The Last Honk


Big Jay McNeely

It was a quiet morning. September 16th, 2018. Just around 6:45am when I woke up to my mothers (Jacquelene Jay McNeely) voice on the phone talking to the Riverside Hospital. I jumped out of bed immediately and walked to the stair case where I barely caught my mom ending her phone conversation with a "Thank You, Bye." I stared down at her from the top of the stairs waiting for and update, I had a feeling it was about grandpa. She stared back up at me, took a deep breath and with a sorrow filled voice said "He's gone." I just stood there like a deer caught in head lights for a minute, just staring at her. I must've blinked 20 times back to back before I ran down stairs to give my mom a much needed hug. The news hit her like a ton of bricks. Me too, felt like my throat wanted to close up on me. My brother (Brian Benson), and husband (Maurice Morris) spent the day reminiscing and going through some of my grandfathers belongings. Finding old pictures, vinyls, recording equipment, all kind of cool things that we didn't know existed. My uncle (Richard Herman McNeely Sr) was in Los Angeles with my auntie and cousin (Kimberly McNeely & Richard Herman McNeely Jr) when they got the news from my mom. We all were devastated, but I'd be lying if I said grandpa didn't do a good job of preparing us for this day. A part of all of us were CRUSHED, but an even bigger part felt a huge relief. Big Jay was no longer suffering or in pain.

The last few days with him were complete torture. For him and the family. It was like hell watching him go through all that he was because there was only so much we could do for him. Just a couple of weeks prior we were making progress. He was playing his horn, eating good, watching his favorite shows, having his morning soursop tea, giving us lectures and bossing us around lol. Everything was fine, so we thought. It was the last two weeks that we noticed a rapid decline in his health and overall well being that none of us saw coming. Ask any one of us and we'll  tell you the same thing, "It all happened so fast." Literally, the state that my grandfather was in those last two weeks were absolutely the worst thing I've ever witnessed. He couldn't talk, wouldn't eat or drink anything, had no interest in playing his horn, and if he wasn't weeping from the pain he was in, he was asleep. We were lucky if we were able to catch a few seconds of him awake. When he was awake, he knew exactly who all of us were, could completely understand us when we spoke to him, but couldn't tell us what he wanted or needed. We felt helpless. The only communication that we had was his nods or him pointing to different area's of his body. The week of his passing his doctor let us know he had entered his final stage and his body was beginning to shut down. We didn't want to face it, but his doctor knew best.

Over the stretch of those two brutal weeks, we all took that time to sit a reminisce on the good times we go with this brilliant, caring, kind, stubborn old man we had the privilege of being related too. lol My mom recalled the times when he took her and her friends to the Los Angeles Clipper games, my uncle told us all about , my brother mentioned his Chicago trip with him and expressed how he wish he would've traveled with him more often, and I personally sat and flip through a few pages of my memories from the Piano lessons and some of his most amazing shows i got to see, down to what he loved even more than honkin' and jivin', Bible studies.

Big Jay was a dedicated Jehovah Witness. He was member of the Van Ness congregation in Los Angeles Ca. At the age of 13 he was baptized, accepting Christ as his lord and savior and allowed Jehovah to be the head of his life and foundation ever since. Because of that, he was able to live his life with the hope that one day he would live again. He looked forward to the Resurrection and spoke about being excited to see his wife (Jackie Day), brothers (Robert & Dillard McNeely), family, and a multitude of friends again one day. For as long as I can remember he would say to all of us "Now I don't know how much longer I'm going to be around," and that would scare us, but he always made sure to follow it up with a talk about the Resurrection. After hearing that for 20+ years, it definitely helped soften the blow when he passed away because stained in our brains was his hope for the Resurrection that we all hoped for too.

I didn't get a chance to see him the morning he passed away. None of us did to be honest. And maybe, just maybe, he wanted it that way. My mom and uncle had seen him and spent time the day before and maybe that was good enough for him. His beautiful hope for the Kingdom was something I believe we all held tight to. If not for our own sake, for his.

What a day, what a day, the day we lost Big Jay. It feels so surreal not having him here calling and blowing up one of our phones. He had to call at-least 3 times a day to check in and make sure we all were doing okay and of course to remind us "Everything gon' be alright, just hang on in there." Sounds so simple but believe me, it wasn't nothing that could calm a crazy world like hearing Big Jay tell you it's gone be alright, and it always was.