To family, friends & supporters of Jack Slater,
A memorial service took place for Jack Slater

on April 30, 2006, at 2 pm at Town Hall in Seattle, WA.

Story from ben1@bswets.com

See full invitation at memorial invitation

Below is a piece by Ben Swets, brother-in-law of Jack Slater, brother of Jack's wife Deborah Swets, about the afternoon of Jack's passing, Friday, 24 March, 2006. This is Ben's personal account of the event.

We are sorry to also report that Jack's father also passed away on Sunday, April 2, after a long illness.


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My sister Deborah sat behind me at the foot of Jack's hospital bed, snacking on some carrot sticks purchased from a kiosk 3 floors below. I held her husband Jack's right ankle. There was warmth. His body had some life in it. Jack's mother, Delle, sat before me holding Jack's right wrist. She had a plain face, brown turtleneck and beige slacks. She flew here to Seattle last night from Lake Worth, Florida. Steve, Jack's brother from Hawaii, dozed in blue jeans on the sofa between Jack and the big window out of which we would soon see a sunset, if the rain cleared.

It was too soon to be doing this again. Jack's sister had died of breast cancer15 months before in a Bellingham hospital 70 miles North.

To my left, standing, were Seattle neighbors Carol & Glen; Cynthia, who had hosted Jack's 58th and 59th birthday parties where Jack played much with her kids; friend Maribeth, who had begged the hospital to give her recently deceased husband John's liver to Jack three years ago; and Alan, the Times photographer who not only illustrated Jack's many essays on living with liver disease, but had escorted Jack to several medical appointments. Jack’s dear Los Angeles actor/activist friend Lee, was making phone calls to many of Jack's friends from the patients lounge down the hall.

An hour before Glen had strummed his guitar. We all sang, “Give me a home where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play." We sang four songs that choked me up.

Deborah walked over to stand again by Jack’s side and rub cream into his chest, the way she had done many times on his back during his convalescence. Deborah’s slacks and sweater were truly slept in. She had not been home for days. The beautiful young nurse, Jesse, with lofty brunette hair, patiently applied morphine and unknown pain-relieving drugs to Jack's IV. She wore shapeless blue hospital pajama-like pants and shirt. She walked fearlessly but cautiously, reluctant to offend any grieving guests. I would not expect one as young as she to professionally provide security and reassurance. We were all, however, pleasantly reassured by her and other nurses and doctors whenever they entered Jack’s room.

Jack's chest rose a whole inch when he inhaled. When his rib cage expanded, the spaces between his arms and his torso widened and made him look more emaciated. The bizarre collection of fluid in his lungs and abdomen, however, gave him a potbelly. His hands were limp with curled fingers lying above the blanket that covered his bare, inert torso, hips, and legs. Those fingers were unresponsive when we clasped them, but they were warm.

A plastic clear cup was upside down on Jack's mouth and nose. It was strapped around the back of his head. A tube sent oxygen to the space in front of his orifices. His autonomic nerves made his lungs expand. Oxygen automatically was drawn in and burned. From 7 to 10 seconds later he snorted again, drawing in more precious air. Nobody said so, but everybody wondered anxiously after every breath: Will another breath occur? We counted the seconds. If nothing happened after the seventh second, our nerves got tense. 8, 9, 10, and then, one more miraculous time, the snort of his throat sounded and his rib cage heaved up again.

Jack's eyes have been stuck in a wince for two days. I feebly said, “Voop sends his love." Then Kerry appeared, a CityClub board member, saying cheerfully to the speechless face, “You are doing good, Jack. We all support you. We love you." She smiled largely at me over Jack’s white bedclothes. She stepped away. Ed appeared in her place. He put his lips close to Jack's Right ear and said, “You are my buddy, Jack. I love you. I am here for you buddy." Ed brought a photo of the two of them from a stage play in which they had both acted in 1979 which now peeks out from the bulletin board behind the bouquet of flowers sent by Deborah’s sister Heidi and family in Iowa. There was no need for me to feel awkward.

Our random team of supporters wandered in and out of Jack's room. We congregated in the corridor. We lounged on the sofa at the patients' lounge overlooking a grove of evergreen trees. When four of us walked through those trees to lunch in the University District, Deborah said the neighborhood reminded her of Ann Arbor. I may find next to me any one of the team at any moment: a friend from the press, a CityClub board member, a neighbor or a relative. Any of them are a pleasure to share Jack-stories with.

Suddenly, as I was typing this story, the transplant nurse coordinator, Mary, came to fetch me from the patients' lounge. The end must have happened. Mary said, “Ben, you have to come now.

Deborah & Delle were sniffling and holding each other. One of Deborah's hands was on the corpse. Deborah let go of Delle and leaned down to kiss Jack. “I love you honey." Deb stood back up and winced. “I can not process it.” She put her hands on her face. Then she hugged Delle again. I put one hand on Deborah's hand and one hand on Jack, who was now cold to my touch. This was my big brother figure, who had ridden bikes and taken pictures with me when I was 14 years old, and who had initiated me into Los Angeles when I was 23. He had told me when I was a teen, “Always remember how to have fun.”

The previous time I was in the room, Jack had looked pale. Now he looked even paler. The plastic oxygen apparatus was now off and his bare mouth was wide open. There was no more snorting; no more rising of the ribs; and for the first time since I arrived here, Jack's eyes were opened enough for his irises to show. They were relaxed. His lashes were long and delicate. Delle said through tears, “It was so peaceful. He really went peacefully." The eight of us who last clasped arms around Jack’s bed included mother Delle Slater, brother Steve Slater, friend Maribeth Berberich, former neighbor and friend Carol Ostrom, Los Angeles friend Lee Boek, wife Deborah Swets, Seattle Times photographer Alan Berner, and me, brother-in-law Ben Swets.

Steve asked Deborah if she knew who to call next to arrange for cremation. Deborah said it was already arranged. Jack and she had discussed where Jack wanted his ashes distributed.

The person to sob the most was Alan, the Times photographer.

Lee touched Deborah and me. He phoned Ed Harris, who had flown back to LA early that morning, the 24th. Deborah did not want to phone any of her and Jack’s friends yet. Carol & Kerry volunteered to phone several of them immediately. Carol phoned Cynthia, who’d had to leave earlier, and was now driving on an elevated freeway across town. Cynthia had some news too: she had just witnessed a big bright rainbow right at the moment Jack left us, arching over the city of Seattle.

The friends picked up purses, bouquets, books, CD player, and garments and headed out for the last time. Deborah lingered with three nurses for 45 minutes. She said "Bye honey," to Jack's corpse many times. Jesse and another quiet nurse reminded Deborah that there was no hurry. Deborah said she would leave as soon as the body processing crew arrived.

That crew was led by Cara, a nurse who had read Jacks health essays in the Seattle Times. She reminded Deborah once again what a comfort Jack had been to her, as a writer.

Deborah told Cara how difficult it was to leave her husband in this final way. Deborah leaned down over Jack’s body one last time with her cheek to his chest and her left hand extended to rest on his forehead and her right hand holding Jack’s right hand. She held that pose for 10 seconds. She stood straight again, just holding his right hand between both of her hands. The three nurses looked on. Lee, & I piled our and Deborah’s and Jack's bags and coats high on a spare wheel chair and aimed it toward the elevator. Deborah emerged from Jack’s room to accompany us.

We walked out of the UW hospital. We gazed up at the multi-story wall of hospital windows. Jesse's silhouette was visible in one of the sixth floor windows. That window was where we had spent the last few days. Jesse's shoulders moved as she gazed down at her work hidden from our view. Deborah held her hand up toward the window and said, "Bye honey." Her eyes were wet. My big sister said to me, "This reminds me of the day you were born. Dad drove Heidi and I past Blodgett Hospital and pointed upward and told me, "In one of those windows is your new little brother."

We drove back to Deborah’s and Jack's Ballard home. Lee started phoning friends to begin planning a memorial service.

Glenn, Carol, Lee, Steve, Delle, Deborah and Ben are all having some supper, Friday night, the 24th of March at 8:30 pm, telling stories about Jack.

Time of passage and rainbow was 5:45 pm, 24 March, 2006.

Gratitude & love to you all,
Ben Swets

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in The Seattle Times:

To see press stories of Jack Slater published between 2003-2006 go to www.seattletimes.com/jackslater At that Seattle Times page you can click on the headline "I don't want to be missed. I'd rather be celebrated." to read Jack's obituary.

Two more things:

1) On April 27, LifeCenter Northwest, the nonprofit organization that spreads the word about the importance of organ donation in our region, is holding its fundraising luncheon in Seattle. For the second year, Jack had agreed to lend his name to be used as the title for the $10,000 sponsorship level. This year two sponsors signed on for the “Jack Slater” sponsorship: the University of Washington Medical Center and Costco.

Jack and Deborah had planned to attend on the 27th, to meet the sponsor reps, support the cause, and be present for the acknowledgement of Jack and other named sponsors during the program. Deborah will be attending on the 27th and would like to invite anyone else so moved to join her. Suggested donation for the luncheon is $100. To reserve or maek a donation in Jack’s name if you would like to reserve, contact LifeCenter Northwest, 11245 SE 6th Street, Suite 100. Bellevue, WA. 98004. 1.877.275.5269 info@lcnw.org Let them know you’d like to sit with Deborah. Also, let Deborah know you plan to attend via email at dswets@qwest.net

2) Also, CityClub is holding it’s 25th Anniversary Gala Luncheon featuring Tom Brokaw on Tuesday, April 18. As most of you know, Deborah has been the Executive Director of CityClub’s for the last 13 years, half CityClub’s life. CityClub Board and staff have been phenomenally supportive of Jack and of Deborah throughout this illness saga. Although Deborah will not be able to attend the luncheon, she suggests that anyone moved to support CityClub at this important anniversary, do so, either by attending the luncheon, or sending a donation in Jack’s name. See www.seattlecityclub.org or call 206-682-7395 to reserve.

Memorial Services:

A Memorial Service for Jack Slater is being planned for the afternoon of Sunday, April 30 at 2 pm. Location is the Great Hall at Town Hall at 1119 - 8th Ave (at Seneca Street on First Hill) in Seattle, WA. It is a large space. Any and all are welcome.

Lee Boek & Rob Sullivan are coordinating a remembrance gathering in Los Angeles on April 23, at the home of Rob Sullivan, 1635 South Wilton Place 90019. Contact Lee Boek at leeboek@hotmail.com.

Corresponding to family if you wish:

Jack's wife:
Deborah Swets
6718 20th Ave NW
Seattle WA 98117
dswets@qwest.net

Jack's mother:
Delle Slater
208 S Lakeside, #302
Lake Worth, FL 33460

Jack's brother and sister-in-law:
Steve Slater & Jean Keating
264 Palima Place
Kihei, Hawaii 96753
steve@sslater.com

Many thanks for the wonderful messages and reflections we've received already.

With gratitude,
Ben Swets
ben1@bswets.com

We ask for your response. We welcome your memories and reflections about Jack. Please email them to to jackmem@gfone.biz. We will share them with his family.

Additionally: If you feel so inclined, please send a card to Jack's mother at the address above. She does not use email. It could make her feel better to know that people enjoyed knowing Jack and want to send condolences about the April 2nd death of her husband, John Slater.

Scroll down for photos of our rich goodby.

Glenn Sims strumming, Cynthia Livak & Maribeth Burbrich singing
drawing by next door neighbors Miles (7) and Grace (4) who have been extra special friends. B&W photos are by special long-time artist friend Robin Ginsburg.
Flowers from Deborah's sister Heidi & treasured family of Decorah, Iowa
Jack018.jpg
Brother Steve Slater; mother Delle; Deborah hugged by dear friend Cynthia Livak
Dear friends & family Ed Harris, Steve Slater, Debra Berend, Lee Boek above; photographer Alan Berner at left in between Lee Boek, Glenn Sims, Maribeth Berberich, Janet Berend, Peter Davenport and Debra Berend
Friend Carol Ostrom confers with Deborah; Janet Berend with Ed Harris; Lee Boek at the foot of Jack's bed
Nurses Jesse and Cara
Deborah keeping watch
photographer Alan Berner friend Cynthia Livak
mother Delle Slater wife Deborah Swets
When you see daffodils and other spring blossoms, and when you hear sweet birds singing, think of Jack, transforming and beaming on his way.
Link to see some of Jack Slater's wonderful art
Link to his seattletimes stories

Link to other stories & pictures by Ben Swets (not about Jack)