I don’t remember exactly when I met Frank Jaklitsch. It was, undoubtedly, at Eamonn’s, the bar where we both spent a not-insubstantial chunk of the 1990s — me as first a patron and then a waitress, Frank as, essentially, the house musician. I believe the reason I don’t remember meeting him is because once you know Frank, it is as if you always have.
But I will remember forever the moment yesterday when I learned I’d never see Frank again, that he’d died unexpectedly on his way to a football game.
It’s been nearly 20 years since I moved away and left the circle we both inhabited, but I believed he’d always be there when I came home, with a huge smile, an even bigger hug — and, of course, a song.
I can’t think of Frank without hearing music.
If you love someone
Can you let it show?
Hold them close to you and tell them
So they know
It’s too late
By the grave
Give them all the love you have everyday
“Frankie & Johnny,” Garnet Rogers
Frank’s music was about more than just singing songs, though. Intentionally or by happy accident, he used performing to build a community — of fellow musicians (he was never one to be alone onstage if there was someone who wanted to be there with him) and of the friends who joined him gig after gig after gig. I’ve always known that, even after so many years, I could walk into anywhere he was playing and connect not only with him, but with a whole crew of folks I’d known since my early twenties.
That kind of community is not an easy thing to sustain. People grow and change; life moves on. It’s a testament to the truth of Frank — his heart was even bigger than his music — that he was both willing and able to do this, for while Frank’s community may have started as a core of Eamonn’s expats, his generosity of time and spirit expanded it.
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends
“Friends,” Michael W. Smith
That community, and our lives, is now a place with a Frank-shaped hole in it. I’m still processing what that means, and know that many are struggling with that even more than I am — for after all, I am just one friend. He has a wife and a son and others for whom his loss is beyond words.
All I have is words (hugs will be coming later), and my own are failing me, so I will finish with a few lines from Bruce Springsteen — a musician both Frank and I love beyond reason. This song was released a few months after my dad died, and to this day makes me cry every time I hear it, because it captures the emptiness left behind when great humans leave us.
They say you can’t take it with you, but I think that they’re wrong
‘Cause all I know is I woke up this morning, and something big was gone
Gone into that dark ether where you’re still young and hard and cold
Just like when they built you, brother, they broke the mold
“Terry’s Song,” Bruce Springsteen