Written by Heather Hymas

Five years ago this month, I lost my husband, my partner, my friend, and my co-parent. In that moment, everything I knew about love, life, myself, and the world around me changed forever. My world stopped. Breathing became a chore, and my heart became a bird with a broken wing, a bird that I believed was destined to a life on the ground—never to fly again. His children became short one parent, left only with their memories and an empty chair.

Jack Hymas was an amazing person. He was fun and funny. He had a huge heart and was a genuinely kind soul. When he walked into the room, you couldn’t help but smile. His warmth and positive energy could melt even the iciest of situations. He loved babies, people in general, and animals. Oh, how he loved his dogs. He cared for them as he would one of his children, making sure they were brushed, played with, and fed well.

Jack was a salesman, but not in a negative way like a used-car salesman that would swindle you or try to take you for a ride. He was a salesman in the way he could walk into a room and speak to anyone with ease. He genuinely cared about people, and when he talked to you, you knew he was actually interested in your well-being. He was an employer and a boss to many. In the twelve plus years we were together, I never met an employee that was not endeared to him in one way or another. Jack loved nature and being in it. Some of my fondest memories took place camping, hiking, gardening, or being in the mountains. Music was his other passion—both listening to it and playing it. If we weren’t doing something that involved family and/or our children, a good concert was date night for us.

You see, Jack loved his children more than anything else. He was the kind of dad that kept a file of the little things. It was labeled “Good Stuff,” and it held awards from school, cards, pictures drawn by tiny hands, and any other memorabilia that he found endearing in some way. He had a jewelry box full of baby teeth, rocks, and other treasures given to him by tiny little souls. He may not have always had the words to tell his children how much he loved them, but they were always first and foremost in his heart.

I don’t think you can sum up a person—and especially not a person’s life—in a paragraph or two, but I wanted to pay tribute to this beautiful man today and share with you a little about him in hopes of keeping his memory and his spirit alive. I don’t believe any of us are ever truly gone. As I think about my own father and many other people that have left this world too soon, I realize a part of each of them lives on through me. We live on in the world by the memories people keep of us—the ripples we have made in this big pond—and if we are lucky enough to have children, by the parts of us that they inherit and make their own. So take a minute and think about someone dear to your heart, share a story about them, relive a grand memory, and thank them for being a part of your life. Be grateful for knowing them, and look at the time you had as a gift, no matter how long or short that time may have been.

I won’t pretend to understand why we have to lose people that we love, or why some of us get to move on while others of us get to stay in this world a bit longer. I also won’t pretend that the road through grief isn’t bumpy and horrible and clouded with pain and fear, because it is. It was simply unbearable at times, but the point I am trying to make is that you can come out the other side. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does help. Things do get easier, and our ability to see the good parts grows

Wings do heal, and birds do fly again.

The point I am trying to make is that our capacity for love is so immense that we never have to choose. In the first few years after my husband’s death, I didn’t believe that I could or would ever love someone again. I didn’t understand how that was possible, but it is. Loving one doesn’t take away from my love for another. So remember the people that helped shape who you are today. Take the love they had for you and keep it alive by sharing it with others.

A little part of me was forever lost in Jack’s death; I believe a small piece of my heart floated up to heaven with him, but where the space left by that part of my heart used to be a huge gaping wound, today, it is warm space that I can fill with more love. Over the past five years, I have come to realize that we were all put here for a purpose.

Jack, you taught me many things about love, life, friendship, and how to be a valuable human being. Thank you for that. Thank you for the lessons, the laughs, and the love. Rest in peace, and fly.

Heather Hymas has been a teacher in one form or another for the past 14 years. She has taught fourth grade, intermediate school, and college English, both at Dixie State University and Southern Utah University. She currently works as a teacher in a residential treatment center for troubled youth. She has a B.S. in elementary education and a master’s degree in education and is currently working on her doctorate. She lives in St. George with her teenage daughter.