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David Jacobson spent over 20 years working for Access Alaska as an advocate, mentor, peer, civil rights activist and manager. He was the embodiment of the Independent Living Movement. In November of 2010 David was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
David left us Sunday, Sept 16 around 6:40 p.m. David had a long list of things he wanted to get done before he died. He managed to check most of them off the list. The Access Alaska endowment fund being his last big project.
Last week David wrote:
My life is now coming full circle and I wish to thank Access Alaska for helping me achieving what I was capable of and thereby live a meaningful life. I wish to set up an endowment fund so that Access Alaska can continue to provide services into the future.
I’m asking you to help and here’s the reason why:
My story is not unusual. Many, many others have similar stories of how Access Alaska taught them that their lives were defined not by their disabilities but by their capabilities and how they then became part of a powerful force to help transform our entire community. All of us, not just disabled persons are the beneficiaries of our strengthened community.
It is difficult to draw a line between “the disabled” and “the rest of us” in any case, and, as we age, that distinction becomes even more tenuous. Access Alaska provides resources & teaches valuable skills to a wide range of people and the ripples thereby created touch us all.
I challenge you to give generously up to the amount you are able to create an endowment for Access Alaska and I pledge that I will match your donation up to $100,000. Your donation is fully tax deductible.
Between us, my friends, we can ensure that Access Alaska remains fiscally able to continue its wonderful work into the future.
A service will be held in November, details about any plans will be forthcoming.
Please share your stories about David on our Facebook page.
Obituary in News Miner, September 23.
Please read this News Miner article about David’s last wish.
David loved his cabin in the Alaska Range, one of Dena’s last status updates she wrote about the cabin, “It is such a life affirming awesome place it’s impossible to feel unconnected to events which occurred millions of years ago and it is comforting to know that mountains will endure long after our deaths.”
Some of you probably don’t know but Access Alaska Anchorage will be moving. This year we received State of Alaska capital funds to purchase the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Clinic building, now we just received a Rasmuson Foundation Grant to help with our purchase and remodel. Exciting times ahead for us! Thank you Rasmuson Foundation for your generous support and commitment to our future. More info here.
The tailor of my spirit
fashioned for me a cloak,
Cut from the cloth
of the father I knew,
not just the man
the world saw,
but the father
He longed to be,
if I were to be a father
I could be that man for him….
The Cloak, made over my lifetime,
hidden, all but forgotten,
lay folded in wait,
sprung from its hiding place
fitted itself to me
in less than a blink, at feeling
the first kick of my child, through
the thinning skin of her mother’s belly.
The strong fabric of many lives,
stitched, woven into a garment of identity
often liberating, in its confining nature,
always there, a perfect fit.
Over the years, snagged on reality, many times,
the fabric would fray & fringe,
never failing, always there, giving
purpose to my life, guiding
my every step.
I, in contemplation, am comforted,
seeing loose threads, thought lost,
were chosen by my children
to weave into their own garment,
now hanging in the closet of their soul
I know in my heart, Somewhere
my father is proud of the
way his grand children chose
to dress themselves.
On the last of my radiation treatments, in September of 1999, I waited to see the oncologist for my chemotherapy referral. I held the strange plastic mesh mask in my lap that had held my head motionless as the six million electron volts of x-ray radiation was beamed through my brain for all of the thirty treatments. The mask was made of a white thermal plastic that was heated, molded to my face and then bolted to a table as I lay there for twenty minutes for it to cool. I was glad my nuclear treatments were over, but was not looking forward to the twelve months of Chemo that would be starting soon. The mask was a trophy to hang on the wall as a reminder of just how far I had come. 2 brain surgeries and 30 radiation treatments completed, only one year of chemotherapy left to go. My Mother and daughter were with me, but I felt very alone. The thoughts of loosing another year to being sick seemed unbearable until I met the man with the blue mask.
A couple entered the waiting area and as they passed I noticed he had a mask much like mine. Unlike my mask, his was blue, and had the eyes, nose and mouth cut out. He seemed alone like me, separated from a world that has no clue what it feels like to have brain cancer. We eyed each other with the interest just as members of any elite group might; a conversation just seemed to start on its own. He seemed to know that I would understand his anxiety from the radiation burns and surgical scars that made my head look like a red swollen soft ball.
Within minutes we were opening up our lives to each other, trading stories, as two long lost friends, or two soldiers in a foxhole with a common enemy that was seeking to remove their life. Two souls met that talked and understood the language of a brain cancer patient. My mask was solid with only the standard holes left by the plastic mesh to see and breathe through, his mask had the eyes mouth and nose area cut out a little, so I asked if he were claustrophobic. He confirmed my suspicions and added that the MRIs were hellish and the valium was the only thing that saved him.
Then our conversation drifted toward our individual prognosis, his cancer seemed much worse than mine. As he opened up to me, in desperation to explain it to someone who might understand it became clear he had only a few weeks to live. As he unloaded his fears and frustrations on me, every passion filled word slammed home. His wife, just a little behind him and to the left, was out of his peripheral vision, and I could her face as she hung on every word as he retold a story she knew too well.
“Its in my liver, I do what they say! Its in my Lungs, I do what they say! And now it’s in my brain, and I am doing what they say again! But they tell me I only have a few weeks! Maybe six. As he inhaled for next verse of his tirade, I locked eyes with him, and then shifted my gaze to his petrified wife; he turned and saw her pained expression, as if her very core were being sucked out. As he looked back to me I nodded toward the hallway and asked if I could have a word with just him, he followed with his head bowed a little as his wife slumped into a chair sobbing into her hands. We had an unobstructed view of the waiting room through the glass of the personal agony she felt in having her husband torn from her. I was moved to speak some words of comfort, and don’t know where the words came from, but the words flowed with clarity that spoke to his heart as only another cancer patient could.
I said, “She really loves you?” He said, “I know.” I continued, “… and she has been with you through this entire ordeal?” He nodded yes. I said, “Your life is from now till it’s over; how do you want her to remember you? If you only have a few days, make them count! Be strong for her!”
He grabbed me in an appreciative hug, and thanked me. I could see them through the glass as they embraced ready to enjoy their remaining time together in this life.
I have reflected on those few moments of clarity over the last several years as I drift from brain cancer patient to brain cancer survivor status. The words I spoke to him were ones that I needed to hear. I have been given everything that man thought he wanted, and he had everything I thought I wanted. He had some one to love him his whole life through. I was given the time he wanted, but no partner to share it with.
Thinking of life as a proportion; it is difficult to say who got the better deal. I was chosen to live, and he was chosen to have love every minute of his earthly life. He felt his life being torn from him as I felt my true love slipping away with the part of my brain that was removed. I guess life is about suffering well, falling with grace, and loving as if your life depended on it, in the end it does.
PS. Three years later while sitting church, a nice lady walked in, and we talked a little… drank some coffee… talked a little more. And we were married in September of 2003.
Upcoming ASL Brown Bag Lunches:
Every Tuesday from 12 pm - 2 pm
Taking place at Access Alaska – Fairbanks on:
Sept. 16, Sept. 30, Oct. 14, Oct. 28, Nov. 25
Taking place at the Woodcenter at UAF on:
Sept. 23, Oct. 7, Oct.21, Nov. 4, Nov. 11, Nov. 18, Dec. 2
Bring your own lunch.
All speakers and students of American Sign Language welcome.
Call Access Alaska to inquire: (907) 479-7940, TTY 474-8619, VP 866-971-2832.
First and Third Mondays at 5:30 – 7 p.m. at Access Alaska – Fairbanks [map]
Call Art at Access Alaska 479-7940 for more information or to inquire about transportation.
First Tuesday at 1:30 to 3:00 pm at Access Alaska – Fairbanks [map]
Call Bonnie at Access Alaska, 479-7940, for more information or to inquire about transportation.