Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Tribute to the Buckalews

(This is a heavier post. I feel like it's an appropriate outlet to express my grief. I hope you all don't mind.)

Dear Mrs. Buckalew,

Just last week, I was scanning your Facebook page and reminiscing about my summer days and nights spent at Cool Stream Farm with you and Jackson. I thought to myself how it's been quite some time since I've seen you, but how excited I would be the next time our paths crossed. I even imagined my future message to you telling you that I was engaged and how thrilled you would be for me. I had no idea I wouldn't get that chance. When Deirdre called me on Tuesday night, I knew something was wrong because of how late she was calling and because of her low and nervous voice. She began to cry and tried to tell me what was probably one of the hardest things she's ever had to say aloud. I rushed into the living room so that I could hear her more clearly and she repeated the most tragic news through her tears. She told me that your family had died in a plane crash that morning. All four of you. We cried together on the phone, sharing our disbelief and our heartbreak. Not the Buckalews. Not the most lively, giving, loving, kindhearted family out there. We eventually got off the phone, after many tears, shared feelings of how unreal it all seemed and how your family was the least deserving of this terrible tragedy. I made the mistake of scanning the internet, almost as if I needed confirmation that it really was true, and there you were. A beautiful picture of you and Meriwether, alongside a copy of this year's Christmas card with Meriwether and Jackson pictured in a sweet embrace. It had really happened. You were gone. Every time I say that, and now write it, I break down in tears. Because it just doesn't seem possible. Oh, how you all will be missed.

And these are the times when you wish you had taken the opportunity to share with someone what they meant to you, and I believe I did that as much as a high school and college student has the ability, or maturity, to... but not as an adult. So I will take this opportunity to share with you now...

You gave me confidence. You trusted me with your four month old baby. You continuously told me how great I was, and not just as a babysitter, but as a person. A teenager can't hear that enough. You didn't want to share me with your other friends looking for a babysitter, and deep down, I loved that. You wanted first dibs for Jackson. I loved the time I spent over there. I was the luckiest high school and college student ever. I enjoyed my job.

You invested in me. You didn't just let me in the door, show me where the emergency numbers and frozen chicken nuggets were located, and leave for the night. You let me in, talked to me while you got ready, asked me my opinion on your outfit, hugged Jackson a hundred times, asked me about school, my boyfriend, sports, you name it. You truly cared about me. You took a whole roll of pictures of just me and Jackson, and sent me a framed picture of the two of us to my college dorm room. I was so excited to receive that in the mail. When I visited NYC with my sister and cousin, you insisted that we spend a night in your uptown apartment, even though you were out of town. We felt like royalty that night. When I sent out letters to family and friends about my upcoming mission trip to London, you sent back a generous contribution along with a note that said, "So proud of you, J!" I will always remember that.

And I will always remember you sitting down on the living room floor with me and Jackson and telling me about your struggles with your first pregnancy. You told me that you wished and prayed that I would never have to go through something like that. And you told me your wish for me was to meet an awesome man and that you wanted all good things for me. It felt so good to have someone that I looked up to so much, wish that upon me.

You were full of life. You seemed to be the center of your family and friends. And it makes sense that you were. You were vibrant, creative, and compassionate. I talked about you all the time to my family and friends, and it was clear that you were one of my greater role models. You celebrated life and the people you loved. You and Jeff gave and gave and gave.

You loved your kids. They weren't spoiled, they were just loved well. The hardest thing in all of this is to imagine what the end was like for you guys. How scary it must have been. But what my family has reminded me of is that you all were together to comfort one another, and that you're all together now. I can picture you in the plane just covering Jackson and Meriwether, telling them you love them and not to worry.

Thank you for inviting me and my sister into your life. Thank you for being such an inspiration as a woman, mother, and friend. I hope to one day open up my door to a 17 year old girl looking for a summer job, and care for her the way that you cared for me and Deirdre.

We were lucky to have known you, and you will truly be missed.

Love Always,


  1. This is a beautiful tribute, Jax. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Jaclyn and Deirdre my heart goes out to both of you. Jaclyn this is a beautiful tribute to Mrs.Buckalew, I always knew she was special to you and Deirdre-now I know why. xoxo

  3. That was beautiful Jaclyn and I know you and Deirdre are so sad and it's hard to understand why something like this can happen. What you wrote is a wonderful tribute to her as a Mom and friend. I know Corinne, Jeff, Jackson, and Meriwether are together and remain surrounded by love from each other and the love of their family and friends. Love you honey.

  4. Jaclyn- you are a special girl. Corinne had the best eye for many things; Most importantly people. Beautifully written letter and you knew our/your friends. Was it you who took care of our kids when visiting the Buckalew's? Do you cheerlead or wear a "College' t-shirt by chance?
    love from,
    Kim,Jay,Ashton and Katharine Dunn

  5. Jaclyn- you are a special girl. Corinne had the best eye for many things; Most importantly people. Beautifully written letter and you knew our/your friends. Was it you who took care of our kids when visiting the Buckalew's? Do you cheerlead or wear a "College' t-shirt by chance?
    love from,
    Kim,Jay,Ashton and Katharine Dunn

  6. Thank you so much for a wonderful recollection of and tribute to my sister.

    Rob Stickley

  7. Jaclyn-- This was a beautiful tribute. I too, got to know the Buckalews when I moved to NYC for graduate school in 2004 and knew no one. I was introduced to them through a mutual friend from the south and started babysitting for Jackson and Meriwether right away. Corinne made me feel like I had a "NYC family" and made sure to always include me in gatherings so I could meet people. When I went through the hardest year of my life in 2009, Corinne picked me up and pulled me through it. I have never met a more generous family and I am so grateful for knowing them, and so heartbroken they are no longer here. They made me a better person, and made NYC not feel so distant from my home in VA. And on their weekend trips to C'ville, they often let me fly down with them so I could see my parents, or just have a relaxing weekend away from the city.
    I will hold them in my hearts forever and live my life in a way that would make them proud.

  8. This is beautiful. They touched so many peoples' lives and will be truly missed. I love you so much and can't wait to give you a huge hug.

  9. I remember the years you babysat and befriended
    that wonderful family and would come home and tell
    about how well you were treated and trusted. Maybe, you did learn how to be such a caring person from Corinne and family. If so, I for one
    wish to thank her. My heart is aching for you and

  10. I never met you Jaclyn, but Meriwether and my son Harris were dear friends here in New York, and I just loved reading your description of Corinne. I forwarded it to friends who knew her, and friends whose lives she touched. Like one friend who she just took the time out of her day to speak to for hours about Jackson's school, because I'd asked, and she was just too darn polite and nice to say no. She had southern manners in the best sense, she was a great hostess and she made you laugh too. I never dropped Harris off for a playmate without staying to chat and have a glass of wine or two and what do you know, two hours had passed. By then she'd given me a copy of her friend's book, made me feel better about getting in shape after my new baby, made me feel proud because she genuinely loved and appreciated my son, she just knew he had something special, and I left there feeling that all was well in the world. I'd run into people all over the city and they'd say "you're a friend of the Buckalews" and immediately we connected. They were really something. I just wanted to let you know your description described her so nicely, I could see her in every moment. I can see that you must have really enriched her life. I am just so sorry. If there is anything I can take from this, is Corinne can have no regrets, the way she lived her life. She was all in. The whole family was. Sweet Meriwether and Jackson--Harris idolized Jackson and loved loved loved Meriwether--they were just great kids. Thank you for writing this, and you're wrong in your profile-your writing skills are worthy of a blog, you write beautifully.

  11. Just heard yesterday and have been thinking about you and d. Still can't believe it. Thanks so much for the post. What a lovely and moving tribute. Miss you, Jax.

  12. Jaclyn....I don't think we ever met but I saw pictures of you. Thank you for writing this. I was introduced like you to the Buckalews in 2003 just after i moved from Guyana.

    They welcomed me into their home and lives with open hearts. I never saw a family that touched the lives of so many people. Both Jeff and Corinne were loving parents and friends. They always said i was a part of their family and it did felt that way.

    Jeff- always wanted to know my current status and if there is anything they can do to help.
    Corinne- more like an older sister to me, knew secrets i will never share with anyone.
    Jackson - i still remember his voice saying "5 more mins Nalini" before we leave the park and "I can't sleep Nalini can you come tell me a story".
    Meriwether- i still remember her last words to me "I am coming to visit you and Daniel in the summer Nalini".

    I know they are all in a better place now. i have been dreaming of them all and Corinne telling me they are safe.