Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | August 26, 2010

Jason Through the Clouds

There comes a time when the human heart stops beating. Soon after, if not before, brain activity ceases. The body is dead.

Until this point, the body is alive. Comas and paralysis snuff most of the body’s function prior to death. But even a person paralyzed in all four limbs, can make eye contact and sometimes even form words. Despite this reduced state, the power to communicate as human to human remains in the subtle movements of the eye muscles. It is not the eye which communicates, but it is the function of the eye which allows the person to communicate from within.

I’ve given a little thought to Jason’s Schnarr’s battles with paranoid thinking, depression and bi-polar swings. I believe these conditions caused his perceptions to alternate between feelings of immense responsibility for everything wrong all around him and profound hopeless about his own state and ability to adequately respond. I don’t know the experiences in his head, but one can easily imagine how terrible this trap is. In one moment to be shown incredible, inhuman tasks with a sense of desperate urgency and in the next moment be confronted with a sense of personal impotence and depravity.

Those of us who knew him from the outside may wonder, what part of the Jason we interacted with was real? How much of our relationship was merely a relationship with his illness?

I don’t think there is a simple answer to this question but I like to keep a couple ideas in mind.

If Jason was physically paralyzed in all four limbs we could not have received a hug. We might not have even been able to hear his voice or consider his articulated thoughts. But, we would understand that we did have a relationship, facilitated through eye contact, and perhaps an occasional smile. The point this illustrates is that for much of his life, and even in his last weeks, Jason was still there. There were moments, at least, if not whole conversations and interactions, when the clouds were sufficiently parted in his mind to be in relationship as human to human.

Jason definitely had times of mental absence. He also had times when he was so agitated that he couldn’t stand still or interact with people in his life. I had conversations with Jason where whole sections seemed distorted by an untenable fear or suspicion. But I did have a relationship with Jason. I had a relationship which I consider to have been very important and powerful.

One of the reasons I know my relationship was real is by observing the impact he had on myself and others. At times Jason held the attention of a whole room by some quality in his soft-spoken, public tone. He frequently inspired and guided a friend with his insights in a private conversation. Other times Jason would light up a crowd with his intensely expressed music or warm the heart of one of his children as he brought his gentle attentiveness to bear.

For me this is proof that Jason was not entirely shrouded in a coma. People are not touched or deeply and positively moved by contact with madness. The work that Jason did inside himself, which he sometimes described as struggles, dark clouds or battles was not merely the warfare of madness. His look, his tone of voice, and his thoughtful mind would not have struck, challenged and encouraged the people around him if he was only experiencing a purposeless world of psychosis.

Who knows where the lines are between madness and lucidity? Thinking back on a couple conversations, I have no idea what to call disease and what to call Jason. And I suppose, this is true for everyone. When are you interacting with me rather than with my lust, food addiction, need to impress, depression, etc? It is hard to tell.

This is one, of many, specific things that I admire about Jason. Up until the end of his life, he fought, with much success, to keep track of the line between the content of paranoia he was experiencing and the actual, demonstrable facts and realities he could test and count on. This is difficult work, for anyone, let alone for a person who has a mind effected by disease.




  1. Brian I’ve been thinking about all of this every day since Jason died. Thanks for articulating a lot of the questions I’ve had about it and for not trying to answer them simplistically. It’s a common adage that a lot of impactful people have been “crazy” in some way. I don’t think it’s important to guess at how much of Jason’s personality or impact was “real” or not. We don’t really know this about anyone: whether they are clinically ill in some way or not they could be disingenuous, etc. It seems important though to try to connect with people while they are here and to try to love the neighbor or charity in them or whatever! The only thing I know for sure is that I miss Jason a lot and am still trying to make peace with what happened.

  2. Much to say Brian, and thank you for being such a close friend and support for Jason, and Denielle and kids. I hope you and I can talk some day.

    I think I want to say that Jason was always Jason, but vexed and even tortured by this sickness, whatever it was….

    The Jason we know is and was real, and that he is free now? Regardless of all our doubts about how it could have been another way, and I have them every moment here, in tears and writhing pain, I know, from my personal experience with him that day, that “it” pushed him so hard and fast that he didn’t make a “rational” decision to leave his wife and children like that. I am reminded of the passage in the Diary that talks about how sometimes the Lord allows someone to be overwhelmed by spirits to commit suicide so that they can save their souls by preserving their freedom. I should look it up but don’t have the energy, having used it before for other’s memorial services. I saw it. It was my experience that this is what happened, at least that day. And I want people to know that he didn’t selfishly choose that way. And people have speculated some very good interpretations of what that beautiful spiritual part of him might have been thinking/doing/dreaming that day. They are good interpretations not for me to share this day. But I do know and believe that he is at peace, vibrant, warm, himself again, maybe more than he could ever be before.

    The pain is unbearable for many of us here on earth, but I do believe with all my heart that he is whole and at peace.

    God bless,


    P.S. This isn’t a response to anything, rather an addition. Thank you Brian.

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