Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Goodbye to my friend Jackie

Yesterday a friend of mine passed away.  Typically in this blog I've noted the passing of famous celebrities... but not today.  Jackie Bruce may have not been a celebrity, but to me and my family, she'll always be a star.

I met Jackie in October 2005 when I got a call from her asking if I would come in for an interview for Barnes & Noble.  They were looking for seasonal help and although I wasn't looking for a seasonal job, the holiday's were coming up, and I needed  money.

We sat in her office chatting and I knew almost instantly...I liked Jackie Bruce.  She was warm, funny and engaging and I began to see myself working at Barnes & Noble....and then she told me how much I would start at.  "We typically start our seasonal help out at $6.75 and hour." she muttered.

I froze!...I don't get out of bed for $6.75 an hour.  $6.75 an hour would be cool in say...1982, but in 2005 with a family?  I nearly (politely)  ended the interview there not to waste any of our time but the fact is I enjoyed talking with Jackie so much...I couldn't do it.  The interview ended with the usual "We'll call you" but in my mind, I was thinking "Its too bad I won't be working here."

Then 2 days later Jackie called.   I almost didn't want to answer as I didn't want to tell her "no".  But she said, "Steve, I'm not calling to offer you a job for the position you interviewed for. "

"Huh" I thought.

She went on, "Our Community Relations Manager just resigned and after our talk the other day I thought you would be great for the job."

And that's how I started working for Jackie Bruce. Three weeks later I was heading down to Jackie's home where she was hosting a Christmas party for the managerial team when my phone rang. It was another company I had interviewed with a couple months prior. They were offering me a position and a pay package that was much more than I would be making at Barnes & Noble. I got that sinking feeling inside thinking that I had just come on to this team...leaving them suddenly would be a real kick in the gut. I told them I would call them with a response the next day.

At the party I got to know Jackie's husband Rick and my son Gabriel got to be friends with their son Jack who had his bedroom decked out like Batman's lair. (Gabriel was sold) A couple co-worker's, Ben & Matt, lent me the DVDs of the TV series Firefly with the enthusiasm only we geeks could understand. As I watched the interplay of the evening I realized Jackie was the Queen and her management team didn't just work for her...they loved her and she loved them. This wasn't an obligatory work function, these folk wanted to be together and Jackie was the glue. Its then I realized I would enjoy living in a world orbiting Jackie Bruce. I called that other company the next day and declined their offer. (Incidentally, that company went out of business in 2008 during the recession...God does order our steps).

Over the next two years I got to spend a lot of time with Jackie. What I loved about her is that she could be crazy fun with a slightly perverse sense of humor and yet at the same time, be so grounded. She was one of the most secure, grounded people I have ever met. She was madly in love with her husband Rick and completely devoted to her children. At work, she was a sea of calm. I never saw her flustered or lash out at anyone. When the bigwigs from corporate would come by, she was unfazed. That's probably why they decided to promote her to a bigwig at corporate and move her to New York!

And she was kind and thoughtful.  When I developed cancer in 2007 she encouraged me at every step of the journey.  Returning  from the doctor with the prognosis that everything was going to be good she got teary eyed she was so happy.  Soon after my surgery she was visiting Tammy and I in my hospital room.  There I was, emaciated with tubes coming out my neck. She held my hand and let me know I was in everyone's thoughts and prayers.  That was Jackie Bruce!

People come in and out of your life and as much as you'd like to stay in touch, it's not always possible. With Jackie, I knew we would always keep in touch. Tammy and I planned on visiting her and Rick in New York. When I learned yesterday of her passing I looked up the last messaging we had on Facebook which is still archived. It read:

Jacqueline Bruce to Steve Hackman
You two look great. We would love to come to China for a visit. How long do you think you will be living over there?

Steve Hackman to Jacqueline Bruce
Hey Jackie!!! I'm not kidding when I say I was just thinking of you and were hoping you would get on Facebook so we could stay in touch. China has been GREAT!! Check out Hope New York is treating you well. Say hi to Rick

I know one day I'll see Jackie again in a better place. While at Barnes & Noble I became a sort of default "chaplain" at the store and Jackie I would often talk of God and her Christian faith. She once confessed to me that after she hired me she told the management team at their next meeting, "He is a bit religious..." :)

I'll miss Jackie Bruce. I have spent the last 24 hours remembering 101 good times I had with her and my old friends at Barnes & Noble. The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows midnight launch party, freezing to death in the nosebleed seats at a Rockies game, Christmas parties, summer parties, drinks at the Purple in Jackie's world was FUN!

I have never stopped praying for the Bruce's over this last year and now I pray for Rick and the children. I pray God's grace for them at this tragic time.

I wish I could be with some of the gang from Barnes & Noble right now so we could swap stories and laugh because that's what Jackie would have wanted. Baring that, I stopped off after work at an Italian restaurant on the beach near my home. I ordered a glass of red wine, (the drink of choice for Jackie Bruce), stared out at the sea, and thought of my old friend.

Good bye Jackie, you'll be missed.


Bob said...

A fitting tribute to someone who was, obviously, a good friend. My condolences.

~Lisa~ (Mrs C) said...

I am sorry for your loss.. You are all in our prayers.

Graves Neal De Armond said...

Steve (and family) sorry for the loss of your friend. But, as you stated, you'll see her again. Prayers for her family, in their time of grief. Hugs from the Mitten!

Redlefty said...

What a wonderful-sounding woman. God speed.

Curt Rogers said...

I, too, worked with Jackie at Barnes and Noble back in 1999. She was the most amazing colleague I have ever had the experience of being around. She was a remarkable influence and will continue to be so in my life. This world is certainly emptier without her but her spirit was so robust and lively that she will continue to fill it up long after her passing.

Thank you for sharing these words. Her heart continues to inspire us.

Steve H. said...

Thanks everyone! I wanted this blog post to be my contribution to her memory and to keeping her life alive in all those that knew her.