Over the course of the next fifteen months, my salary increased 33 percent as I improved the curb appeal of my new assignment while minimizing the operating budget increases and getting to know the tenants. It was a dream job that came with a wonderful staff intact. All I had to do was show up, treat people the way I would like to be treated, address what I thought were deficiencies, and communicate. There were some new levels of reporting that I had to master, but after lowering my heart rate, I muddled through and was again surprised that my asset manager was pleased with the results.
As I marveled at this success, I became aware of a new theme in my conversations with those closest to me. I eventually became aware that I had been complaining about it for some time. At least four times a year, I would complain, "We are worshiping a false God; we are worshiping the almighty dollar bill. We have lost our spirituality." Over and over, this theme crept into my conversations, but I couldn't figure out what to do about it. On some level, while I said "we," I realized that I was referring to myself.
My last new job, in 2008, took me to a salary that I never thought I would earn and knew I didn't deserve. I made the change anyway and was miserable. I jumped into the new position with gusto as I employed all the knowledge gained over the years to make the asset more efficient and environmentally friendly while dealing with floods and compressor failures. It didn't take me long to realize I had made a mistake and was in a no-win scenario. I hung on into 2009 just to prove to myself that I could endure the nightmare.
Excerpted from Quinton's Messages by Ernie Jackson Copyright © 2011 by Ernie Jackson. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One: Found and Lost Again....................1
Chapter Two: Quinton Stone Jackson....................9
Chapter Three: Our Vacations: Respites from the Agony....................29
Chapter Four: Vacation 2009....................37
Chapter Five: The End of the Vacation....................65
Chapter Six: The Hospital Stay....................75
Chapter Seven: The Week of June 12....................92
Chapter Eight: Going Home....................104
Chapter Nine: The Service....................111
Chapter Ten: Summer of 2009....................119
Chapter Eleven: Quinton's visits....................126
Chapter Twelve: Quinton's Messages....................147
Chapter Thirteen: What Happens When Our Loved Ones Transition....................150
Chapter Fourteen: Who We Were....................171