I just wanted to fill you in on the last week. What a whirlwind!
Everyone was shocked when you left – I mean everyone. You were the talk of the town. I know, you would have preferred being the focus of another big win on the courts, but this was next-level news. I guess we should have expected it since you were always one to make a raucous exit.
Early on, everyone rallied at your home (no different than any other weekend). The support was profound. All the people you’d expect to show up were there – and then some.
Once things settled down and a plan was in place to see you off, a group of us went golfing. It was the perfect Vermont afternoon: blue skies, sunshine, and cold beer on ice in the carts – just the way you liked it.
Everyone was in high spirits. We laughed a lot and told stories about you. We even tossed in a few “Rogers Mulligans.” Your doppelganger brother let out a few laughs that made it sound like you were still there, which was oddly comforting.
With social distancing orders in place, your memorial service took on a different feel. In any other time in history, your exit would have resulted in a standing-room-only crowd. There’s no doubt that hundreds more people would have gone if not for the restrictions.
Your family handed out personalized face masks emblazoned with the word, “Coach.” At one point, I turned around to see an entire congregation masked in honor of you. It was pretty surreal, buddy.
I chuckled to myself when the priest sang out your name during the liturgical service in a near-falsetto tone. It made you sound like some sort of holy man. And I got another laugh seeing your battle-worn Vikings jersey as part of the memorial. I guess we’ll all be rooting for them next season.
And Jack, you would have been so proud of your son’s eulogy. It was heartfelt, poignant, and funny. In those few minutes, everyone in the church watched him become a man.
Afterwards, we all headed to a discreet hilltop on the outskirts of town for a true Rogers blowout. You would have appreciated the views – and the appraisal value!
Thankfully, someone thought to bring a truckload of wooden pallets for a bonfire. The low temps meant there was a good ol’ Vermont chill in the air and the fire allowed us to all stand comfortably while listening to the ensuing entertainment.
Your daughter grabbed a guitar and performed for everyone. She serenaded the closest loves of your life, singing and playing like an angel. I’m telling you, Jack, it was one of “those” moments.
A few others also participated, commenting that, “This was Jack’s song to play, but I’ll try to do it justice.” And they did. Your youngest son even ripped into a few songs. You told me he was good, but I didn’t realize he was that good.
The only thing missing was you.
At dusk, some of us lit Chinese lanterns and let them float away. Everyone cheered as the sky filled with tiny dots of lights. It was a poignant moment, for sure. My heart definitely skipped a beat or two as I watched the lanterns disappear into the night.
And I have to tell you, Jack, those boys we coached? They showed up in droves and were so well-spoken in their respect for you and how you influenced their young lives. I was so proud talking to them and listening to their stories.
I left sometime after midnight. It was time to turn things over to the younger crowd who had pitched tents with the intent of honoring you until sunrise.
As I left, I peered up at the stars glistening in the black, clear night sky. I soaked in the magnitude of the moment and the vastness of our universe, thankful that I was present for such a fitting homage to you. I then laughed as I realized, that would have been the exact moment you would have given me a hard time for exiting too soon. And then I took a deep breath as the irony befell me that now I was angry at you for leaving early as well.
I don’t know what else to say, Jack. It was your party, composed from a lifetime of gatherings that you instigated. A fitting tribute to a man who loved to celebrate life.
So, I guess this is goodbye, brother. Time to get back to work; time to move forward. You always think losing someone is going to make you weaker, but the reality is, it makes you stronger. None of us feels strong right now, but it will come – thanks to you.
Before I let you go, can I ask you to do everyone a favor? When you get a chance (and when we’re all least suspecting it), drop in on us. Give us a sign that you’re still there – something small that lets us know you’re still at the party.
I’ll be waiting for mine…
Your friend, Dom.
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]