When Steve called me on Saturday, May 5 th, to tell me Pat had passed away peacefully that morning my thoughts soon turned to the children – How do we tell the children in our Sunday School class? Pat had been their teacher and they loved her.So I did what Pat and I often did when we had questions – we went to our favorite libraries. Among the many materials I found was a small children’s book called Lifetimes. In very simple words it explains that in this earthly life there is a beginning and an ending for everything that is alive and in between is living.
What about Pat’s beginning?
Patricia Ewing Jackson was born 71 years ago in Louisville, Kentucky. She was Charles and Martha Ewing’s only child. Pat attended The Kentucky Home School for Girls from fourth grade through high school. There were only 20 girls in her graduating class. One of her classmates remembers Pat (nicknamed Pootie) as well liked by everyone, very bright, outspoken, not the least bit silly but very funny and the only natural blonde in the class!!!
The living part of Pat’s earthly life is a beautiful tapestry of adventure, faith, dedication and detachment. –
She left Louisville to attend Northwestern University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. In her lifetime she would also earn– a masters degree in education and Illinois State Approval in ESL. Pat loved doing research and continued learning throughout her life.
As a single working woman she enjoyed several mini adventures but her major adventures were still ahead of her –she hadn’t met Steve yet. They did meet for the first time while she was vacationing in Barbados with several girlfriends. Steve and two friends were sailing around the world before returning to civilian life after their tour of duty in the military – and so a lifetime partnership began with a chance meeting in Barbados.
During her life with Steve, Pat would live in Wisconsin, Virginia, Connecticut, Illinois, Uganda, Somalia and China. She seemed to feel most at home in far away places. The pace of living in Africa reminded her of her southern roots and she remarked that as a southern woman she felt perfectly at home in China where everyone says “yes” and then does whatever they want.
So many wonderful memories and stories have been sent to Pat’s family and they are most grateful for all your expressions of love and admiration.
Pat was also able to listen to many of these stories during her last days. For now these messages bring tremendous comfort to her family and they will become part of their family history to share with future generations. It’s a wonderful gift you have given the family.
I also had the bounty of reading these messages and have enjoyed knowing Pat through the eyes of so many who admired her. Your memories weave a wonderful story of a purposeful, adventurous life. Pat was not fearless as she agreed to travel the world with Steve but she did attempt to conquer her fears throughout her life.
- Conquering fears even started on her honeymoon. Steve planned a honeymoon that was far from luxurious for a southern gal. They would go off by themselves on a canoe/camping trip. On the very first day the canoe tipped over, with all the gear and the bride and groom going overboard and getting soaked. When the honeymoon was over Pat said, “Never again!” We all know that wasn’t to be.
- Pat had to conquer her fears many times over – whether hiking in the mountains, trying to get down a steep ski slop or on a bike tour with people half her age she somehow managed to get through it, frequently doing things her way – and probably often said, “Never again.”
- But Pat was fearless when it came to her faith. Once she and Steve embraced the Bahai Faith she devoted her life to its service. She served on local, regional and national committees and worked tirelessly towards building strong Bahai communities and a more peaceful, unified world. This is what energized her and gave her the courage, at an age when many of us are looking to slow down and “retire,” to accompany Steve to China where he had accepted a teaching position at the University of Nanjing. Because of her wonderful educational and teaching experience she was encouraged to take on a teaching position at the university. She taught English to young women who became daughters as well as students. Many were far away from their small villages spending their days in cold classrooms with no heat. Pat and her students often wore hats, gloves and coats in order to be somewhat warm.
- For the first years in China she and Steve lived in a small apartment in a dormitory building. Eventually, Steve found a stove, which was a luxury and they were able to prepare some “western type” meals. Pat and Steve created a feeling of home even under these conditions and welcomed newfound friends and travelers from the states into their small space to enjoy home-cooked meals – with baked apples for desert.
- Pat so enjoyed learning about and participating in the culture of far away places. She and Steve formed lifetime friendships. She shopped in the markets and learned to ride a bike through Nanjing so she could attend cultural events with Steve and their friends. A flat tire could change plans for the day but with Steve’s ingenuity the day was usually saved – just a bit off schedule.
- Pat was a natural teacher: She taught English in the Glencoe school district; in East Africa; in Nanjing, China; and in her Deerfield home. Her lessons were full of joy, smiles and laughter as she and her students shared stories about their families and themselves. Her relationship with her students was always much deeper than teacher and student. She became a mentor, friend and role model.
- Pat also taught by example. Several young mothers wrote to say that she was their role model. They admired her strength and dedication to her family. She often nurtured young mothers in the Deerfield Bahai community, especially when their own families lived far away.
- She taught Sunday School for preschool and early grade school children and tackled that task with as much dedication and hard work as she did when teaching university students.
- When something inspired her she gave it her full attention and all her energy.
Pat’s ending years were similar to the way she lived her life – only with adjustments.
- When Pat was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) 7 years ago I know she and Steve had some emotional private moments but then she asked herself and her doctors “What can I do?” Pat didn’t spend much time asking “why did this happen to me.” Her faith gave her perspective on life and death. So her ending years were still very rich and purposeful. She just made adjustments!
- Pat loved animals – especially cats. Her cat Pumpkin was part of her family many years. When Pumpkin died Pat was not able to have another animal in the house due to allergies that probably developed as part of her illness. One day three stray kittens appeared on her deck. Steve and Pat named them Black Tips, Blackie and White Tips. Those little kittens blessed the day they found Pat and Steve. From that day forward they were given a first class life. After Steve had them spade he built them a heated shelter on their deck. Pat and Steve could look out their patio door and welcome three kittens into their family. Once again Pat was surrounded by cats – with a few adjustments!
- Many of you have heard of the book or seen the movie, Tuesdays with Morry. Well, for the last five years I spent most Tuesday mornings with Pat. We would always allow a few moments for visiting and then delved into planning our Sunday School classes. We had grandiose ideas and couldn’t complete any of them without Steve’s help. He was our computer expert. Pat and Steve were a wonderful team. Pat inspired by the spiritual aspects of an idea and Steve taking care of the practical elements.
- We made adjustments in class so Pat could participate until quite recently. All the children washed their hands before coming into the room, stayed home if they were sick and were careful not to spread germs whenever possible by practicing good hygiene. They even gave us some good health tips. We were all surprised how well things worked out but we also knew this service was medicine for Pat’s spirit and in some ways kept her going.
- Pat adjusted her days to meet her physical limitations: mornings were for exercising and mental tasks; in the early afternoon she would walk to Whole Foods for lunch and visit with several of the staff who became her friends. After lunch she often visited the Glencoe Library or the book store and of course, she always had time to take grandchildren to after-school lessons; food shopping and blockbusters were often part of her late afternoon routine and the evenings were reserved for reading and watching a good movie. As she weakened she kept making adjustments, keeping the most important part of living and letting go of the not so important things. So many family members and friends have written about Pat’s most endearing attributes and I will share a few with you now:
- An indomitable spirit
- Down to earth
- A clever wit
- Family and faith were her priorities
- Created a welcoming, orderly and loving home
- From her doctor, Doctor Dragon, who developed a much deeper relationship with Pat than doctor and patient: “Pat was such an elegant and gracious woman. In the years we knew her, we learned from her faith, her spirit, and her beauty. Pat was a dynamic woman who had experiences that many just dream of. Yet, with all that, she exuded a demeanor of absolute serenity. She was a role model for all of us.”
A baby in a mother’s womb prepares for this earthly life without any idea of what to expect. Pat believed that once we leave that womb and are born into this temporal world it is our job to prepare for the eternal world. This is how she lived – when her earthly life ended she was well-prepared to begin her spiritual journey.
Kirk Hein, a dear friend of Pat’s offers this quote from Stories of Baha’u’llah :
“There are four qualities which I love to see manifested in people: first, enthusiasm and courage; second, a face wreathed in smiles and a radiant countenance; third, that they see all things with their own eyes and not through the eyes of others; fourth, the ability to carry a task once begun through to its end.” I know we all join Kurt when he says, “Well done, Patty, very well done!”