Published on September 7th, 2023 | by Randy Weeks0
The View From The Balcony: “Hug ‘em While You Can, Chilluns”
“Hug ‘em while you can, chilluns” may have been Jack Sonni’s most-used tag line. But it wasn’t just a tag line. It was a huge part of Jack’s philosophy on life. Just check out his Facebook page if you have any doubts.
Jack had a sadly unique perspective on living in the moment. He knew about the importance of being grateful for what and who we have from experience. I urge you to read a column Jack wrote regarding one of his twin daughters who died on October 11, 2018. Please, please, please read it (https://www.jacksonni.com/post/reflections-on-loss-grief).
Parents should not outlive their children. But when it happens, the grief that follows is unique. I know it from near the inside. My late sister, Hilda’s, son, Sammy, was killed in an accident when he was only 10 years old. Hilda grieved him one way or another every single day of the rest of her life. She tried to hide it and move on, but it was always there and I could always see it.
Funny thing, the entire week before Jack died a portion of a poem I’d learned in high school was running on continuous loop in my mind. It was written in 1648 by the English Cavalier poet, Robert Herrick, and was in the genre of carpe diem, Latin for “seize the day.”
Gather ye Rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
On August 30 I quoted that part of the poem to my eight-year-old friend, Sir Daniel, and asked him what he thought it meant. Sir Daniel paused briefly and said something like this: “We should be grateful for all the things we have because we may not have them tomorrow.” So much wisdom from such a young sage. Less than an hour later the news of Jack’s death broke.
Jack’s smile was infectious. His style was pure Jack. When he played it was with an open soul from which doves of love cascaded as far as the eye could see, the ear could hear, and the spirit could soar. The Jack of Hearts that adorned his hat was representative of the heart he wore on his sleeve.
Yeah, Jack was famous, having played with Dire Straits, but it wasn’t his fame that made him notable around here. He cared about people and would talk to the most celebrated artists, writers, chefs, etc. of the town. He would also talk with the person on the street who stopped to say hello and praise his music. I once won a guitar lesson from him in the Thacker Mountain Radio auction. After we finished Jack said that he didn’t think he had anything to teach me. I had what it took already. That’s the only time I know of that Jack lied, but he did it with such kindness and grace.
Like so many times when we lose someone we are saddened at the loss and at the loss of the time we did not spend with them. “I should have known him better. I should have gone to more of his shows. I should have had that heart-to-heart with him that he said he would welcome at any time.”
In the book of Hebrews we’re admonished to show hospitality to all, for we never know when those people might just be angels. Jack did that. And those of us who knew him were not fooled. Jack Sonni was an angel in our midst and we knew it. How blessed were we all!
I can’t help but think of the Alan O’Day/Johnny Stevenson song, made famous by The Righteous Brothers:
If you believe in forever
Then life is just a one-night stand.
If there’s a rock n’ roll heaven
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band.
We love you, Jack. We miss you. We can’t wait to hear you playing in heaven’s rock n’ roll band. Until then, we chilluns will hug each other every chance we get.
…and that’s the view from The Balcony.
Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Shamanic Life Coach, an ordained minister, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. Fins up, Jimmy Buffett! May your memory be a blessing! Randy may be reached at email@example.com.