GAYS MILLS - “You know, a heart can be broken, but it just keeps on a beating just the same.” That quote from ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ always comes to me in times of serious sadness. It plays in my mind over and over, like a bad song that I heard on the radio. I suppose it’s my brain’s way of telling me that we will overcome this, just as we’ve overcome other deeply sad episodes.
At the tender age of 26, our friend--an extended brother and son, Tyler Jackson, left this life. He left suddenly after just 24 hours of illness.
Tyler and my brother had been hunting when he suddenly got sick, seemed like he had the flu. Being young bucks, they didn’t really think too much of the illness in the woods and kept on hunting for a little while. They even had a classic Pat and Jackson run-in with another individual who disputed the status of the hidden pocket of public land they were on. True to their style, Patrick was soft spoken and technical trying to show the person on GPS that the land was public. And Jackson, well, he was Jackson, telling the guy what he really thought about the harassment. His bout of flu-like-illness continued through the night as he shuffled back and forth to the bathroom and had trouble keeping anything down. He was armed with Gatorade and some crackers-but the next morning shortly after my brother checked in on him, for reasons unknown to me, he was unable to recover and left this life on Monday, November 20.
It’s been a hard blow to my family to lose someone who has been not just a faithful best friend to my brother, but has been there for my family in general through good times and bad.
After my mom had her stroke, he never shied away from spending time with her and talking to her despite the fact that at times she was very difficult to understand. He treated her like she was completely normal and not changed by her disability. When she was dying in the hospital in La Crosse, he even took time off of work and traveled all the way from Madison to sit in the room with us and share our sorrow. More than once, I told him “It’s ok, you can go if you need to.” However, he declined politely and remained there in silent support for our grieving family.
Although he lived in the Madison area, he made the trip up here several times every year and always seemed to land at our house. He spent holidays, deer season, fishing season and everything in between, just hanging around joking, laughing and being there.
My dad made the comment over the weekend that “He was always so grateful. When he would leave, he would tell me ‘Thanks for letting me stay’ about a 100 times and I’d always tell him ‘you don’t gotta thank me, you’re welcome any time’.”
Tyler was an incredibly humble guy—a point his sister also brought up several times recently and something we will all remember of him with fondness.
To me, he was funny, brave and outspoken. Three traits I really admired and three traits that made him a good match as a best friend for my brother.
Just the other morning, my brother shared a story with me about when they were hunting and they encountered some rather feisty cows.
The pair was rabbit hunting on a neighbor’s farm with the beagle dog Trixie. For some strange reason, the Holsteins were drawn to the group by the sounds of the guns being fired. My brother was trying to shoo the enormous bovines on their way but they proceeded to circle more tightly around poor ol’ Trixie. Patrick wasn’t sure what to do to save his beloved hunting dog.
Suddenly, Jackson showed up, almost out of nowhere.
“He flew in and grabbed Trixie and kicked one of the cows in the head like Jean Claude Van Damme and we got the hell out of there,” Patrick recalled.
What my dad remembers about Jackson is the way he always spoke his mind and was a really great storyteller.
“He would get really animated and excited when he told you a story,” my dad recalled. “And he never hesitated to tell you what was on his mind. When they were fishing, a DNR guy came up and started haggling me asking me if I was the guide or something. I didn’t have no licenses, so I was just sitting there hanging out enjoying the view, and Jackson began haggling him back, like ‘can’t a guy just sit on a bench and enjoy a nice day?’”
I think my dad appreciated having someone stand up for him, because sometimes we just need someone to say what we’re all thinking.
Although he left us all, way, way too soon, we’re all thankful for the time we got to spend with him. Knowing the witty, sharp, funny, and humble, hard-working, life of the party kid that was Tyler Jackson was a privilege.
I could go on to say more cheesy, heartfelt stuff about Jackson, but I know he would have just rolled his eyes, smirked, and said “Jeeeeeezzzzzzz, really?”
So I’ll just leave it at, we’ll all miss you.