My heart is broken today. Yesterday, an exceptional man passed from this world. Dr. Jack Hand slipped away quietly and with much dignity surrounded by those who loved him the most.
I met Jack many, many years ago in our high school days. He went to the Catholic high school with most of my neighbours. He was an enigma to me then, a tall, skinny kid who despite being borderline genius according to his marks, was still cool enough to play on the high school hockey team. I lost track of him for many years until my son became ill when he was 2 and he was the hemotologist that we were referred to. It was instant relief for me to see a familiar face while dealing with the scariest time of my life. Jack was brutally honest yet extremely compassionate as we went through the long journey of finding a diagnosis for A. He explained everything every step of the way, never speculated, and was always there to answer any and all questions that we had.
During the 15 years that we have been regularly back and forth to the Janeway, Jack has been a constant in A’s life. We all, but especially A, considered him to be much more than a doctor, more than a friend, more like family. A and Dr. Jack (as he called him) would talk hockey and golf. A became a bit of enigma for Jack too as he watched him play hockey and he often commented with amazement of how A played better than most of the kids who had twice the red blood cell count that A had. The year that A played Peewee B, Jack was the trainer on the bench for the Avalon team that his son played with. A looked forward to those games more than any other just for the bantering back and forth with Jack as he skated by the bench. A and Jack’s son became friends this past winter as they played on the same Midget hockey team. B coached both of the boys. L dances with both of Jack’s daughters and has performed in shows with his son.
Jack Hand was a physician who dedicated his life to treating children who had cancer and other hematological diseases. He came back to Newfoundland to practice even though he could have worked in many other places where the pay would have been better and the workload less. But this was his home and the Janeway was very lucky to have him. He was well respected among his peers and the medical students who he taught. But in what I think is an irony so cruel that it is of Shakespearean proportion, Jack was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The disease that he spent that he spent his life treating in children was now coming after him.
Jack was fiercely devoted to his family. He also had the strongest will and determination that I have ever seen. He was going to beat the cancer, there was no other option. Our lives often crossed paths at the rink or the Arts and Culture Center and he was always proud of his children and their accomplishments. Even during his illness, he was a fixture at the DMHL hockey games that his son played. He would not let the cancer take the joy of watching his son play hockey away from him. Jack has never been far from our mind this past few months, knowing that he was deteriorating but still praying for a miracle. L and I saw his son last week at a show audition and she asked if I had heard how he was.
Jack slipped away yesterday…finally at peace and free from pain and suffering. I have met few people in my life who have touched my soul but Jack is a Hero to me and my family. He will never be forgotten.