One of the things that I hate about the internet, is that not only do I get to share the successes and riches of the lives of the people I meet online, I must also, a priori, share their deep tragedies. The worst of it though, is that I never have and likely never will, meet most of these folks in person. I know them, sometimes in exquisite detail, only by their communications and their writings, and an occasional video.
Today, I am in heartfelt mourning over the loss of Jacob “Jake” Thomas Brewer, 34, a US White House staffer and senior policy advisor in the US Office of Science and Technology. Jake was killed on Saturday in a freak bicycle accident while participating in a DC area Ride To Conquer Cancer fundraising event, on behalf of a friend coping with the disease.
I’ve never met Jake. Never spoken with him, never exchanged words via the internet or anywhere else.
But I know Jake’s wife, Mary Katharine Ham. Mary Katharine is a well-known and regarded US conservative pundit, whose work, writings and some of her personal story, I have followed for some time. In addition to her political writings, she frequently would share snippets of her private life, of her family, anecdotes free from the biases and posturing of politics. The real people behind the sophistry.
Married in 2011, Mary Katharine and Jake have a young daughter, 2 year old Georgia, the quintessential young tousled haired pixie that all young girls are, and Mary Katharine is pregnant with their second child.
I mourn for Jake. I mourn for Mary Katharine, because they have become personal to me through the internet, as personal as most anybody I shake hands with on a daily basis.
And so, I hate that I am compelled through our connected humanity to mourn with them, to share their grief. I especially hate that Mary Katharine has to endure this pain. I hate that I can only write my grief to someone who is both a friend and a stranger all at the same time. Inadequate as it seems and feels when expressed, I hope she can find the peace she’ll need, and the memories that will become so dear, as she experiences Jake’s presence in the growth of her kids. I can only mourn with her.
Mary Katharine has posted a message on her Instagram page, with a family picture, and an expression of her loss, that reads in part:
We lost our Jake yesterday, and I lost part of my heart and the father of my sweet babies. I don’t have to tell most of you how wonderful he was. It was self-evident. His life was his testimony, and it was powerful and tender and fierce, with an ever-present twinkle in the eye. I will miss him forever, even more than I can know right now. No arms can be her father’s, but my daughter is surrounded by her very favorite people and all the hugs she could imagine. This will change us, but with prayer and love and the strength that is their companion, we can hope our heartache is not in vain– that it will change us and the world in beautiful ways, just as he did….“
Requiéscat in pace, Jake Brewer. Mary Katharine, may you find your peace in the comfort of your children and your family and in the memories of your time together.
Update: The family and friends of Jake Brewer and Mary Katharine, have launched a GoFundMe project to create an educational fund for their two children, Georgia and the one on the way.
Update: The fund has gone over the top on its goal of $200K and continues to climb. Thank you to everyone for their love and support.
Updated: Funeral Details: If you are in the DC area and wish to attend, here are the funeral details:
The funeral service for Jake Brewer will be Friday morning at the National Cathedral in Washington. The Cathedral will be open for seating at 10:30 Eastern tine. The service will begin at 11:30. Those attending the service asked to not wear neck ties or bring flowers.
“Gentlemen, please consider honoring Jake’s aversion to neckties by going ‘Jake casual’ and skipping the accessory,” an advisory on jakememories.org said. “Flowers will not be accepted by the Cathedral.”
Please check out the jakememories.org site for more information about the Cathedral, the planned reception for Friday afternoon, and any other changes or notes that might arise.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggested contributions in his memory to the Jake Brewer memorial education fund [see link above -ed.] or The Travis Manion Foundation, which supports families of fallen American soldiers.
Update September 25, 2015: [Editor’s note: the following material is taken directly from a Hot Air post written today (Sept 25, 2015) by Guy Benson, family friend and colleague of Mary Katharine. He shares with us an excerpt from a private memorial service held earlier in the week , during which Mary Katharine eulogized her late husband. It was not anticipated that Mary Katharine would deliver a eulogy at the service today. Included below is the audio portion of her eulogy, provided with her permission. I’ve pulled this directly from Hot Air, due to the way posts move through their blog system, as I don’t know how long it will stay up on their page.]
By Guy Benson:
“Today is the funeral for Jake Brewer, the 34-year-old White House technology aide who was killed in an accident on Saturday while participating in a bicycle race to benefit cancer research. He was the husband of Mary Katharine Ham, my Townhall Media and Fox News colleague, my co-author, and my dear friend. He was the father of little Georgia, a toddler, and her unborn sibling, due in a matter of weeks. He was a brother, a son, and a friend. He was taken from us suddenly, and far too soon. What a terrible shock. Rather than fumbling for the right words to adequately describe Jake — and inevitably falling short — I thought it would be more appropriate to share, with her permission, Mary Katharine’s tribute to him offered at a private gathering earlier in the week. She isn’t eulogizing her husband at the National Cathedral today, so the clip below conveys her public farewell to the man she loved. As you’ll hear, her remarks were almost preternaturally good-humored, poignant and moving. As I listened to her soliloquy, I sat there in awe, thunderstruck by her grace and strength under such heartbreaking circumstances. She was funny, sharp, and insightful. She understood the moment. She was honest. I’m confident that if he had been sitting there in the front row, Jake’s heart would have overflowed with affection and pride. This was the woman with whom he fell in love and built a life:
A particularly powerful portion of the transcript, courtesy of Jake’s friend, Jose:
When we went to have an ultrasound for this baby, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know the gender, we did not know with Georgia, so I told the ultrasound tech, just put it in an envelope and we’ll decide later, and by the time we got to the end of the ultrasound, the baby was not cooperative and in a bad position, by the time we got to the end of the long ultrasound, she had forgotten what I had told her, and she made sure I was looking away when she wrote on the screen what we’re having. He was still looking, and I was looking at him, and he was like, “Whoa whoa whoa!,” and he has a very purple face. I was like, “Do you know now?,” and he said, “Yep,” and we being us, I didn’t bug him about it, and he didn’t let anything slip. That was three weeks, a month ago, and what is truly wonderful about that, is that forever more, I will know, and his son or daughter will know, that he met them that day, in that room, in a way that none of us have met this one yet, and he got to know him or her for a month, in his mind, and come up with names, and think about the future. And what this all should be about, is the future. My mission, and you’ll have to really help me with this, is to live unafraid, and to live without sadness bogging me down. I don’t want to hold my children so closely that I’m afraid of one thing that happened on one day. I don’t want to keep them from living the way their father did. And it will be hard. This is gonna be ironic, ’cause saying this is really sad, but it’s gonna be a plea for no sadness. I’m gonna ask all of you who are family, who are our community, and who we love so much, not to look on me, and all of us, and Georgia, and this little on, with sadness. Don’t let us walk into a room and be a sad trombone. We are not that…
…Madison famously wrote a letter to his country before he died called “Advice to My Country,” and the way he prefaced it, is that his advice, because it came at that time, “will be entitled therefore to whatever weight can be derived from good intentions, and from the experience of one, who has served his country in various stations through a period of years, who espoused in his youth and adhered through his life to the cause of its liberty, and who has borne a part in most of the great transactions which will constitute epochs of its destiny.” Jake Brewer has not quote unquote written a letter of advice to his country, but I would suggest to you that his life, and all of us, and all that we will do moving forward, and all that these kids will do moving forward, are entitled to all of the things that Madison’s advice is entitled to. They are worth listening to. He had much advice to give, and we will follow it, and I hope you will join me in praying that he has an awesome seat somewhere watching us, and that he will be very proud of us every day.
Yes, Jake worked at the White House, and Mary Katharine is a prominent conservative commentator, but as she emphasized in her speech, Mr. and Mrs. Brewer represented so much more than a cute, gimmicky right-meets-left story. They both believed that life and love are far bigger than politics; indeed, Jake’s work and passions transcended the small, petty partisan dichotomies that so often define this city.
On Sunday, we set up an education fund for Jake and Mary Katharine’s two children. The result has been nothing short of overwhelming. Thank you — all of you — for this heartwarming outpouring of support, generosity, and mercy, which has afforded Jake’s loved ones a glimmer of joy and hope an otherwise heart-wrenching week. We are so grateful to every single person who has reached out, donated, or said a prayer. Mary Katharine and Jake’s extended family continues to urge kind-hearted well-wishers to consider contributing to the Travis Manion Foundation, an organization that cares for our veterans and the families of the fallen — a cause close to their hearts.
Rest in Peace, Jake Brewer.”
Update: As is being occasionally pointed out, there was another, lesser known, tragedy to this loss that also calls for prayers and condolences. And that is the agony of the driver, a 50ish man who rounded a curve in the road in his Honda Pilot only to be be confronted with a man struggling on a bicycle. That gentleman’s terror and now horror deserves compassion as well. We don’t know who he is, but if graces are to be given, include him. His pain will be much more anonymous, but no less painful.