Archive for Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dearly missed: Jackson opens up about his mother’s tragic passing

Former Kansas University forward Darnell Jackson, far right, poses for a high school graduation photo in 2004 in Oklahoma City with his late mother, Shawn (middle), brother Evan (behind), family friend Don Davis (behind left) and former KU basketball player and fellow Oklahoman J.R. Giddens. Jackson recently spoke openly regarding the death of his mother, which occurred a little more than a month ago.

Former Kansas University forward Darnell Jackson, far right, poses for a high school graduation photo in 2004 in Oklahoma City with his late mother, Shawn (middle), brother Evan (behind), family friend Don Davis (behind left) and former KU basketball player and fellow Oklahoman J.R. Giddens. Jackson recently spoke openly regarding the death of his mother, which occurred a little more than a month ago.

May 9, 2010

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Grief-stricken Darnell Jackson collapsed onto his late mother Shawn’s bed, tears welling in his eyes.

“I lay down, smelled her sheets, moved the pillows back, and the only thing I saw was a couple words she left on a sheet of paper: ‘Please watch over my kids,’’’ said Jackson, a 24-year-old former Kansas University basketball power forward from Midwest City, Okla.

He’d hustled back from Cleveland — his NBA home of the past two years — to his mom’s three-bedroom, 800-square-foot house in the Sooner State after learning from his brother, Evan, and sister, Ebony, that Shawn had died of an apparent overdose of pain medication on March 25.

She was 41.

“I saw the pills my mother killed herself with,” said Jackson, whose inspection of Shawn’s bedroom also led him to an envelope.

In it was a letter to Darnell, written by his mother.

“I didn’t read it. I haven’t read it,” Jackson said. “If I read it now, I’d go crazy. I’ll read it some day. Then I will burn it.”

Maybe Jackson will read it today — the first Mother’s Day spent without Shawn, who apparently took her own life after enduring more than a dozen surgeries following a car crash caused by a drunken driver on May 25, 2005, in Las Vegas. That crash claimed the life of Jackson’s grandmother, Evon.

Kansas' Darnell Jackson was all smiles on Tuesday after bringing down a one-handed alley-oop against Loyola in the second half on Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas' Darnell Jackson was all smiles on Tuesday after bringing down a one-handed alley-oop against Loyola in the second half on Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I told somebody yesterday that I’d never, ever celebrate Mother’s Day again,” Darnell Jackson said Thursday in a 30-minute telephone interview from Milwaukee, where (after getting released by the Cavs) he finished the 2009-10 season as a member of the Bucks.

He agreed to the interview as a Mom’s Day tribute to Shawn. And perhaps as a way to get some things off his chest.

“I can’t be like that. My mom wouldn’t want me to be selfish and turn myself against the world. There are great mothers out there. My mother was one of them. It’s just hard to lose mine, the way she went out,” Jackson said.

Darnell told the Journal-World the same thing he told hundreds of Shawn Jackson mourners April 3 at Oklahoma City’s Rolfe Funeral Home — that he’s “pissed off” the way his mom “went out.”

“Every day that I think about her, I’m pissed off. I’m mad,” Jackson said. “Some days I want to blow up and go crazy. The other day I broke down while working out. It hurts. It hurts a lot because she was always there. I was the apple in her tree.

“She called me her good-luck charm. If I’d go to the casino with her and sit next to her, she’d win. She’d say, ‘See, every time I’m with you, I win.’

“I’d tell her, ‘No mom. You are MY good-luck charm. If it wasn’t for you beating me up every day, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.’”

Jackson credits his mom for some tough love during his formative years.

“My mom whupped me. She got out the belt for me not being respectful, not doing the dishes, not cleaning my room, getting in trouble.

Former Kansas University basketball player Darnell Jackson relaxes in the locker room the day before Kansas took the court against Memphis for the NCAA title in April 2008 in San Antonio.

Former Kansas University basketball player Darnell Jackson relaxes in the locker room the day before Kansas took the court against Memphis for the NCAA title in April 2008 in San Antonio.

“Nah, it didn’t hurt. I just laughed,” added Jackson, a 6-foot-9, 255-pounder who since a very young age was much bigger than his mom, who worked several jobs to support the family. Darnell’s dad was not a factor in his life and died when Darnell was in the eighth grade.

“My mother was everything to me. I thought it’d always be like that. I thought we’d grow old together,” Jackson said.

‘It was a freak accident’

Now he’s motherless and, because of his close bond with Shawn, believes he knows why.

“She never got over my grandmother’s death,” Darnell said. “She felt it was her fault that her own mother died. We’d argue about it. I’d say, ‘Mom. It was a freak (car) accident.’

“She never got over the pain. You break every bone in your body from a car wreck, it’s painful. Before she died, she called me and said the doctors would have to cut off her leg. She was hurt and tired. She was tired of fighting.”

There was only one way for Shawn to experience any relief from her physical pain.

“Pills,” Darnell said. “Pills take away the pain for half a day. You wake up in the morning, and the pain is there again. Nobody knew how much pain she was in but me.”

KU fans had a clue on March 3, 2008, when after a Senior Day victory over Texas Tech, Jackson told his mom in his postgame speech he’d “do anything” to trade bodies with her, just to make the pain go away.

“She fought it every day for five years,” Jackson said.

Looking back, he can pinpoint the moment Shawn decided she could take no more agony.

Kansas forward Darnell Jackson leans in to the microphone as he takes questions in the locker room Friday, March 21, 2008 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Kansas forward Darnell Jackson leans in to the microphone as he takes questions in the locker room Friday, March 21, 2008 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

“She texted me and said, ‘Darnell, I love you. Make sure you watch over the kids.’ I was thinking it was a little motivation speech,” Jackson said of the last text message he received from his mother shortly before she died.

He has taken those words — and the words on the piece of paper under Shawn’s pillow — to heart.

Already close to Ebony, a junior at Langston (Okla.) University, and Evan, who will be a freshman at Oklahoma City University this fall, Darnell promises to be their mentors forever.

“I’ll never be their dad. I’m their brother. Their brother will be there for them, always,” said Jackson, who as the family’s big bread-winner, already has taken care of some of his siblings’ financial responsibilities.

Awaiting his NBA fate

Jackson is currently awaiting word whether the Bucks will pick up his option for next season or release him to free agency, where there’s always the possibility he could be signed by his hometown Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I’ll let my grandmother and mother take it up with God and double-team him so things will work out best for me,” said Jackson, who is also responsible for the most recent addition to his family — daughter Evonna Joie Jackson, who checked into the world at 91⁄2 pounds on April 15 in a Kansas City hospital.

“Man, she’s the greatest thing that’s happened to me. She looks just like my mother,” Darnell said proudly. “She was named after my grandmother, and her mother picked the middle name. She’s beautiful.”

Unfortunately, Shawn Jackson will never meet her granddaughter.

“The only thing she got to see was a picture of the ultrasound,” Darnell said. “She said, ‘I’m going to call her my little sugarplum.’ That’s what really hurts. She’ll never get a chance to hold her granddaughter.”

And Darnell will never again have a chance to playfully wrestle with his mom on the bed in her Midwest City home, or his bed in Milwaukee or other NBA cities yet to come.

“My mom stayed with me in Cleveland one time for four months,” Jackson recalled. “She wanted to talk to me all the time. Sometimes I’d come home from practice and try to sneak upstairs. I’d close my bedroom door, but she’d bang on the door.

“I’d say, ‘Go away. I’ve gotta go to sleep.’ She’d say, ‘Open this door now!’ She’d come in, jump on the bed and have a conversation about everything going on.

“We’d talk for a while, until she got tired. I’d have to kick her out of the room. I’d say, ‘Go to bed, mom, we’ll talk tomorrow.’’’

He’d give anything to speak with her today.

His friends and loved ones wished he could.

“Shawn was a special person. She and Darnell had a great relationship,” KU basketball coach Bill Self said. “She’s one of my favorite parents ever.

“She got on me — in a good way, a fun way — from the time Darnell got here to the time he left. She cared about her kids so much.”

Darnell a ‘mama’s boy’

Indeed ... “The core of her life would be her kids,” noted family friend Don Davis, who spoke at Shawn’s funeral. “Shawn was very strong-willed and very much a mother. She had no compunction at all about giving it to coach Self,” he added with a laugh.

“They had a great love-hate relationship. She knew the coaches were taking good care of Darnell. On the other hand, that’s her baby, and she wanted him to be especially cared for. If she didn’t like the way things were going, she could give it to them. She was always thinking like a mom.

“Darnell was very much a mama’s boy. They had what I consider to be a very sweet and tender mother/son relationship,” Davis added.

“What we had was magical,” Darnell said. “There’s something with my mom ... I’ll never have it with anybody else.”

Still, Darnell wants KU fans — who embraced him during a four-year career capped with the 2008 NCAA championship — to know he’ll be OK.

“My mom showed me there’s nothing to fear while I’m on this planet, nothing except God,” Jackson said. “I don’t know what will happen to me in my life, but this is not a final story. My story doesn’t end with my mom. My story ends when I’m gone.”

Comments

northtowngrl 5 years ago

Phylis's comment is spam. Please remove it. immediately.

Evan Ridenour 5 years ago

This was a depressing article to read.

RockChalk1225 5 years ago

What a terribly sad article on mothers day. I read LJ or KUSports everyday and must have missed this story?
Darnell Jackson will always be my favorite Jayhawk for his work ethic and dedication to his team and university. His senior day speech brought tears to my eyes. Good luck moving forward Darnell, as hard as it will be.

lawdog 5 years ago

"Stay strong Darnell", we love you!

kmcd028 5 years ago

Darnell, I am so sad to hear of your loss. Stay strong and be the man we know you are! You are still one of my most favorite of players. Your emotion brought us all onto the court with you. Please know that all people in the Jayhawk nation are pulling for you and your family!

cchamber 5 years ago

DJ you are a special person because of your Mother and Grandmother.The Jayhawk nation should all be thankful for you and your family.Please remember we stand by our kids forever.

Deja Coffin 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing a very personal piece of yourself with us Darnell, your mother would be proud.

devobrun 5 years ago

To whom are responses to an article directed? The reporter? To DJ and his family? To the general public who reads the article?


To DJ. What a loss. Carry on and find joy and love in the responsibility of your new daughter. Use the strength and love from your mother to guide you in the rest of your life. That way she will live on through you.


To the reporter. Delicate piece to write, wasn't it. On one hand, you need to portray the love between mother and son. On the other hand, this is a story of tragedy and to some extent, dysfunction. I thought you did a good job.


To all others. The story of love and loss is moving and points out the fragile nature of the world. Love and loss can never be cured and must be dealt with on a personal basis through growth and by help from family. Where's dad? Will DJ repeat the dysfunctional problem of a man siring a child and living elsewhere? I hope not. Relationships between kids and their parents give a better support system than the single parent situation. When your love is spread around, it suffers less when one love is lost. Love comes from close attention and sacrifice. And that comes from close contact with the loved one.

Beth Ennis 5 years ago

God Bless you and be with you Darnell. I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my mother when I was 13 so I know how you feel. However, I also know that you will laugh again, and the time will come when the anger and pain are replaced by good, happy memories. She hung on for as long as she could. She is with God now watching down on you, your daughter and your siblings. She is so very proud of you. Thank you for your time with us as a Jayhawk, and for sharing your story about your mother on Mother's Day. You will always have a home in Lawrence if you ever choose to come back. May God's peace be with you and your family.

John Kyle 5 years ago

I'm wrong. He was traded to the Knicks last month.

Mike Ford 5 years ago

thanks Darnell for sharing. I talked to you in Wal-Mart before the NCAA Championship and I hope the Thunder pick you up if Milwaukee doesn't. I lost my mom in a car accident last July in MIssisippi and I share how tough it is on Mother's Day. I hope your NBA career goes on and yuo heal from your family tragedies.

Sharon Roullins 5 years ago

Nothing like a mother's love. Sorry for your loss Darnell. I am sure your mother loved you dearly. Don't beat yourself up over something you had no control over. Find comfort in knowing that you are the person you are because of her love for her children. Keep your head up and pray for strength to move on, to forgive your mother and maybe read her final words. I am sure she would want you to.

Kontum1972 5 years ago

my deepest sympathies...young man...she lives through you now.

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