On Ground Zero: Why Your Support System Is Important During A Time Of Loss With Jesse Beckom III

WRT 4 | Support System

 

Losing someone you love can feel isolating. Having people surround you with love and support can mean the world as you cope with grief. For Tina Fornwald, much can be said about the great people in her life that helped her find healing. In this episode, she interviews a key person who has stood by her: her brother, Jesse Beckom III. Together, they discuss how Jesse supported Tina in those first two weeks after the death of her late husband, Mark W. Fornwald. They also discuss Jesse’s encounter with death at an early age from living on the south side of Chicago. Sharing their own griefs, they then talk about the death of their own father, Mr. Jesse Beckom Jr., and how they saw their mother, Addie Beckom, become a widow. Full of candor and transparency, Tina and Jesse’s conversation gives you a true sense of how valuable the people are in your life as you go through these crippling and tough times.

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On Ground Zero: Why Your Support System Is Important During A Time Of Loss With Jesse Beckom III

My guest is my brother Jesse Beckom III. We are going to have a very candid conversation. That ragged exterior lets you know that everyone is impacted somewhere or another by losing a loved one. My brother’s candor and transparency will give you a true sense of what people in my hood look like and how committed we are. Thanks, and here we go. Jumping right into it.

 

WRT 4 | Support System

 

As I spoke in our last edition, we are now here in Texas, visiting my brother Jesse, who has been an integral part of my journey in this process. Jesse, if you could share a little bit about yourself?

First of all, Widowhood subscribers, welcome and thanks for following my sister through her journey. I love the support. Again, I’m Tina’s oldest brother.

Only brother and youngest sibling.

I’m the oldest brother again, so that’s a fact. You can ask my mom if she has any other older sons and she will say no. She has only one son. I’m the oldest, so there you go. I’m living out in Texas now. Tina’s come down to visit me, and I joined the company. I went to school at Iowa State University where I played football as well to get my graduate degree and undergrad in Community Regional Planning there. From there, I completed the USA Bobsled National Team for over a decade there.

When I competed, I was the Chairman of the Athlete Advisory Committee also. Now I work at Atlassian as a Program Manager Team Lead. I stepped away completely from the Olympic movement. I’m one of the members of the Ethics Committee for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. I’ve served in that manner. I’m trying to still be involved and help guide the process. At Atlassian, I also work as the Chairman of the Employee Resource Group, which is called Black Atlassian’s Group. I’m still trying to stay active and do more than my “day job” at Atlassian.

I didn’t know about this with the board on Atlassian. What are you doing in that?

We’re just getting started. We’re trying to make sure that people feel welcome at Atlassian. The founders there want to make sure that they have a social impact, in general, on the world and also at Atlassian. Also, make you feel like people of every shape, color, race, gender, and things like that are welcome. I’m the Global Chair for the Employer Resource Group, and I have people across MIA, USA as well as AsiaPac as well that we try to develop programs for people of the African diaspora. There are several different groups for women, LGBTQ, military veterans, and people of the age of descent. I’m the Chairman of Black Atlassian.

One thing I have totally been impressed with about your company is when you share the different things that they do for their employees. There’s a lot of work involved, but they seem to have that personal touch that they’re concerned about the people. That’s pretty cool. In this conversation, even though it’s about the widowhood part, there is a part of death in general. Unfortunately, the way the world that we’re in set up my husband’s death is not your first interaction as far as someone that you’ve known within closeness to you dying. There have been other people. Can you share some of those experiences even from your youth or things that you can recall?

Sometimes it sounds a little bit cliché. For instance, growing up on the South side of Chicago, unfortunately, things happen. Some of the things you see on the news are true. Some of the things are exaggerated tremendously. When I think about deaths that have happened like experiencing death in graduate school with some people where 7th or 8th grade have been murdered by gang violence, that’s my first introduction to that. Growing up, we had an obituary in our high school yearbook for graduates.

In your high school yearbook, there was an obituary section.

Yes. A couple of people had been killed for various reasons and stuff like that. It becomes one of those things that’s, unfortunately, a way of life. Life and death come in, even in college. At Iowa State University, several of our players pass away through heart attacks or different reasons. Even my teammates, we talked about that and it was tragic. A lot of our running backs and quarterback, my uncles, and also my father passed away. All those things that happen, you find a way to deal with them and push on. You take those lessons from those people or different situations. For once I would say that some people who passed away in a negative way and you learn from that.

When you say learn in the negative impact, what does that look like?

For me, what that looks like is watching who you surround yourself with, knowing who these people are, knowing what their habits are and what their lifestyle is. Does that mesh with yours or does it not? If it doesn’t, you don’t want to be in that lifestyle, then go away from it, not putting yourself in harm’s way.

If you don't want to be in a certain kind of lifestyle, then go away from it. Do not put yourself in harm's way. Click To Tweet

That is fair. Understanding that one of the things when dealing with death, you mentioned that you and some of the other athletes talking about that. What do those conversations look like? A lot of times, I would think people that are athletes or other stuff have this ragged exterior, but what are some of those conversations? Not giving anyone’s name, but what that looks like?

One, we do have a ragged exterior. That is the thing. You need to have that but athletes, actors, or whatever, people are still people. The people in your group know you as who you are, not just what sports you played or what accolades or awards you have. It’s more like when you look at each other, you’re on the same playing field so you know each other.

Those conversations look like with anyone else in their daily life are always like, “I can’t believe this happened.” You remember hanging out with that person. You remember maybe the funny jokes they told or the things that happened or you did this one thing, and then there’s also some type of concealing too. By right, you missed that person. They’re your teammates.

You went through days with them. You’ve been on the football field or traveling around the world with them like sliding and those interactions. For some people who have committed suicide that you’ve known, sometimes you wonder, “Why didn’t they say anything?” I don’t think there are always different sides to someone struggling. A lot of people do a good job of masking things and it comes out of the blue. It triggers a conversation amongst us to say, “When’s the last time I talked to such and such? This was the last time I talked to Jesse or this or that person.” You tend to value those relationships that you’ve had, that you might have taken advantage of where you have kept contact with the people.

 

 

Thank you when you said something about the funny stories. When Jesse was out doing bobsledding, he, often in between seasons, had an opportunity to visit with family. He spent a great deal of time in Pennsylvania with us, Mark, and the children. I want you to share the story about the snow blind and funny stories with people.

On my own devices, I tend to think of things that keep me busy. One year, it was one of the major storms in Pennsylvania.

I took Catherine to go to college.

I was at home by myself and watching TV. I looked outside and saw a bunch of snow. I was like, “That’d be interesting.” The way my mind works, I was like, “I should try to build up.” Mark was a hunter, and he would like to go hunting. I started thinking about the whole thing and hunters have these different blinds where they hide, whether it’s for a honey duck.

I was thinking about the igloo things we did when we were children that were a kickoff for you.

It was a little bit of both. The igloo thing came out too, but I was like, “I could probably hide it,” because the snow was so high. I was like, “If I paddle up, no one’s going to pay attention because it’s already high all over the place.” Anyway, I went outside, dug an igloo-type snow thing, and I was trying to figure out a way to blind it so I can jump out of the snow and scare people. I had a wet sheet, spray water on it, and covered it up with more snow or whatever.

He then got out of our house.

I tucked it into the snow and used a spray bottle of water. I made snow blind. You walked by, it looks odd but not as odd because of all the snow that was there.

The snow plow had pushed everything up to pull clear the driveway.

When you covered it up, I didn’t have a way to get into it. On the back end, I dug a little tunnel in there.

Didn’t it collapse once when you were doing it?

It did because I was trying to figure out a way to keep the top of it up. I didn’t have any wood brace or anything. I had to use a spray bottle and make it ice.

You should have put a pallet or something and stuck in there.

It was cardboard to build the ceiling so to speak. When I did that, I text you.

You did. We were headed home.

You’re heading home and I was like, “I’m going scare Mark.” I was trying to tell you that I’d let them go first and I’m going to jump out of this thing. I packed the snow. It was also easy for me to pop out of it and also replace it. Mark was the first one walking and I jumped out. I had a video of this, and Tina’s holding the phone, but she dropped the phone.

I did a horrible job.

She was laughing while it was going on. I jumped out and Mark was shocked. I looked at him and he was like, “I wasn’t scared.” I was like, “You were scared. I got the video.” He’s like, “No, I wasn’t.” He looked at it and then he shoots you. He said he was going to chop me, but I was like, “How are you going to chop me while you’re falling backward?” He was like, “That wasn’t scared. I wasn’t scared.” I was like, “Whatever, man. I got you.” He never admitted to it. I then got Alex later.

Alex was good.

Alex was like, “What? How did you do that?” and looking through.

The look on his face in the video. At this point, Mark is so full of it and so we’re pushing Alex to go into the house and Jesse attacked him. We then had a family friend. We called them over late at night. We scared her and she was crying.

She was all terrified. She was way dramatic. You probably going to read this and we’re talking about you.

Mark was not just my husband. What was he to you? How old were you when you first met him?

Mark was my brother-in-law, things like that. In my family, I would call him my brother. Initially, when I met Mark, I had to be 8 or 9 years old. Tina brought him home. I remember we were playing. I’m not sure had to go see something like that. I was running away from Tina, and Mark tackled me and he called and was like, “Your sister liked to kiss you and stuff when you were younger.” As a little boy, you don’t want to be kissed by your sister, but they think it’s the cutest thing ever.

We still do it.

Yeah, or try to. Now, I’m good at blocking all of that stuff. Also, I’m a bit stronger too, so it doesn’t go down that way anymore. Anyway, I was running away from you. I remember Mark tackled me and I remember being pissed off and I’m like, “Really? You’re the only other dude in the house other than my father. You take the women’s side?” I was pissed off about that. As time went on, Mark would come to my high school football games. He bought me my first and only baseball glove.

He was in town. He came throwing the baseball with me outside the house. Like I said he came out to my football games in high school and then also came out to the USA Bobsled races as well. I thought that was pretty good. I don’t think he ever had a chance to come to watch me play at Iowa State, but during high school, yes. It was a good relationship. He taught me about hunting and shooting his crossbow or a bow and arrow on this little deer.

It’s all in the backyard.

In the backyard, there’s the little deer thing. I was sitting out there shooting the bow and that was fun. I remember driving around you guys’ neighborhood and talking with him and he’ll see some turkey tracks or deer tracks and finger shooting. Also, we pulled over one time and we start walking through the woods and back in some of your neighborhood houses following the tracks and things like that.

He was good with that.

It was a great relationship. I miss him. It was a lot of the nuances of things and his ability to tell stories for the longest stories ever.

Also, laughing at the same time. He’s like, “Can I get to the point?” He’s laughing at the hood. You don’t even know if you’re going to hear the story.

Sometimes it is not always the funny story either but the fact that he thought it was funny. He made it even more fun. I’m going to listen to this story, but the pistol chair, I remember we were out at one of Alex’s soccer games when Alex was younger. All of a sudden, we’re sitting there watching the game, I will see Mark over there like, “Pew, pew.” I’m like, “What are you doing?” I see a flock of geese in the sky. I was like, “What are you doing?” He’s like, “If I had my gun,” I’m like, “Whatever.”

That was cool because Mark was an IBEW electrician so he traveled a lot. That allowed him to be in different places and insert himself, be there in your life, and do things. If that job wasn’t set up that way, that may have not happened. It’s interesting. Every time I talk to you, I learned something different about Mark that I didn’t know about your interaction.

We never talked about all the different interactions that we had like the text messages or some of the calls or whatever.

I’m first-time hearing about the baseball glove. Let’s go back in time when it is the day Mark took ill and had a heart attack. How did you find out about that?

Luckily for us, our sibling group is pretty tight and when something happens, we all text one another as far as what’s going on. I remember someone texting me like, “We learned that Mark had a heart attack.” I was working for eBay at the time. I was walking around. I was thinking, “Let me know what’s going on.” I was in the mall walking around.

When I got that call, then I was like, “Tina’s at the hospital with them, all the stuff was happening.” All of a sudden, I got the news that he passed away and I was like, “Crap.” I immediately left the mall. I sent texts to my manager at the time and some of my coworkers like, “My brother-in-law passed away. I’m leaving.” That was a text I sent them. They were pretty understanding, which I was thankful for.

Going back to the sibling, there was no conversation like, “Who was leaving?” You just decided.

I just decided because I know I have flexibility in my job. I didn’t even care at the time because I was like, “This is happening. Tina’s in a bad space. Mark just passed away. My niece and nephew out there.” In my mind, I did the calculations quickly. I said, “What makes sense? I have the ability. I have the means. It’s time to get a flight, go out there, and figure it out.” That were the conversations that happened in my head. It wasn’t like, “Ulanka, Denise.” No. I already did all that thinking and was like, “Time to go.”

That happened. I was in Delaware when Mark passed. By the time you came to Pennsylvania, I was already back. You didn’t come to the house before me. Do you recall that experience, what I looked like and taking that in? What were your thoughts on that?

personally, I compartmentalize a lot of different things. At that point in time, the emotions inside of me were cut off. I know there were executional things that need to happen.

The emotions inside of me were cut off because I knew there were executional things that needed to happen. Click To Tweet

What did we call the table? The command central, or there was some name we had.

It might be a command center or something like that. I can’t remember. In terms of your state, it was what I expected to be like emotionally broken, disheartened, lost, and cloudy. It goes from having a good time to, all of a sudden, your life is now changed. You’ve lost your husband that you’ve been married to for decades. It was what I thought it would be in this array.

Somebody may see me now years later and go, “Maybe it wasn’t that bad or maybe it wasn’t that difficult.” When you look back and see that, it was that bad.

For lack of a better word, delusional but not in a bad way but move from reality. Your head was spinning in so many different directions. You guys had plans to move back down to Virginia and moved back into the house that you built together. Now all that was blown up. When something like that is blown up, there’s a lot to try to recover from and also like, “What are you going to have with the kids and all the finances?” As they said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men.”

They go astray.

It was blowing up. I remember when we were going to look at the funeral home, the cats, and things like that and you were like, “Do you want me to drive?” I was like, “Tina, you’re not driving. What do you mean you’re driving? You’re not in the right mind frame to do any driving. Sit there. I’ll drive and do so,” because that doesn’t make any sense. You’re extremely emotionally compromised and distracted. There’s no way you can focus on the road or things that you need to do because of your mind, your heart, everything, and the fact that you lost the love of your life. Functional-wise, I wouldn’t trust you to cook something because you’ll be days out somewhere.

I want to talk about that a little bit. The idea of losing your spouse, somebody who may have lost a child or somebody close to them, that emotional distraction to be able to have somebody that you can trust in all aspects, whether it’s helping you make decisions or things like that. I found that to be very valuable. I remember opening the door and going, “How did you get here?” You go, “I took a plane.” The things weren’t clicking in my mind as far as how things were going about.

That allowed me to be less stressed, to be able to offload, and have someone that I could trust to bear that piece of that because there were so many decisions to be made. The funeral director was fifteen minutes from the house. It was an area I drove past going to church on a regular basis. As you said, the mind tapping out, the mind trying to grasp, “This person I was with is no longer here,” and what we need to do. You also mentioned about planning.

We were planning to relocate to Virginia. It also was interesting the amount of other plans that we made as far as how to take care of each other in somebody’s absence. You were leaning in to help with that. Do you recall that part of it? What that looked like and how much we knew about each other to be able to adequately prepare?”

Having strong family ties, even if you have a strong friend and you would like to conversate a lot, in general, over every little thing. Having that bond like that, it is easier to talk to. I’ve never experienced losing a spouse because I haven’t been married yet, but saying that too from the logistics part, as far as things to think about, our minds were like, “What is the business of the situation?” You’re dealing with the heart, the emotions, and the spiritual things. That part exists because Mark was like a brother to me.

I took that, I put that like, “I deal with that later because now there needs to be execution happening that my sister can’t do because she’s dealing with that now.” This is expected. For me, I was like, “The finance.” As a program manager, I was like, “Where do your finances stand?” I start thinking about the insurance stuff, putting together the spreadsheet, and start keeping track of everything. “What is it that we know? What is it that we don’t know?” If this and that, start thinking about, “What are the things that need to get in order?” Looking at the mail and saying, “We got to figure out what is this, what is that? Who do we need to contact in those?”

I don’t remember going to the mail. It’s interesting.

There were a ton of mails, so I was like, “I’ll start going through all of those.” At one point, you started giving the mail and so when I got it, I had stacked it up in piles and I would open stuff up, get the information from it whether it’s insurance or whatever it is, this or that. Start building that whole spreadsheet.

If I recall correctly, you had an intricate role in doing Mark’s obituary, the pictures, and a lot of stuff. Was that somebody else?

That was me. I did that. That was probably the hardest place to keep things together because I’m going through emotions. I leverage all my resources. One of my friends at eBay, of course, I had the general story about Mark to input from you, from Alex and Catherine.

DD214 and talking to some people in the military.

I wrote some things up but I also sent them to my friend Marnie at eBay who was a copywriter. I wanted her to edit because I and Marnie were always the best. I sent it to her while I text her like, “Marnie, handle this.” She was like, “Of course.” I sent it to her. She re-edited it for me and things like that. Kept the information in there. Put the structure together the way you would think that a copywriter who does this for a living does things. She sent that back to me and that’s when I showed you all. We uploaded up to the obituary website.

Pictures bring back many memories. When I did the slideshow for Mark, there were some pictures that I had seen and some pictures that I hadn’t seen. Going through them, we were working into the wee hours of the night like 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning trying everything done. I get the music like the little fun animations or imagery to it. Going through that and taking a personal breath again but not showing it to you because that doesn’t help you in the situation that you need help in.

I’m not saying it’s the healthiest thing in the world to do because I turn off my emotions when I have to. Another thing, “Let me continue to push this thing away because my family’s dealing with emotional stuff. They don’t need somebody else adding to that emotion. They need somebody that’s a little bit more solid and delve in.” You take on that persona. Going through the different pictures and things like that is hard to hold those feelings back or even go through Mark’s guns.

When I came to Virginia having to serialize that and put that together. I remember you coming in a bit of a jump, not in Pennsylvania. When I relocated to Virginia, Jesse stayed with me for a while and you say, “What is something I can do?” Mark is an avid hunter and I was like, “I need this stuff organized.” You had gone through 2 or 3 and you came back with a look on your face. You were like, “This is hard.”

This is the one thing you did and then you start thinking about how that perspective of me cleaning through the house, all the things that I had to do to get to Virginia in comparison to that one task. That hits you in reality because now we’re a few years later after Mark’s death. You’re not needing to posture yourself to keep me strong and probably some letting in your own emotions as far as what that looks like.

Marking and I had gone to the gun range, so going through some of his weapons and rifles, they’ll immediately bring back memories of us being at the range together. Whether it was the rifle or the handguns, he was using those and showing me how to dial in my scopes and things like that. I was thinking about that and then now thinking, “We’re not doing that anymore.” That brings back emotions even now and thinking about it across things. I would think about, “How was that when you have to get rid of your husband’s stuff or for my nephew or how my niece deals with stuff?”

All those things they do hit at different times. When someone was an integral part of your life, that journey never stops. That transition never stops. The blow is lessened because over time the reality sinks in more and more every year but does it take away from the hurt? I wouldn’t say necessarily it does, but you learn how to deal. There’s no ever getting over death but you learn how to not make it become a crippling effect. Life does move on and this is a part of the cycle.

 

 

It depends, too, on like, “I don’t know how I would recover from it if it’s my spouse.” I’m still layers removed from it. My interaction with Mark occasionally was constant for guys, but I wasn’t you. I’m not seeing him every day but even for me sometimes when I sit at the house, I have that feeling that person’s going to walk back in the door. That never goes away for you. If I can imagine what it was for me, I can only imagine a thousandfold what is for you and the kids.

Let’s leverage the idea of being removed and take it to the concept of our dad passing away. We do have a picture of our dad when he was in the Air Force. Mark passed away in 2017, and December or November 2020, dad passed away. Denise was the first child being there with our mom, being there with her dad, and with everything that was going on. How is that different for you being now your dad has passed away, and now our mom is a widow? How did that differ for you from watching me as your sister go through that?

It differs because I grew up with both my parents in the house for my entire life. Some of the nuances were the same but always different. Not the healthiest thing in the world, but again, mom needs help. It’s again time to leave California and go attend to my mom. It’s one of those things again. We’re communicating what needs to be done and stuff like that.

Thank God I was able to be in a situation by having the means and the ability to come back to Chicago, “Do I need to do it for my mother?” It’s trying to push my emotions or the grief that I had for my father passing away and we’re dealing with COVID. Push that aside because, “My mom is in a very vulnerable situation.” The levels of independence of my mom versus you are completely different.

I would think my mom needed more support to stand up and for us to come in from this thing to think about, “What’s going on?” Taking the learnings from your experience, my experience with you, at least now I’ll have a blueprint as crappy as it is. I have an operational blueprint in my mind and say, “What needs to be done? What is our next step for our mom?”

You were employed, and mom wasn’t, so there are different things that have to happen to look at that situation. Compartmentalizing things and trying to figure out, “What’s the best way to be effective from our mom.” She doesn’t need a son sitting there emotionally compromised because his father has passed away. She needs her son there so that she can lean on his shoulder to help her through this along with the other kids to get past this situation. In my mind, I’m like, “I’ll cry later,” type of thing.

Have you cried later? What does that look like for you?

The first time I cried was probably at dad’s funeral. When I was getting up there speaking because you think about the entirety of a parent being in your life. You’d think about when I would be out there because South Side Chicago is South Side Chicago. He’d be out there while I’m out there doing drills, sitting there, watching nobody, creepers come in, or you want to call them now. I’m out there doing my different drills. you practice outside of practice. In the summer, I’m out there drilling, sprinting, doing footwork drills, and stuff like that. My father’s out there watching. It’s funny. I remember this one dude trying to come and sit and my father’s walking around.

My father’s a police officer. I’m sitting there and this dude walks up and sits on the freaking bench and my father walks up. he’s like, “What are you doing here?” He’s like, “I’m just sitting here.” He is like, “No, you are not.” I don’t know what this dude was thinking but I was over there doing my drills and sweating. I don’t know if this dude was some type of pedophile, whatever type of creepy he is. My father had to think like raising his shirt up. He was showing his gun and was like, “You need to go because I can’t get on.” The dude left because like, “Why are you out here watching this kid or this teenager sitting there doing drills? Who are you?”

I was like, “Is that right or lessons learned?” I have my house now. My ability to be able to do things as far as like DIY comes from the things that my father taught me. There’s not a lot that I don’t know how to do or I don’t know how to figure out whether it’s using duct tape and metal coat hangers to fix things or the fact that I built on that and I can buy some of the things that my parents were able to buy to fit the need. It’s those lessons and things that hit you at different times.

I remember helping my mom take stuff down as far as the exercise equipment that my father and I built together. It hits you in different ways or different things. Initially, after my father passed away, I’m going back to work and being in different meetings. You turn my camera off, and then I have to be there in person. I also remember dealing with different anger, and unresolved issues sometimes, whatever those may be. It hits you in ways. I’m not sure at what point it stops hitting you at ways or if that even happens.

I’m probably going to say it doesn’t. As you said, at different times, it hits you in different ways, as we continue living. Sometimes we may put in more work with therapy, journaling or talking to family members. Those sometimes ease the pain that you’re dealing with, but I have often considered it is the price of loving someone.

The price of loving them is those memories or those thoughts that we render. Sometimes it’s like a movie playing back that we weren’t prepared for the movie to play, and then the list is those emotions that make you feel like you’re right back at that moment. It can be warming sometimes and sometimes it can be emotional. The same memory can come at you in different ways.

 

WRT 4 | Support System

 

Thank you for sharing that. When we were there with our mom, one of the things I remember was our mom strategically letting us know what needed to be kept and what didn’t need to be kept. At some point, realizing her watching that happen and play out was different than her being able to orchestrate that. What do you recall of that portion of it?

I remember that, too, because throwing stuff away is including throwing away that person or that life. As we started moving, we realized, “Mom needs to be out here because everything we throw away is throwing away pieces of dad. It’s throwing away pieces of their lives for being married with over 40 some odd years in that house. We need to get mom down to Virginia somewhere else because there are some hard decisions that need to be made in terms of what we’re throwing away.” Mom wanted to keep everything and I realize that too. I remember we were cleaning out the basement. There was a lot of stuff in the backyard and mom looked out the window to see us throwing away some of the stuff.

Everything we throw away is throwing away pieces of dad. Click To Tweet

It was stuff she already said that we could dispose of but that fog and looking at it with that emotion she’s attracting.

That’s seeing all of it out of the house because we can’t get rid of the stages like the dumpster. My mom’s heart is my mom’s heart. She wanted us to donate this stuff. Not realizing some of this equipment is 30 years old and you can’t donate it. Sorry, mom. We threw a lot of it out. Some of it was too rusted and things that no one was going to use it. We need to get mom out of the situation. Make sure she’s around loved ones but she didn’t need to see it.

She didn’t need to see it executed. She’d identified. She just needs to know that it was taken care of.

That was why I realized it was time for mom to go down to Virginia, get the stuff she needs, pack her up, and go down there with you guys.

You were there for a whole month.

After everyone left, I was still there cleaning stuff out. Some of that was therapy for me as well because as I was cleaning stuff out, some of those memories came back, but again, still on a mission to take care of everything. I get the stuff shipped out, get the stuff packed up in our house. Luckily, I got me and my boys in Chicago. We were still there to help me pack some things up and get things. I have my homeboy Lorenzo and Chris. I got my cousins like James there. They were able to come to help me move stuff and things that I can’t do on my own.

He seems ragged but he cannot pick up everything.

For them, it was no question. It was like, “JB, what do you need?”

That’s your hood right there.

My boys on the block will always be my boys on my block. My family was there to help me when my siblings needed to go back and handle my mom. I was on deck to take care of the rest of the stuff.

Now we’re a few years out. Mom has her own podcast talking about weight management and things like that. How has it been to watch your mom continue living in the absence of dad?

It is exciting. My mom is a strong person. It’s interesting seeing her coming to her own personality again, even learning from you. My understanding is when you have kids and a husband, your identity gets lost in that to an extent.

It’s blended.

You got to be blended. Now, mom’s trying to understand like, “What food does mom like?” She hasn’t had to buy food for the kids in a while, but it’s still those patterns there but she will buy stuff that my father likes. Seeing her understand like, “What does she like to do with her time separate from my father?” Don’t get me wrong. I know my mom still likes playing cards. When she came to visit, we’ll still play cards.

The country music thing, finding out about that.

I didn’t know my mom liked country music. It’s funny because my friends and people give me crap that I listen to country music. Now I get to be honest. I like listening to country music. I listen to everything, but I will listen to country music in the car and have my mom send me her country music playlist like, “Jay, have you listened to this?”

I didn’t know Ma sent you a playlist.

From iHeart Radio. I was like, “I haven’t heard this one. I’ll take a listen to it.” It’s seeing the difference in her independently. The phase that she’s in now versus where she was and my father again, it’s a sad situation that caused it but also my mom has given up on life.

Jesse, we’ve talked about mom, my situation, and the death that has impacted you outside of family members. In thinking of all this, what lessons have you learned from death?

I’ve never thought about it in terms of what lessons I learned from death. Time is not a thing that’s promised, whether it’s day 1 or year 80. That’s a promise I’ve learned, like making the most out of what your time is. Also, your time here on Earth has an impact. It has an impact on people you know and doesn’t know. What’s the impact on your family? What is that impact going to be? Is it going to be negative? It’s going to be positive? In general, there’s a mixture of that and there are learnings that happen.

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All the time where you’re living, you are learning something. In death, there’s no more to be learned. At least not for the person that’s died, but from the people that were there, you learn to extract some of the good lessons and stuff that we learned those good times. Also, looking at some of the things where “Maybe this person messed up. This could have been better.” For me, that’s what I take from it. You draw from the experiences. There are memories and learnings that all happen there.

You take from it too. No one in this world is perfect. That’s what I take from it. It teaches how you still execute when things are down and when you’re emotionally compromised. It teaches you a type of toughness in itself and also survival. Survival is like, “How do you do things? How do you push forward? How do you help and still be effective even though you might be emotionally compromised because it happens?”

It does make you stronger in a sense if you don’t break. Everyone’s different and some people have different breaking points and some people never recover from a death in a family. The way we’re built, that’s not an option, as far as the siblings. Each one has their own way to deal with things. For us, that’s not an option.

We schedule it for later. We got to put that aside. “This I have to do. Later, I’m going to have the breakdown.” It will happen. It’s just when we’re going to do it.

The breakdown happens but it would not cripple us for long the way we’re built. It also teaches you who are those people that you can lean on in those situations. You learn a lot about who you are, about who the people around you are as well. Who are those true friends? Who are those friends that are family? That’s what I’ve learned from that.

Any closing comments or anything you want to share with anyone?

What I would say is that there is no schedule for how you deal with your own personal grief. There is an expectation say, “in 4 or 5 years, I’m going to be over this.” I wouldn’t put that pressure on yourself. I would take it as it goes. I would also say that it’s worth talking to someone about it whether you’re comfortable with a counselor or even a family member however you want to deal with it unless it is in a positive manner to try to deal with fine positive ways to deal with things. Maybe you need to get out of the house and be around other people. Maybe you need to work out more.

It’s a negative thing that happens but try to find a way to make it into a positive. I get pissed off sometimes. I hit the gym. I take that anger and turn it into something positive where I’m not letting it become something negative and tear me down or even impact somebody else negatively or write some poetry. I look at it as taking this horrible thing that’s happened and impacting your life and trying to see how you can make it into something positive.

For me, “What would that person want me to do?” Laugh when you remember the people at those times when things were pretty funny or the thing they do. It’s like, “Don’t deny yourself the emotions that you’re feeling because you think you owe to somebody else to be this way or that way.” You still have to take time yourself.

 

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I compartmentalize things when I have to because those are different roles. I need to plan and identify that. Do I take time to cry or think about that person like that? Yeah, I do. You’re entitled to your feelings and how-to-feel ways. You’ll be happy, sad, upset, and things like that. That’s part of the process. That’s how we deal with loss.

Thank you, Jesse, for being here. Thank you for being here with us on this episode of Widowhood Real Talk with Tina. Have a good day.

We wrapped up an episode, with my brother Jesse, and we talk a lot. I am excited that he brought his fullness and full self to this conversation. I’m grateful for him opening his home, heart, and soul. I pray that the information that we talked about encourages you. It helps you. It makes you stronger. It lets you know that healing, health, encouragement, and opportunity are available for you.

Encouraging you to be able to seek out the people that are in your hood, your family, your friends, your therapist, to be able to get the strength that you need to endure as you continue to live your life in the absence of the person that you love. Thank you for being here with us through this journey, and I look forward to talking to you soon.

 

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About Jesse Beckom III

WRT 4 | Support SystemJesse Beckom III Iowa State University alumni, where he earned his undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning, was Co-Captain of the football team and a former USA Bobsled National Team member competing for over a decade. Currently serving as a member of the United States Olympic Ethics Committee, he works as Program Manager Team Lead at Atlassian, where he also serves as the Global Chair of the Black Atlassian Employee Resource Group.

Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide