Long Live the Memory of Jana Mackey
The world lost a great woman today. Never was there a more caring, more compassionate, more brilliant, and hilarious woman with each of those qualities and more all wrapped into the heart of one activist.
For those across the state and country, Jana was a bundle of light and beauty that ended all too soon. Search is underway for a person of interest which you can view at the link above.
I first met Jana with our University’s Gay/Straight Alliance probably 2002 or 2003, but it wasn’t until 2004 when we became dear friends. You see we both were working on a fierce campaign for the US Congress in one of the toughest elections either of us had ever seen.
Her dedicated activism alerted others in the area so it was no surprise that she was recruited to serve on staff. I was intimidated by her because she was tall and gorgeous! But we became fast friends as the two of us gushed about our crushes and bitched about politics both interoffice politics and global policy. She was probably a better friend than I was. I remember her talking me down many times when I was upset about the great injustices that happened to all progressives in 2004. She always had a great way of putting things in perspective.
From there she became a lobbyist for causes that few are willing to step-up for. She defended women, women’s rights, and the access to health care not to mention the dozens of other local issues that she was so passionate about.
In 2006 it was easy to know who I needed at my side when starting another campaign. I begged her to be my deputy campaign manager and help keep me organized and help me build relationships with some of the people she’d known at the Capital that previous session. She knew everyone. Every politician, every member, every lobbyist, every staffer, every janitor, or member of the Park Police.
There was one particular event in 2006 I will never forget. When we were at the Federated Democratic Women’s Caucus event in – I think it was Manhattan or .. maybe Hutch, I can’t remember. We were there with all the politico’s but our favorite was John Doll running for Congress in the Kansas 1st District. John is an every man kinda guy and we were all talking outside before the event began. The woman who was supposed to sing the Star Spangled Banner somehow didn’t show up and I told them that Jana would be perfect … because… Jana is an AMAZING singer. She agreed to do it with a giant button with our candidate’s name on it of course. John Doll joked with her outside “Don’t forget the words!” She laughed… and then proceeded to sing the Star Spangled Banner… and forget the words. She blamed John Doll. I told her at the time it didn’t matter because at least she was wearing our button and she rolled her eyes.
We had this intern on the 2006 campaign that is truly adorable – still adorable. Jana met her at a high school event where she spoke about women’s health and remembered this young woman being particularly remarkable. So, when the time came that we needed some youngsters to help with a mailing we called her and a few of her friends. I remember that her friends totally crapped out on her, and this wonderful intern worked so hard all by herself to finish everything. We stayed in contact with her just to make sure she was ok, make sure she was taken care of and making responsible choices like we were some kind of parental force. But again – that was how she was. Understanding, concerned, loyal and loving, regardless of who you were.
That was the year that Jana also got THE HOUSE. The house was a big deal because it has this porch that is unbelievable. It calls you to it from the street as if to say – please… come sit… have a drink, lounge for hours. And my lord we did. We would work some days in the 2006 race from the porch if weather permitted, and our laptops would be connected to a giant orange extension cord that went through the windows.
When I moved to California at the end of 2006 I decided I wanted to come back in May for my birthday and spend a week just BEING in Lawrence. My mom (who lives in Oklahoma) and my aunt met me there for Memorial Day weekend, but the days leading up to the weekend I was crashing with Jana on her sofa. We all loved that house. Not just the porch parties or the availability of the sofa or the big fluffy kitty, but the way that it felt to be there. It was like the epicenter of positivity and joy. The creaks in the beautiful wood floors were musical and the hidden back door key that everyone knew about was epic.
I remember trying to talk her out of going to law school and telling her how important it was to have people like her out there helping to save the world. She promised she would still work to save the world with me, but said that she was going to do it from a different vantage point. She wanted to be a public defender and work for people who couldn’t afford lawyers. I tried to convince her she needed to be a trial lawyer so she could help people like our friends raise money and get elected.. . but she insisted on helping people who couldn’t afford good lawyers first.
When I moved away we lost touch but probably 6 months ago before I came back to Kansas, she called out of the blue on the way to her dad’s house late at night and we just talked and talked. We gossiped about politicians we knew and staffers we couldn’t STAND and gushed about the hot ones we loved. I told her that I was sorry I never called, but I never wanted to bother her studying but she promised me that it was no bother. But I never called.
A week ago I was online blogging or researching and a friend instant messaged me that she was studying at Henry’s – a local coffee house in Lawrence, and that Jana was at another table near by working on some stuff from work. I remember typing “Tell Jana that she is lovely and amazing and I am so proud of her.” I’m so so grateful that my friend told her what I typed. She said Jana laughed and said “Oh, Sarah….” Which was normal. Poopooing her gifts was just her way.
We were going to save the world. I’ll move forward knowing that without her it makes it a even harder. And without her I’ll know that so many people will lose an opportunity of having their life be blessed by this remarkable woman. Those of us who knew her knew how lucky we were.